“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

Skyscraper

We had DIE HARD on a boat and DIE HARD in a bus and DIE HARD on a train and DIE HARD in a hockey stadium and a couple DIE HARDs in malls and DIE HARD on piano and DIE HARD still in a building but not as good with Anna Nicole Smith (called SKYSCRAPER) and now we have DIE HARD still in a building but not as good without Anna Nicole Smith (but still called SKYSCRAPER). Dwayne Therock-Johnson plays Will Sawyer, former FBI agent turned small time security consultant given the huge break of overseeing the opening of the residential upper half of a fictional 225 story world’s tallest building in Hong Kong.

“The Pearl” as it’s called due to a round structure at the top is owned by rich dude Zhao (Chin Han, THE DARK KNIGHT, GHOST IN THE SHELL), who we later find out is being shaken down by some tactical mastermind guy (Roland Moller, ATOMIC BLONDE) whose guerrillas infiltrate and set the building on fire. Will is outside of the building when it happens, but he gets blamed for it and must evade the police THE FUGITIVE style and figure out how the hell to get onto the building because his wife (Neve Campbell, WILD THINGS!) and twins (McKenna Roberts and Noah Cottrell) are on the 96th floor.

It’s a Chinese co-production emulating DIE HARD, but it has none of the propulsive thrills of real Chinese action movies or the late ’80s/early ’90s ones it looks up to. It’s an aggressively bland and mediocre take on the time honored premise, though not completely devoid of entertainment value. Part of the fun, to the extent that there is any, is the set up, introducing the characters, the preposterous features of the building (double helix turbines?) and several blatant “don’t you worry your pretty little head about this innocent little detail here, there’s nothing noteworthy about it and it’s definitely not going to come back and be important later” moments. My favorite of those is when Zhao gives Will a tour of the “pearl” at the top and its planks of reflecting HD screens that serve no explicable purpose other than a setting for an ENTER THE DRAGON style mirror maze finale.

Another one is the prologue where we see him in an FBI hostage situation. He tries to save a little girl, whose father turns around and reveals he’s wearing a bomb vest, which goes off. This sets up at least three things: he loses a leg and has to use a prosthetic, he gets surgery from his future wife, and at the end he faces basically the same scenario and gets a chance to handle it successfully.

Now, who the fuck am I to tell writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber (DODGEBALL, WE’RE THE MILLERS, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE) how to tell his story, but I believe the good version of this would ditch the opening scene entirely, because

one: opening with him losing his leg suggests it’s the central event of his life, undermining the nice touch that the rest of the movie doesn’t make a big deal out of it

two: why is it necessary that he marry the surgeon, that is just weird

three: how ’bout the thing he has to face is rescuing his god damn family from danger, why does it have to turn out to be about dealing with the trauma that in every other scene he seems to have long since overcome

But I really shouldn’t focus on that because it’s far from the most egregious storytelling weakness. Instead let’s consider the worst one. It can be inferred that Will gets the job because someone wanted him to be in over his head, but it’s still amazing to me how little he does. We’ve been told how amazing this building is, how unprecedented, how much of a target for terrorism it is, how Zhao might never be able to get it insured. But then all they do to make sure it’s ready is call in this one guy, and if he inspects anything it’s off screen during some unspecified but seemingly not very significant passage of time.

He hasn’t even had a discussion with them before – he acts nervous, like it’s a job interview. His friend who got him the job (Pablo Schreiber, DEN OF THIEVES) introduces Will to Zhao and two other guys (including cartoonishly snooty insurance rep Noah Taylor [PREDESTINATION]), then Will gives Zhao some exposition about how the high-tech sprinkler system works in the building (I’m surprised he doesn’t know already), then he basically says “okay, we’re almost done here, I just have to go over to this other building to check this one thing and then you’re good.”

What the fuck is your job, dude? What is your expertise, your process? These would be interesting things to include in the movie. I would think these would be required things to include in the movie, but I guess not. Shouldn’t we see him and a big team power-walking around spitting out jargon, looking at screens, thinking they know what must’ve been overlooked, being impressed that it wasn’t, showing that they really know their shit, they are really thorough, they thought of everything, etc.?

I guess not. No time for that. We gotta get to all the action. Well, “all the” is kind of overstating it. The parts with the action. He climbs outside the building for a bit. It’s okay. The most memorable spectacle moment is the shit with the crane that you saw in the trailer. Despite the great J.J. Perry being second unit director, the occasional fights are not very exciting and not that much more comprehensible than that period after TAKEN came out when most things were so hard to follow I had to make up a ratings system. I do appreciate that Will (SPOILER) stays true to his not using guns anymore and doesn’t have an Al Powell moment at the end where he shoots somebody and you’re supposed to proud of him.

