Dwayne Johnson is near the top of a 240-floor Hong Kong skyscraper (currently on fire), and he’s rushing to find a super-secret control panel that will let him enter an impenetrable room that might save his life. Oh, his daughter’s being held captive, too.
Searching for a solution, he realizes the control panel is hidden behind giant turbine blades, which can only be accessed by rappelling down the side of the building and then jumping between the moving rotor blades. As this information dawns on him, he pauses for a moment. “Behind the turbines,” he mutters. “Oh come on, man.”
By the way: He only has one leg. He was injured in a raid during his time as an FBI agent.
Johnson knows this situation is ridiculous. We know it’s ridiculous. He knows we know it’s ridiculous.
Then he goes ahead and does it.
This sequence is typical of why “Skyscraper” is so much fun. The movie has such a cheerful sense of its own absurdity, while not for a moment undercutting its legitimate thrills, that it succeeds almost completely at the summer-blockbuster game.
And it’s all on the mighty shoulders of Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, aka the most popular actor in international cinema. With his instant audience rapport and sleeve-bursting physicality, Johnson carries the film with the ease of a born movie star.
How’d he get up there? The billionaire owner (nifty turn by Chin Han) of the building has hired security-expert Johnson to inspect the joint before its opening. Which is why the tower is uninhabited … except for Johnson’s wife (Neve Campbell) and two kids.
Bad guys arrive, with a sinister motive. I couldn’t really explain what it is, but this kind of thing never matters anyway. Suffice it to say they want to burn the place for reasons of their own.
So Johnson is caught between a towering inferno and dying hard, as he scrambles to liberate the family. This involves a satisfying nonstop series of death-defying leaps and hand-to-hand fights.
It being 2018, Campbell’s character, a medical doctor, gets to do her share of cliff-hanging and butt-kicking. All very cleverly executed, too.
Without question, writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber (who did “Central Intelligence” with Johnson) borrows liberally from previous action movies. I enjoyed the revival of Patrick Swayze’s self-surgery scene from “Road House,” for example. I mean some things are evergreen, people.
But give Thurber all credit for moving “Skyscraper” along at breakneck pace, and for showcasing the particular skills of his star. Summer moviemaking so often sinks under the weight of its hardware and expectations. This one rises high.
“Skyscraper” (3 stars)
Fire breaks out at a 240-floor Hong Kong building; can Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson save his family inside? Stupid question, but the series of death-defying jumps and cliffhangers that ensue are enough fun to qualify this as an almost completely successful summer blockbuster — carried on the shoulders of the world’s biggest movie star. With Neve Campbell.
Rating: PG-13, for violence
Opening: Alderwood, Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood Cinemas, Meridian, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Seattle 10, Thornton Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor Plaza