Will Sawyer is a U.S. vet and former federal agent. In fact, he was the much-respected leader of an FBI Hostage Rescue Team until one lifesaving attempt went terribly wrong and Will lost the majority of his left leg.
Thanks to that disaster, though, Will met his future wife, Sarah, a consummate nurse with her own military background. They eventually had two great kids, Georgia and Henry, who have radically changed both of their lives. So if you were to ask Will Sawyer about the whole experience, he'd tell you he is indeed a blessed man.
One area that he'd like to see going better, though, is on the business front. Will started a small security company of his own after leaving the agency. But small is, unfortunately, the operative word here.
That, however, may be about to change. A former FBI teammate recently connected him with a certain Chinese multibillionaire, Zhao Long Ji, who's just finished building the world's tallest skyscraper. It's 300 stories of steel, glass and titanium—tripling the size of the Empire State building. Only the first 90 floors have tenants at this point, but the rest of the massive building is opening soon.
Plugging in there to help with the building's security needs could be the opportunity of a lifetime. So Will and Sarah pack up the kids and jet off to Hong Kong.
What Will doesn't know as he studies the many intricacies and safeguards of the building's advanced security systems is that there's a terrorist plot afoot. It involves that secretive billionaire and three different crime syndicates. And as bullets fly and bodies start to drop, Will's wife and kids become stranded in the upper levels of that skyscraper—and an entire floor is set ablaze … below them.
The multinational terrorists' plans have been fastidious. The buildings systems have been hijacked with complete aplomb. The killers are ruthless. And the only man who can save Sarah and the kids is Will—a one-legged security guy with just enough grit, muscle, and fatherly love to get the job done.
More than once, Will mentions that his nearly fatal misfortune as an FBI agent led to the best possible outcome in his life: his family. He also repeatedly tells his wife and kids how much he loves them. They respond in kind. Not surprisingly, Will and Sarah put everything on the line to keep their kids and each other alive.
Zhao Long Ji shows Will a special sphere at the top of the skyscraper that's been digitally designed to give the impression that the room has no floors or walls, that you are floating in the air 300 stories above the city below. "Welcome to heaven," the man tells him.
Will and Sarah kiss. Her T-shirt reveals some cleavage.
Near the beginning of the film, Will explains why he doesn't carry a gun. "I kinda put my sword down" after losing his leg, he says. "And I'm never gonna pick it up again." While he stays true to his word and doesn't grab a gun to blow away his foes—choosing instead to pummel them with a lot of muscle and anything else close at hand—that's pretty much the only way this pic hesitates when it comes its PG-13 mayhem and destruction.
The terrorist-like killers in the movie certainly don't curb their trigger-pulling. The camera doesn't hang around to examine the potentially gory aftermath of their work, but scores and scores of policemen and civilians get mowed down, hit with explosive grenades and crunched by moving vehicles.
A villainous assassin and her goons burst into a room full of computer techs, riddling them with automatic gunfire. Baddies smash through police lines and cut people down with efficient glee, almost glamorizing the wanton death-dealing on hand. These moments feel particularly disquieting in our age of mass shootings and riotous street violence.
The thugs also spread copious amounts of powdered magnesium in the skyscraper, a volatile chemical concoction that erupts into ferocious flames when the sprinkler system kicks in. That fire not only consumes most of the enormous building but also instantly ignites explosions that swirl up hungrily through ventilation and elevator shafts. Various victims are subsequently thrown about and seared to ash in those all-consuming flames. Elsewhere, a helicopter spins out of control and obliterates a small crowd of men.
We see a crazed father kill himself and his son with an explosive vest. There is some bloody aftermath in this case. And later, we're shown scarred, formerly ravaged flesh (that has since healed) of someone who had been close to the explosion.
A man is choked to death. Someone falls holding a live grenade and erupts into an explosive mush. A guy is Tasered. Someone gets shot in the chest. A young woman takes a boot kick to the face. A man is stabbed with a pair of scissors. People trapped in a plunging elevator aren't sure they're going to be able to arrest their fall. A woman is nearly choked by an SUV's seatbelt. And the Sawyer kids are both manhandled and threatened.
As for Will Sawyer, his pummeling torture starts with a slash to his arm. And it continues in wild, escalating, video game-like sequences from there. He leaps from a hundred-story high crane, pulls shrapnel-like chunks of metal out of his chest, swings outside a building repeatedly, dangles high in the air by his prosthetic leg and barely dodges swirling metal blades. He also gets fried by roaring explosions and tossed through panes of glass. In the end, he looks as if he's held together only by sweat, grime, charred cloth, coagulated blood and long pieces of frayed crimson duct tape.
CRUDE OR PROFANE LANGUAGE
This adrenaline-charged action flick doesn't have a lot of dialogue in the mix. And that actually makes its seemingly obligatory PG-13 f-word (along with five s-words, two uses of "h---" and one misuse of Jesus name) seem even more gratuitously crammed into place here. If anything, the relative lack of vulgarity causes those occasional profanities (especially that lone f-bomb) to resonate all the more jarringly.
DRUG AND ALCOHOL CONTENT
Will takes prescription meds for pain. He also pours alcohol on an open wound before wrapping it in duct tape—swigging back a mouthful of booze in the process. Henry uses an inhaler for his asthma.
OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS
Several characters turn out to be duplicitous liars.
Skyscraper is a CGI-infused hodgepodge of derivative bits culled from more memorable disaster thrillers, from the Towering Inferno to, well, every Die Hard movie ever made.
Dwayne Johnson does a capable job of sweating, leaping and holding everything together by sheer force of action-star will—though sometimes the more risible and ridiculous stunts he's forced to attempt strain even his flexing thespian bulk.
If you look at this flick from a certain perspective, you could say it depicts family members going to superhuman lengths to save and protect the people they love most. And that can make you cheer from time to time.
But even with its nearly bloodless PG-13 filter in place, I find it hard to applaud a film full of ruthless, pedal-to-the-metal death and destruction as … family fare.