Most of the enjoyment I got was from the stuff I thought was dumb, like at the end when they’re filthy and exhausted and he says “Let’s go home” and nobody says “Wait a minute, are we seriously just flying back to the United States now? Can I at least take a shower?”

And I got a chuckle from how low an opinion the movie SKYSCRAPER has of anybody who would go see the movie SKYSCRAPER. There’s this part where SPOILER his wife gets ahold of the tablet that controls everything in the building and she’s trying to re-activate the fire extinguishing system. And you may realize “oh that’s right, there was that whole scene at the beginning where she needed help with her phone and he really emphasized to her that usually the best thing to do is turn it off and then turn it back on.” And then she remembers this. So she finds a thing that says “REBOOT” and presses it and then watches as all of the lights and everything turn off on the building.

So if you had forgotten that scene, now is when you go “oh, ha ha, like she did with her phone at the beginning.” And she’s nervous because everything stays off for a second and what if she screwed everything up, but phew, the lights start coming on and everything else starts coming on and sure enough that system is activated and finally starts putting out the fire.

And then she explains that she rebooted it. And then she explains that that means she turned it off and back on.

YEAH, WE FUCKING FOLLOW YOU, SKYSCRAPER. IT’S LIKE THE PHONE THING EARLIER. THAT WAS VERY CLEAR LIKE 2 MINUTES AGO. Why do you hate us?

There’s some silly stuff about why the bad guys are after Zhao. But there should definitely be more ridiculousness to make this thing more enjoyable. The most obvious area for that is in the gimmickry of the building. It’s amazing how little they do with that considering that it’s the only reason to make this movie.

Well, that and The Rock. The world loves The Rock and the world loves that The Rock seems like a nice guy, and even though the world realizes The Rock is most entertaining when he’s more of a macho asshole like in FAST FIVE the world is also charmed to see him play America’s Sweetheart like this. And having lost a limb during an act of heroism makes this character even more American and more sweet than standard issue The Rock.

Also, the perfect squareness of Will Sawyer stands in contrast to messy asshole John McClane, which is sort of a necessity for a movie that cannot and will not be viewed by any human being on earth without being compared to DIE HARD. They gotta make him different so, you know, he doesn’t wear a sleeveless undershirt. He does wear shoes. He doesn’t curse (it’s PG-13). He uses an actual rope to hang off the building instead of a fire hose. He doesn’t use hardly any humor or jokes until one decent one-liner. He is happily married with no problems or issues that he is concerned about dealing with while facing his own mortality.

So, yeah, he’s different from John McClane. And much less interesting.

We also got a villain problem here. For a while I wasn’t even clear which one was the main villain they were talking about, he seemed more like a henchman. He does not have a memorable personality, presence, dialogue, motive or gimmick. He doesn’t have any memorable henchmen. I actually have already forgotten what type of henchmen he had. Some gunmen I believe. Professionals maybe. Oh, the lady with the cool hair. I remember her.

Actors I like who don’t get much to do: Byron Mann (BELLY OF THE BEAST) as the Tommy Lee Jones, the police inspector trying to catch Will but also figuring out that he’s the good guy. Matt O’Leary (LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, DEATH SENTENCE, SORORITY ROW, FAT KID RULES THE WORLD, EDEN, THE LONE RANGER) as “Skinny Hacker.” Campbell gets a little bit of a role. I like that a ways in they suddenly mention that she was a combat surgeon in Afghanistan, setting up two parts where she fights somebody. I don’t know. She deserves more to do, but I was still happy to see her again. I guess she’s been in TV, like everybody else, but I haven’t seen her since SCREAM 4 in 2011.

I love The Rock. We love The Rock. But it’s time to face the fact that this Next Action Hero is about 40 movies into his career and doesn’t have anything close to a COMMANDO or a PREDATOR or a TOTAL RECALL let alone a TERMINATOR or a T2 under his belt. Honestly two of his best vehicles are the fuckin prequel to the shitty MUMMY movie and Brett Ratner’s version of HERCULES, and if you add those two together you’re nowhere near a CONAN THE BARBARIAN. His best action work is an ensemble series that he joined at part 5 and might not be doing anymore. This is a problem.

