Thriller Skyscraper set in Hong Kong's tallest building but lacks depth

Taiwanese actress Hannah Quinlivan plays an assassin who is styled like a nightclub dominatrix in this lacklustre thriller.
Taiwanese actress Hannah Quinlivan plays an assassin who is styled like a nightclub dominatrix in this lacklustre thriller. PHOTO: UIP

Review/Action

Skyscraper (PG13)

103 minutes/Opens July 12)/2 stars

The story: Technopreneur Zhao (Chin Han) has built Hong Kong's tallest building. Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) and his family are its first residents, one of the perks that come with working for Zhao, as his top safety and security consultant. When sabotage causes the tower to burn, Will has to find his wife and children and bring them to safety.

This is a story created without imagination and told without flair. Created as a by-the-numbers disaster movie and a star vehicle for Johnson, the best that can be said about this bland Happy Meal serving of empty calories is that it is not as preposterous as it might have been had it been helmed by, say, the king of blow-'em-up movies, Roland Emmerich.

Director Rawson M. Thurber made his name in comedies like Central Intelligence (2016, also starring Johnson) and We're The Millers (2013).

There is little to laugh at here - and that is the problem. This is a loud, silly film that takes itself seriously. It pretends to have real stakes, when it is apparent from the start that Sawyer (Johnson) and his picture-perfect family will emerge unscathed, even if the entirety of Hong Kong were to be engulfed in flames.

Some might blame the flatness on how this is a China-backed production, designed for appeal in a country where Johnson has a strong fan following. But that would be implying that Chinese film-goers are unsophisticated, which could not be more wrong. This film, if anything, severely underestimates and patronises Asian audiences.

It does not however sink to the levels of ridiculousness reached by another big East-West production, The Great Wall (2016).

One redeeming feature of this work is how the supporting roles goes to a solid crew of Asian and Asian-American actors. Taiwanese actress Hannah Quinlivan is an assassin styled like a nightclub dominatrix, while Singapore-born Chin Han has unexpected layers to his character of tower-builder Zhao, adding a touch of mystery to a story in desperate need of depth.