Dwayne Johnson in Skyscraper (Photo: Universal)

★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Rawson Marshall Thurber
STARS Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell

How impossibly charismatic is Dwayne Johnson? I wouldn’t go so far as to say I would watch him read a phone book, but an Archie comic or the back of a cereal box wouldn’t be out of the question. As for watching him in something as stridently generic as Skyscraper, that’s a tougher call to make.

With the notable exception of that snooze-inducing Hercules movie from a few years back, the general congeniality and good-guy vibes exhibited by The Artist Formerly Known As The Rock have elevated many a questionable project. Here, the actor must muster all his appeal to float this action yarn in which his character, Will Sawyer, is a former FBI agent whose poor job-related decision ended up costing him his left leg. But life has gotten better, as he’s now a dedicated family man (Neve Campbell plays his spouse while McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell portray their kids) who has just landed an enviable position as the security overseer at The Pearl, a Hong Kong skyscraper and the world’s tallest such edifice.

Sawyer has barely had time to stop and smell the success when he’s framed for a devastating fire ripping through the building, one meant to cover up a crime targeting The Pearl’s creator, Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han). Worse, Sawyer’s family is trapped inside the towering inferno, meaning he must resort to impossible measures to rescue them. Unfortunately, the criminals are also trapped in the building, meaning various games of “hide and seek” will ensue.

Basically, Skyscraper is a variation on the Die Hard template, but there’s not much here that will lead to many declarations of yippee-ki-yay from audience members. Oversized action flicks will always go for the gusto with bigger and better and crazier stunts, but the level of suspension of disbelief necessary to swallow the stunts on view here probably hasn’t been invented yet.

Those with acrophobia might respond to some of the sky-high action sequences, while the climactic skirmish will amuse fans of the classic “hall of mirrors” sequence from Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai. Otherwise, this is entertainment on autopilot, with plot pirouettes that barely matter, double crosses that can be spotted from across the Atlantic, and snarling villains cut from the most generic cloth possible. Ultimately, the entire picture is as artificial as Sawyer’s left leg.


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