Maybe his tastes will never match his charisma, but jesus fuckin christ man it’s time for him to make some actual great movies to justify all these ones that we only can manage to sit through because he’s in them. He needs to find his James Cameron, his Steven Soderbergh, his Isaac Florentine, his director who makes great movies and knows how to bring out the very best in him, push him to new heights, showcase his strengths. In my opinion that is probly not gonna end up being the guy that directed DODGEBALL or the guy that directed CATS & DOGS: THE REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE. It could definitely be David Leitch (JOHN WICK, ATOMIC BLONDE, DEADPOOL 2), who’s doing HOBBS AND SHAW, or Shane Black if he ever gets that DOC SAVAGE off the ground. But it better be somebody. It’s time for Hollywood to stop wasting our precious, finite geological resources.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 19th, 2018 at 1:46 pm and is filed under Action, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

98 Responses to “Skyscraper”

  1. I’ll just come out and say it: I don’t like The Rock. He makes mostly shitty movies and I find his supposedly charming personality to be insincere. He’s just another phony, success-motivated asshole with terrible taste in an industry filled with people like that, and I’ve never understood the outsized amount of love he gets from the movie-going public.

    I know no one here will agree with me, but I’m at least glad to see Vern acknowledge Dwayne Johnson’s gawdawful track-record for making even moderately entertaining movies.

  2. Has anyone else had this problem in the last month? You make a joke about Skyscraper being Die Hard in a building and people online, including people who know you and have employed you, correct you that Die Hard was already in a building? Is it just me? What would be my correct course of action here?

    Vern, I’m sorry you didn’t like Skyscraper as much as me but your review is great and not wrong, particularly how unnecessary the opening scene is. The bad guys are so unmemorable, Moller wasn’t even credited on IMDB OR in still photos of him. And yeah, no henchmen.

    I could forgive the lack of a Hans Gruber because I did like the crane scene, the rappelling scene a and the family fire rescue scene. I gave Thurber credit for having 3-4 things going on in each sequence and tracking all of it.

    You make a great point about The Rock’s career. People are talking about Dwayne Johnson fatigue but when exactly did he ever establish himself? He got a lot of credit for saving franchises, but where are Journey and G.I. Joe now? And Fast Five didn’t exactly need saving. Before it, Fast & Furious saved the franchise from the lackluster (but now beloved) Tokyo Drift with its biggest opening and total box office thus far.

    San Andreas did well. Jumanji did well, another ensemble that he can absolutely share credit for. Likewise Central intelligence I guess. I think Vern asks a good question though. How much of this is good well and how much is a legitimate track record?

  3. Actually I wonder if maybe the best thing that could happen to him artistically would be to become a consistent box office failure. That might be the only thing that would get him making small, interesting movies instead of chasing the middlebrow zeitgeist. He hasn’t done his COMMANDO or T2 or TOTAL RECALL and only a half-assed CONAN and he’s made a bunch of JUNIORs but I bet he would be pretty good at being SABOTAGE/MAGGIE/AFTERMATH era Arnold.

  4. At least Bryon Mann is no longer stuck doing Seagal DTVs.

    I generally like The Rock. FASTER is my opinion one of his best films so far.

  5. Would he even keep making movies if he was a consistent box office failure? I feel like success is the thing he cares about, not quality.

  6. grimgrinningchris

    July 19th, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    After enjoying both JUMANJI and RAMPAGE far more than I expected to, I was kind of hoping this would be similarly dumb fun.

    But I guess it’s just dumb.

    Bummer.

  7. Faster was a good serious violent drama, and it did poorly so he stopped making those. :(

  8. @Dan: I agree with you.

    Johnson’s goofy fun public action star persona is totally manufactured and I can never not see him as a stiff and unnatural C-list talent who somehow made it to the A-list. Perhaps it’s just because I remember him from his UPN days and his cameo on Star Trek Voyager where I thought “this guy will never make it” and I don’t like being wrong. Who knows.

    I do believe he’s a flash in the pan whose movies will be forgotten in a decade.

  9. Gepard,

    Wow! Was expecting 0% agreement, so thanks.

    He’s been around way to long to be considered a flash in the pan, though.

  10. guys, The Rock has been super famous for like 20 years now, I’m pretty sure he will still be super famous 10 years from now.

    And Jumanji was great. That’s my favorite Rock.

    Also, nobody is going to make their Commando movie unless it’s a foreign star made for a foreign audience. America doesn’t like action movies that much anymore unless it’s Marvel or probably this awesome looking Mission: Impossible.

  11. grimgrinningchris

    July 19th, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    I have it on very good authority by someone who has worked with him many times that Johnson is, indeed, a very nice guy on set.
    He also frequently tops those lists of celebs who are apparently good tippers, friendly and patient with fans etc…

    So if he’s nice to his co-workers (including those under him), nice to his fans and nice to the service industry… and has been for decades now- then that is one hell of an act he’s putting on if he’s really a secret asshole behind closed doors.

    Maybe he’s just nice, not to try to sell some sort of persona (especially considering that I don’t know when someone not being an asshole IRL has ever put asses in seats), but cuz y’know… there’s no reason NOT to be.

