Duane Johnson is former SWAT team leader Will Sawyer. He lost a leg in a hostage situation gone bad. I mention this only because the leg plays a part in the film. Forced to change careers, Sawyer is a security consultant hired by a former colleague to make sure the world’s new tallest building is secure before it can be fully occupied.
The building is in Hong Kong and is a technological marvel. It’s the technology that leads to the plot crisis because the owner and builder, Zhao Long Ji, has an enemy: Kores Botha. Ji has something very valuable that Botha wants. To get it, Botha steals a tablet from Sawyer that gives him access to all of the building’s security.
He sets the building on fire, and the crisis begins. Sawyer’s wife — done by Neve Campbell — and their children are trapped inside. He does the action-hero thing from that point and risks all to get them out.
Problem one: Johnson is the same character in every movie.
Sometimes that character is entertaining, sometimes he is not. Johnson’s character is always best when funny bits are mixed into the plot giving him a chance to use his natural nod-and-a-wink sense of humor. A funny Johnson is not just fun, he’s believable.
Johnson in a serious role is not.
Problem two: “Skyscraper” is all serious.
Disaster movies require you to suspend disbelief in order to buy the premise. That’s where humor becomes so important. Call it a human quirk, but if you give a heavy story some lightness and a bit of fun, it is easier to believe.
The movie is the brainchild of Rawson Marshall Thurber, who wrote and directed “Central Intelligence” and 2004’s “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” and directed “We’re the Millers” a couple of years ago. Considering his resume, Thurber should know how to do an entertaining movie.
It doesn’t happen here, and his disaster movie is — itself — a disaster.
Using CGI so bad it’s laughable, Thurber borrows heavily from building disaster flicks such as “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno.” What he doesn’t do is give you characters to care about, or incidents that truly make you afraid for Sawyer, his family or anyone else.
And then there’s Botha, played by Roland Moller. He has the proper steely-eyed villain look and does dastardly deeds by the dozen. However, Thurber doesn’t give the guy any great villainy lines. His cohorts don’t get many of them either.
The bottom line: “Skyscraper” is a predictable mess that reaches for the sky and misses horribly.
Movie name: Skyscraper
Director: Rawson Thurber Marshall
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Roland Moller, Hannah Quinlivan, Chin Han, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, Noah Taylor, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and violence. It’s playing at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, the AMC Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.