As sponsored by Duck Tape.
I have a fundamental problem with this film. And it’s not that it’s an irrevocably cheesy and derivative action movie, since you could automatically assume that by watching the ridiculously over-the-top trailer. But more on that later.
Dwayne Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a security expert left one-legged after a disastrous FBI operation 10 years previously. Now Will has moved with his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell, “Scream”, “House of Cards”) and two young kids into “The Pearl” in Hong Kong, the tallest building – by several Shards – in the world, designed and constructed by tech billionaire Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han, “Independence Day: Resurgence“). As the first residents, the family live in isolated splendour on a high floor. But in true “Die Hard” fashion, baddies, led by a the unconvincingly evil “Scandinavian” Kores Botha (Roland Møller, “The Commuter“), are intent on controlling and then destroying the high-rise. As fire races up towards his family, Will has to use all his physical capabilities to re-enter the building and save his family.
As a story it’s well-crafted but completely bonkers. There are more ludicrous plot holes than muscles on Johnson’s well-crafted body. Why exactly does Botha needs to implement such a ridiculously convoluted plot to secure his goal? Why wasn’t the lift drop delayed by two minutes? Why don’t critical access controls have two-factor authentication? And – most perplexing of all – why don’t the “heaven cameras” show the building below?!!
Both “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno”, of which this is an unsubtle blend, could both be similarly accused of lacking credibility but were fun rides. This is not in the same league as either, but has its moments of vertiginous excitement. Johnson is suitably energetic in the muscular lead but lacks acting nuance. I was trying to analyse why this is, and I came down to his eyeballs! In conversation with Campbell, his eyes dart from left to right and back again, as if an army of ants are running over her face. He needs to take lessons on fixed stares from Michael Caine!
As the title of this review implies, Duck Tape also plays a key role: not for Johnson the fancy blue light/red light gloves of Tom Cruise! It also derives one of the best of a series of quotable lines from the film: “If it can’t be fixed with Duck Tape, you’re not using enough Duck Tape!”.
Neve Campbell is actually the best actor in the film, proving to be suitably kick-ass in her own right. It’s a shame she’s been rather tagged as ‘the screaming girl from “Scream”… no, not Barrymore, the other one’: she deserves more feature film opportunities like this one.
Rawson Marshall Thurber (“Central Intelligence“, “Dodgeball”) keeps the action to a tight 102 minutes, but needs to keep more control over his Hong Kong extras: there is far too much ‘twenty-second-pointing’ and over exuberant jumping up and down going on that draws the attention away from the principals. This is particularly the case in the Die-Hard rip-off of an ending (“HOOOLLLLLLYYYYYY!!!”).
As a popcorn piece of escapist nonsense, it’s serviceable and delivers as a B-grade movie… it’s not good enough to be a “Die Hard” classic, and not bad enough to be a “so bad it’s good” disaster like “Into the Storm“.
You’ll note that I haven’t rubbished the film per se. So why then do I hold a negative view of the flick, and indeed somewhat regret going to see it?
One word – – Grenfell.
I knew the plot on going in, but didn’t equate just how damaging the mental effects of that dreadful night of 14th June 2017 were on my soul. Traumatic incendiary scenes together with some insensitive dialogue (“We’re going to turn that tower into a chimney”) broke through the wall of “entertainment” and left just a sick feeling in my stomach. And my wife had exactly the same feelings as we debriefed afterwards. This is a film that might have benefited from sitting on the shelf for a couple of years before release.
If you can separate in your mind the movie story from the shocking reality of one of life’s most unpleasant recent twists, then good for you: go and enjoy the movie. But I wasn’t so lucky so on a purely personal basis this is one occasion when I will give a film two ratings.
Fad Rating (out of current context): FFFf.
Fad Rating (in current context): Ff.