  12. I’m with Dan that Rock is overrated. I liked RUNDOWN and WALKING TALL, and couldn’t get excited after that and don’t find him to be particularly charismatic. He’s okay. He’s 80% less of douche than Vin Diesel.As modern theatrical tough guys go, Jason Statham is much better on charisma, humor, general harassed and overall likeability. He doesn’t always have to be shirtless or do the usual played out “how swagged out am I, am I right” shtick.

  13. “Harsssed?!” Was “badassery”

  14. grimgrinningchris

    July 19th, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    He has a totally different type of screen presence than Statham though. That would be like comparing 80s Stallone to 80s Bruce… you really have to stop the whole comparison at “they’re both in action movies”.

    Do I like more Statham movies than Rock movies? Yeah, easily. Would Statham get me into a theater on his involvement alone quicker than Johnson? Sure. But they’re totally different beasts and largely appear in totally different types of movies.

    And I don’t get how disliking an actor or thinking he is overrated or whatever means he’s an asshole, when all signs point to the opposite. That is some cynical shit right there.

  15. I assume you all will be watching Statham’s shark movie MEG then?

  16. You don’t think The Rock has charisma? That’s a load of horseshit.

    Honestly, he’s got more charisma than Jason Statham too, you just happen to like his movies over all more. not that Statham doesn’t have charisma.

  17. The question is why doesn’t that charisma translate into successful movies? It would be one thing if they were hits but we didn’t like them. Baywatch, Rampage, Skyscraper didn’t do that well either. San Andreas did tho.

  18. Because in the end people watch movies for other reasons than the star’s charisma. I mean, nobody really cared about a BAYWATCH “parody” in 2017 (which is IMO also the reason why the superior MACGRUBER bombed). SKYSCRAPER failed to sellt itself as anything special. Not sure what was it about RAMPAGE, but I guess people simply don’t care for giant monster animals unless they Kong or Godzilla.

  19. I really wish that Faster had done better business, as that movie showcased THE ROCK very well. He was somewhat menacing, multi-layered and interesting. The guy has charisma, and I think he has talent, but he’s lacking the director (as Vern said) and the low-budget, low-expectation movies that would allow him to grow as an actor.

  20. CJ, that’s the point. Just having charisma doesn’t make one a movie star. It may make him deserve to be a movie star, but as Vern points out, where are the definitive movies?

    At this point, hasn’t Bautista become a bigger star out of the WWE? Far fewer people know his name, but he’s in a Marvel franchise, played a Bond villain, did Blade Runner 2049 and gets to do interesting smaller indie movies like Hotel Artemis and Bushwick.

  21. Okay, but while Bautista’s character is maybe one of the most beloved of the whole MCU, his Bond movie was maybe successful, but not really that beloved, BR2049 was a bomb, these smaller indie movies were only seen by a small audience and his DTV stuff by even less.

    It would be interesting to compare the overall quality (since we are no low budget/DTV snobs over here) of Johnson’s and Bautista’s output, but on a pure technical level, I wouldn’t even call Bautista a movie star yet. All his big stuff (even the Marvels) was supporting roles and his real starring roles weren’t seen by many people.

  22. That’s true, there has not been a Dave Bautista vehicle yet.

  23. Bautista will be starring with Pierce Brosnan in a “Die Hard in a stadium” movie called FINAL SCORE.

  24. It cracks me up that this shares a title with the Anna Nicole Smith movie, which I watched once as a horny teen solely to see her gargantuan fake hooters (which honestly were ugly, I’m not a totally anti-fake breast guy but that was a bad job, she looked better at the start of her Playboy career and in the movie itself she looked better when she was simply in her underwear)

    Poor Anna, if she was still alive it’d be a funny if they gave her a cameo in this.

    Anyway, I like The Rock and I think he’s probably a genuinely nice guy, but Vern is on point in that he needs to pick better movies, it’s a shame his talent is being wasted.

    But for what we are getting it’s not too bad I think, I actually watched both SAN ANDREAS and JUMANJI 2 recently, SAN ANDREAS is mediocre in every way but that’s honestly it’s charm, reminded of SPEED 2 that I revisited earlier this year, ie felt like a movie from the ’90s.

    In fact I find it interesting that we’re seeing a revival in 90s style blockbusters now with movies like SKYSCRAPER and MEG that are all about a star and a catchy premise and not about a franchise, even if these movies aren’t quite pulling it off like I guess SKYSCRAPER is it’s still comforting to see that type of movie come back, mediocre or not, it’s a little normalcy in a sea of frightening bizarreness.

    That’s also why I really enjoyed JW: FALLEN KINGDOM despite it flaws, just the act of going to the theater to a see a Jurassic movie was a much needed comfort in this royally fucked up year.

    And JUMANJI 2 is a lot of fun, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it, I also plan on giving RAMPAGE a watch soon too.

