'Skyscraper' Review: Dwayne Johnson Is Back on His A-Game
By John Boone
Prodigious (defined as "remarkably or impressively great in extent, size, or degree," as well as "unnatural or abnormal") is the only word that can appropriately describe Dwayne Johnson's output as an actor. In the past year alone, he has appeared in a whopping five big-budget films, ever testing the limits of Dwayne Johnson fatigue: I loved him in The Fate of the Furious! And then I loathed everything about Baywatch. But then I loved him in Jumanji! And then came Rampage.
Hence any weariness I felt going into Johnson's latest offering, the fiery high-rise action flick, Skyscraper, though if you're seeing a pattern forming, too, he was due for a win -- and Skyscraper is a damn good time at the theater. Johnson plays security whiz Will Sawyer, who's living in Hong Kong with his family -- wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and twin daughter and son, a picturesque nuclear family for 2018 -- while assessing The Pearl, the tallest, most advanced structure in the world. When a multi-national terrorist group takes over the building and sets fire to the building, Will must find a way to rescue his family, some 96 floors above the ground.
This is the type of role Johnson was made for, swaggering but with a hint of vulnerability (Will lost part of his leg during a suicide bombing when he was in the FBI and remains haunted by it 10 years later), the cool guy and a sweetheart, an action hero without tying too hard to be funny. Will Sawyer may not be as memorable a character as John McClane -- Skyscraper very liberally pays homage to movies like Die Hard and The Towering Inferno -- it's good, dumb fun during these long days of summer, sitting back and watching Johnson take on the impossible.
The bad guys aren't really all that integral to your enjoyment here -- Johnson throws in some of his best down-and-dirty brawling for good measure, getting the stuffing knocked outta him while we feel the impact -- when the real entertainment is in man versus, well, skyscraper. Reteaming with writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Central Intelligence), Johnson goes to increasingly thrilling, often laughable lengths to one-up himself: When he can't open a padlocked door safeguarding a super-crane, yup, he's gonna climb the scaffolding. And when he's hanging off that crane, 100-plus stories up, you do want to barf. (I'm not particularly afraid of heights, either). Even the people in the movie are clapping for him -- despite Will Sawyer being framed for terrorism -- because you gotta. It's The Rock.
The movie's true unexpected thrill, one well worth the price of admission, is the reemergence of Campbell. Taking what could be the thankless wife role in a lesser movie, she imbues Sarah with compassion and charm and provides the real stakes of Skyscraper. Amid the banging and blasting, crashing and shattering, I genuinely cared about what became of the Sawyer family, and that's wholly due to Campbell's performance. (Thankfully, she also gets in on the action.) So, why isn't she cast in more movies? She has appeared on House of Cards since 2016, but her last film was 2015's Walter (which I'd not heard of until scouring her IMDb page) and, before that, 2011's Scream 4. If Johnson can star in five movies in a single year, there is no reason Neve Campbell shouldn't experience a little prodigiousness, too.