Review – Dying Hard For A Towering Inferno (“Skyscraper”)

This makes the 126th film this year that Dwayne Johnson has been in, although I think my math be a little off. Yes, the Rock is back–again–as an action hero–again–saving an incredibly tall building from some bad guys. Oh, but THIS time, he’s sporting an artificial right leg. Well, at least THAT’S different!

Say hello to Will Sawyer (Johnson), a former FBI-guy who lost a leg during a botched mission, but now he’s running security for super-billionaire Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han). Y’see, Ji has built The Pearl, a monstrous 220-story tall building in China that boasts a shopping mall, an indoor arboretum, two gigantic wind turbines for power, and a giant globe at the top that does crazy things with image refracting. Will being on Ji’s payroll has its perks, like getting to live on the 96th floor with his lovely Navy surgeon wife, Sarah (Neve Campbell), and his two precious kids, Georgia & Henry (McKenna Roberts & Noah Cottrell).

But wouldn’t’cha know it, a team of bad guys go and show up, lead by the international terrorist, Kores Botha (Roland Moller). Will is away, getting betrayed by his best friend, as they set fire to the 96th floor. But hey, all those fancy-schmancy fire devices will put the flames out, right? Wrong! Xia (Hannah Quinlivan), Botha’s gorgeous but lethal accom- plice, has locked out all the Pearl’s computers and made the building a… well, a Tower- ing Inferno! Not one for idling standing by and watching his family become crispy critters, Will pulls a really insane Mission: Impossible feat to gain entry into the blazing bldg. (sorry, Tom Cruise)

Problems just begin as those wacky terrorists want Ji and his super-important USB drive, and will stop at nothing to get it. This means threatening Will by snatching his little girl. Big mistake! Time for Die Hard, Commando, and the end of Enter The Dragon to all be rolled into one big ridiculous hodge-podge, with Will showing us 101 Ways to Use Duct Tape. Will also demonstrates that any human can easily withstand being knifed, stabbed, pummeled, beaten, shot, endure repeated massive physical trauma, and STILL walk away with only a slight limp!

This truly awful actioner was written & directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, which is unusual, given that fact that he’s given us two hilarious films, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Movie and We’re the Millers. Thurber must’ve been asleep at the keyboard, because this film is something that only amateurs write. Loaded with plot holes the size of the Chrysler Bldg, inconceivable leaps of logic, boring and witless dialogue, and a recycled/stolen Die Hard/Towering Inferno storyline that boils down to just hi-tech stunt after hi-tech stunt. The characters are all two-dimensional and generic, nothing makes any sense in their decisions, and Thurber looked like he wasn’t even trying with his direction.

Even the CGI shots were laughable, a true sign of laziness. At least with Dwayne Johnson’s Rampage, it was over-the-top and dumb, but clearly entertaining, but THIS movie is more like his dreadful San Andreas. Epic fail. Here, Johnson is just another clichéd Mr. Barney Beefcake HeroMan with a hot wife, adorable kiddies, and one who takes out the bad guys. Just ONCE I’d like to see him be a lonely insurance guy, who doesn’t get the girl, and pretty much ruins the day by botching the job! Y’know, like the rest of us!

The Towering Inferno (1974)
In the Golden Age of disaster movies (the 70’s), there were a string of bizarre multi-story movies that made huge $$$ at the box office. The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, The Swarm, Two-Minute Warning, Rollercoaster, and this one by master producer Irwin Allen.
With a cast that includes (take a breath): Paul Newman, William Holden, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Wagner, and double-homicide killer O.J. Simpson, the acting list was impressive. Right now, the tallest building in the world is Burj Khali in Dubai with 161 floors, but this movie has the fictitious Glass Tower in San Francisco having its inaugural opening night boasting 135 floors… and some major electrical problems on the same day. Architect Doug Roberts (Newman) is pissed because Simmons, the smug electrical contractor (Chamberlain) used cheap wiring throughout the building, causing some shorts.
Building executive James Duncan (Holden) is, of course, more concerned about his snooty guests showing up than any safety issues. Inevitably, one of those nasty little shorts sets off a fire on floor 81 while a major party is going on floor 135. Chief security officer Harry Jernigan (O.J.) calls the fire dept and that summons super-cool Battalion Chief Michael O’Halloran (McQueen) and his firefighting heroes. But the fire gets out of control (the fire sprinklers won’t work), and panic sets in as the building explodes in flames, forcing people to flee every which-way.
Trapped on the 135th floor with all the party guests, the fire raging below them, and no way to escape, Duncan, Simmons, Roberts, and the other plot lines try to remain calm. O’Halloran attempts a daring rescue via Navy helicopter, but that doesn’t quite work out. Finally, as if someone shouted “deus ex machina!”, a huge water tank that was coven-iently on the roof all this time, is blown-up and puts out the fire. After almost three hours, NOW they figured this out? Sheesh!
Adapted from TWO books (The Glass Inferno and The Tower), screenwriter Stirling Silliphant copy-catted his own multi-character formula that he used in both his The Poseidon Adventure and Swarm scripts. That means it’s loaded with a whole bunch of side-stories, side-plots, and side-characters that pad the movie’s running time way longer than it should be. The building is burning to a crisp and lives are in mortal danger, but doggoneit! Everyone is going to have their story told!
Director John Guillermin, who made a livelihood of cranking out alot of B-films (King Kong Lives, The Blue Max, Skyjacked), does a seriously good job here, considering the movie goes on about an hour longer than it should. Tasty Trivia: a real fire broke out on the set and McQueen jumped right in with local firemen to stop it. William Holden demanded top billing in the credits and poster… he didn’t get it. The original book, The Tower, was based on the WTC twin towers and this movie bares an eerie similarity. McQueen and Newman were bitter rivals, often demanding (like spoiled kids) that they get more lines than each other. McQueen refused to wear his firefighter helmet because “it makes me look like an idiot”.

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