  25. Heeeeeey now, I just remembered something crazy.

    Isn’t this a movie that’s been in development hell for a long time like MEG? I swear I read about this movie on AICN circa 2009 or so.

    It could have been a totally different project but it was something a about a fire in a skyscraper I think.

  26. I look forward to seeing Statham roundhouse kick a shark in MEG.

  27. This discussion is starting to get my hopes up about HOBBS & SHAW. You got both The Rock and The Stath, possibly a very good duo of opposing presence and size, working with one of the moment’s top directors of action movies (both on technical and entertainment levels), and I imagine as a spin-off they can have more emphasis on non-vehicle action than in the FASTs. I hope that, as with Charlize in ATOMIC BLONDE, the stunt team will be impressed by their ability to memorize moves and up the ante on the action. Also I hope they get to fight Daniel Bernhardt.

  28. Christian Siegel

    July 20th, 2018 at 3:10 am

    I enjoyed this one. It’s solid summer blockbuster entertainment with a couple of visually stunning scenes (saw it in IMAX 3D, and the crane climbing and some of the later Skyscraper-stuff definitely isn’t for the vertigo-inclined). Yes, it’s dumber than it had to be, I didn’t enjoy how every fucking thing that happens in the last half hour is set up in the first, and I definitely couldn’t have done without the overexplaining and talking down to the audience. But I never got bored, it actually gives his family things to do instead of only having them there to get rescued, and it has it’s heart in the right place. Overall, it worked better for me than “Rampage”, which, I felt, take itself way to seriously, given its silly premise.

  29. I thought this was some of the most preposterous nonsense Id seen at the movies since Rampage. And I kinda loved every second of both of them. There were several sequences in Skyscraper that honestly had me on the edge of my seat. It felt like a mid-90s old school action movie but with cutting edge effects. Definitely needed a better villain though. I know I’m in the minority though as both people with me pretty much hated it.

  30. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 5:54 am

    Yeah, my comments weren’t in regards to whether Johnson has on screen charisma (he does) or whether he picks bad movies (he does), but questioning Dan’s post accusing Johnson on being a closet asshole that has just been putting on a nice guy persona every time he is around other human beings for the past twenty years- which I’ve seen no evidence to support.

    I actually would like to see Vern review Rampage. Where Johnson gets way out-charisma’d by a CG gorilla. It is a dumb dumb movie with a dumb script- The main “villains” spend 3/4 of the movie in one room alternating between spouting exposition and mustache twirling and Morgan has way too much of that fake southern-speak that Vern hates so much (all that “my grandpappy always said…” bullshit) but the monsters and the mayhem are all GREAT. And surprisingly nasty. I’m pretty sure I saw intestines at one point.

  31. Since the only person who seemingly has mean things to say about him is Vin Diesel who apparently has a dude-bro rivalry with him, I can take everyone else’s word that he’s a swell gut. But (I AM NOT talking for Dan here!) I immediately want to side with Dan because growing up, those jock-types always came off as phonies to me. I’ll admit I thought that way of him at first too but guess I’m wrong because everyone not Diesel says he is one of the good ones. So I chalk that up my innate prejudice against the jock-types. Working on it guys!

    That said, I think I do fully agree with Dan on that Johnson just wants success. Maybe SNITCH and FASTER bombing killed him wanting to be a more interesting action actor but regardless, he (or his agent) has seemed to specifically seek out the most middle of the road mainstream fair since then (FASTs don’t count!).

    As for his choice in directors, I guess he gets along with those guys and they have a rapport? Or it’s like when Jackie Chan did his second run of ‘Murican movies where Chan seems to be going out of his way to get the work-for-hire boring hacks (in his defense, in the ’80’s he worked with established directors and one up-and-comer and had a miserable experience so it makes since he didn’t want to work with any American director with any clout anymore).

    Also, as the resident giant monster nerd, I though RAMPAGE was like one fun scene shoved all the way to end surround by an awful, awful movie. Feel like an ass in that regard. I love giant monster movies but every one they made this year I didn’t like (the anime Godzillas, Pacific Rim 2, Rampage). It’s like they’re giving me what I want and I’m turning my nose up at it now.

  32. I’m taking a break from my break to defend Vin against these accusations of being a bigger douche than The Rock. Who was the one who put all this dirty laundry in public in the first place? Who talked shit without naming names like a passive aggressive mean girl’s Facebook status? Who put the franchise in jeopardy over some personal shit because he wanted to be the big dog and found out he wasn’t? Then who retracted it all without ever getting specific once he got his way, proving it was just a power play? Was that Vin? No. Vin, to my knowledge, has not said word one about any of the bullshit Rock tried to start. That’s class. I lost a lot of respect for Rock when he put the family business in the streets like that. So I see where Dan is coming from. Rock can still fill the screen on those rare occasions when he has worthwhile material (such as those times when Vin fucking handed it to him on a silver platter, the ungrateful fuck) but he’s running out of second chances. Vin, meanwhile, keeps hitting all his second chances out of the park. Look at the filmographies and there’s no question who’s really the big dog and who just barks the loudest.

    I apologize for this rant. I swear the next thing I have to say will be so positive and life-affirming you all will literally shit yourselves.

  33. Aw fuck it. Y’all let the monster out on this one.

    FASTER is an action movie with no action that’s as dreary as humanly possible.

    THE SCORPION KING is barely a movie. I’m sure I saw it, meaning it played in front of me while my eyes were open. That’s all I can say about it.

    RAMPAGE is the dictionary definition of “the least you could do.” You could not put those elements together in a way that would produce fewer results without being unwatchable. It’s not possible. They toiled in the lab and found the least effective formula possible.

    HERCULES is okay at best but probably should have just been the movie it’s making fun of.

    SNITCH was an ABC movie of the week that accidentally got released in theaters.

    His best movie is a fucking earthquake movie that could have starred literally anybody.

    JUMANJI 2? With Jack Black and Kevin Hart? The fuck outta here with that shit. Adults are talking.

    Closing argument: Vin’s big supporting role was in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Rock’s was in SOUTHLAND TALES.

    What I’m saying, in the kind of tough love inspirational jock gibberish he understands, is this: Motherfucker, you need to put up or shut up. Stay off Twitter, don’t you fucking dare insult our democracy even more by pretending you’re gonna run for president someday, and just MAKE. A GOOD. MOVIE. That’s your job. Fucking do it.

    Dammit. You woke up the old Majestyk. All that Thai stick-fighting for nothing.

  34. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 7:08 am

    I don’t at all disagree that Johnson wants the fame and the movie star status… though despite a very spotty filmography, he IS a movie star in the clearest sense of the term so at this point that is all kinda moot. I don’t think it makes him an asshole- just a dude with a very distinct physical presence and personality and very limited range- that knows it.

    To be fair to everyone (including Dan) I was totally unaware of the rivalry with Diesel somehow. That does sound pretty lame on Johnson’s part. Even still, I will take the BTS word of an underling that has worked with him a bunch of times in regards to his personality than a chest bumping pissing contest between two contemporaries.

  35. I wouldn’t really care about his personality if he had anything else to offer. The dwindling goodwill built up by his public image is all that gets me to continue supporting his movies. It’s certainly not the quality of the work. He’s more meme than man at this point. Eventually he’s gonna have to serve some steak to go with all that sizzle.

  36. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 7:58 am

    I think you mean “smolder”, Makestyk.

    Ha.

  37. I was also confused about the whole inspection thing, as well as the fact that The Rock’s “security company” just consisted of The Rock and no one else. Apparently the authorities have not only stood by while Zhao has built a structure with zero oversight that could take out a huge chunk of downtown Hong Kong if it collapsed, but they are letting him hire the guy doing the inspection, who is a good friend of an employee, and who was also the lowest bidder.

    Either way, for a “Die Hard”/”Towering Inferno” mashup, the “Die Hard” aspect was almost an afterthought. As you said, Botha is a total zero as a villain, and the bad guys are off screen for most of the movie, including in the third act when they force Rock into figuring out how to get access to a room and then inexplicably disappear until the very end. And I miss the days when a “Die Hard” copycat like “Under Siege 2” gave us not only fun villains like Eric Bogosian but also colorful henchmen played by the likes of Jonathan Banks and Peter Greene. I watched Anna Nicole’s “Skyscraper” right before this and the bad guys in that are a hell of a lot more memorable than in The Rock’s version.

    Also in a bit of a coincidence she starts a fire in the building, although because of the budget it’s contained to a small trash basket. She also takes time out in the middle to have a sex scene flashback, which I am pretty sure was NOT in The Rock’s version unless I missed it going to the bathroom.

  38. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 8:07 am

    I may be being more forgiving than usual since do think a lot of his movies are utter crap- but between all the niceguyonset stories and seeing JUMANJI and RAMPAGE back to back (both of which he did exactly what he needed to do in) and enjoying both far more than I expected, I’m kinda in his corner at the moment.

    I’m also really holding out hope that THE JUNGLE CRUISE (man, that dude does need to get out of the fucking jungle and leave the big animals alone) isn’t shit. I really dug ORPHAN and THE SHALLOWS so Collet-Serra checks out and the rest of the cast is solid, so I have hope. Thankfully, there is no big mythology for them to potentially ruin… just the reputation of one of my favorite things on the planet.

  39. Everyone really has to stop worrying about the Rock’s bland but charming personality and mediocre acting career.

    There was another actor exactly like that: Ronald Reagan.

    Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson won't run for president in 2020. But maybe 2024?

    Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson says he won't run for president in 2020 because of his movie schedule. He told Stephen Colbert on "The Late Show" that he would need some experience before running in 2024 or 2028.

    Maybe American Samoa will become a state before Puerto Rico.

  40. Mr. M:

    Yeah I’ve selfishly decided to push the rivalry out of my mind for the most part. You are right, Diesel never publicly said anything about it and Johnson 100% used his ‘nice guy’ persona to back him up with the whole ‘ doesn’t hang out with anyone on the set LIKE ME’ argument he brought up. Dammit I’m trying to not be so judgmental and let my past dictate how I knee-jerk react to others but now letting all that flood right back into my mind makes me more side with Dan’s ‘The Rock is a fake-nice-guy’ theory. Dammit.

    Mostly agree with your critiques of his past movies too though I feel you’re being WAY to generous to the awful RAMPAGE even if you’re comment on it IS correct.

    Also… I know you’re not a cartoon / voice guy but Vin wins in that department too. He’s got freaking IRON GIANT and Groot from the GUARDIAN movies. Hell, even the DTV Riddick cartoon he did with the AEON FLUX guy. Johnson has PLANET 51 and the worst part of MOANA (which I remember you saying you couldn’t make through).

  41. Wait, Johnson voiced the chicken in MOANA? (Yeah, I know I know…)

  42. i know you’re joking but reagan was always a colossal piece of shit. he was an FBI snitch for years during the red scare.

  43. To clarify, I meant “asshole” more in the sense of “that guy I don’t like,” i.e. “fuck that asshole, I’m done with him.” Outside of the Vin feud, which does make him look petty, thin-skinned and egotistical, I have no reason to believe that he’s a dick to people in real life.

    I do think he’s a phony, though. It’s hard to pinpoint, but when I see him on screen, I see the rehearsed charm of a con man. There’s an article that always sticks out in my mind, I wish I could remember who wrote it or where it was from, but basically the author had a great interview with The Rock and really felt like The Rock was personable, interesting, willing to open up and give thoughtful answers. Then, before the author was about to publish it, he read another interview where The Rock more or less word for word gave all the exact same answers, and the author was left wondering if the whole thing was an act.

    I’m not saying that makes Dwayne Johnson a bad person, and I’m sure a lot of Hollywood types also put on a bullshit public persona.

  44. Rock movies I like (or liked at the time):

    SNITCH
    PAIN & GAIN (this, not SOUTHLAND TALES, was his big this-guy-can-kinda-really-act supporting role in my book, and he was really good in it)

    I guess I’m kinda over him; I agree with the description “more meme than man” above. But if he ever made a genuinely good small-scale action movie – not even something like COMMANDO, ’cause I don’t like that movie, but something on the level of Walter Hill’s EXTREME PREJUDICE or RANSOM – he could really win me over. Me, and the two dozen other people who would see a movie like that, so, you know, it’s never gonna happen.

  45. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    I gotcha.

    Especially since we are also discussing Diesel now, that interview part reminded me of a video that was going around a bit ago (that I cannot find now) that compiled Diesel’s answers to questions on like a half dozen or more different talk show and giving almost verbatim the same answers on all of them.

    Granted, I know there is a big difference between an in-depth one on one sit-down with a journalist and having stock answers for the talk show circuit, but it still made me think of it.

  46. It seems like people are being a little too hard on the Rock. i agree that he’s never had the great run of Schwarzenegger or even hit the high watermarks that Stallone did. But he was also born too late. Schwarzenegger was catapulted into stardom during the golden years of American action movies, and he was smart enough to partner with some directors who really knew how to take advantage of his persona.

    The Rock became a star during the era of post-action. And I’m not sure many directors could take advantage of his physique in the same way as Cameron or Verhoeven, and in part that’s because physical action has been overtaken by CGI. Sure, he should look to work with better directors and better choose his projects, but I think he’s in a more difficult position than his forebears.

  47. The Rock is big enough that he can choose whatever project he wants. He chooses to work with mediocre filmmakers and churn out middle-of-the-road movies designed to appeal the broadest possible audience. He could try to cultivate interesting versions of the types of movies he currently makes, by working with interesting filmmakers and selecting interesting screenplays, but he either doesn’t have the taste to discern what constitutes an interesting project, or simply doesn’t care to do it.

    I’m not saying he needs an exact analogue to TOTAL RECALL. I am saying that he could be making LOGANs or BABY DRIVERs or PLANET OF THE APES’s and instead chooses to make RAMPAGEs and CENTRAL INTELLIGENCEs.

  48. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    I know he wanted Patty Jenkins for THE JUNGLE CRUISE but that didn’t happen.

    I anxiously await his first feature with Gaspar Noe.

  49. ron:

    don’t get me wrong, f*** reagan

    but a charming, insipid actor becoming a successful politician is a thing, regardless of ideology or other good/ bad deeds, that was my only point

  50. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    Also, the current state of things kinda paints calling people out for ties to Russia a little differently.

  51. I’m amazed that fewer people are bringing up THE RUNDOWN. Granted, I haven’t seen it since it came out, but my recollection is that he nails the funny-tough-guy role in that one and it seemed like such a good showcase for what he could do that we were willing to wait patiently while he found another role that suited him as well. But ye Gods, it’s been 15 years and the only other good role he’s had is in PAIN AND GAIN (and maybe the FURIOUSes, I haven’t seen the ones he’s in). I sympathize in a way, because it seems like they just don’t really make movies anymore which would take advanatge of his ubermenchey larger-than-life action persona — hell, Arnold and Sly haven’t really found any good roles like that either. But I’m sorry, having GI JOE, SAN ANDREAS, BAYWATCH, RAMPAGE, JUMANJI, CENTRAL INTELLEGENCE and SKYSKRAPER within a few years of each other is just too tedious a track record to ignore. That is not the track record of an actor who is seeking out projects he believes in.

    I do believe he has what it takes to be a great action star, but yeah, you guys are right, that doesn’t seem to be something he’s interested in. I don’t fault him, I guess, for making canny financial decisions, but the days when I would be hopeful about a movie because he was in it are long passed. If anything, his involvement is reason to be skeptical at this point.

  52. Then again, Statham has made, what, 5, 6 movies in his career that aren’t total trash, out of about 900? And he’s a guy who clearly understands his on-screen persona and how to use it effectively, and still can’t end up in a watchable movie to save his life. I think they just don’t really make star-driven action movies anymore. The audience isn’t there for it, and studios have lost the skill for it; even the real marquee names are going begging. If it’s between doing some instantly forgotten huge-budget RAMPAGE or grinding out 60 shoddy DTV tax scams per year, I guess I can understand why Johnson would settle for the former.

  53. Wait… All these years and you haven’t seen FURIOUSes FIVE through FATE?

    Are you a narc?

  54. I never said I was a hero.

  55. At this point, I feel like quality action cinema is director-dependent, not star-dependent. I won’t drop everything to see the next Rock/Sly/Arnold/Neeson flick, because their presence alone does not equate to quality. But if the director has a strong track record, the odds are much better. And there are a lot of action directors worth getting excited for–Gareth Evans, Katheryn Bigelow, James Cameron, Craig Zahler, Jeremy Saulnier, Peter Berg, Gavin O’Connor, Danny Boyle (Bond 25!), Mel Gibson, George Miller, Christopher McQuarrie, etc.

    If the Rock hooked up with, like, Steven Soderberg for a Haywire-esque experiment, he would probably turn in a career-best performance. His best role was probably Pain And Gain right? Say what you will about Michael Bay, he at least brings an artistic vision to most of his non-transformers films.

  56. Snitch is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I get that The Rock wanted to do something with substance, but man oh man it was so incompetent. It ends with his character casually mentioning to a cop, “I haven’t told my wife and son we’re going into witness protection. I’ll tell them when we get home.”

    Grimgrinnigchris, are you saying that being a movie star is independent of starring in hit movies? That’s interesting. Certainly possible, people do love him and know him even if they’re not going to his movies, but sort of defeats the purpose of being a movie star.

  57. REDACTED — yeah, for better or for worse, it seems like most of today’s great action movies are concept-based, and generally star regular actors instead of what we used to think of action stars, or –especially– what Vern termed the “badass auteur” whose larger-than-life persona actually informed the films that were made for them. So as good as Johnson might have been at that, I don’t know that there’s really a market for them anymore.

    Also important: modern action movies also tend to be really, reallly serious. Johnson’s such a primary-colored cartoon that he wouldn’t really fit into the mopey, twisty world of a BOURNE or something, let alone a Craig Zahler movie. So maybe the poor guy can’t win for losin’

  58. Mr S,

    Are you seriously defending The Rock on the grounds of him making sound financial decisions? Did you turn Republican overnight?

    Dawg, I know you irl. I know you don’t believe that. There is a baseline level of integrity that you and I expect artists and entertainers to uphold, and Dwayne Johnson does not meet that standard.

  59. I feel the need to go to the filmographies.

      Dwayne T.R. Johnson

    Vehicles I genuinely like:
    THE SCORPION KING
    THE RUNDOWN
    FAST FIVE through FATE

    Crappy but kinda fun or he was pretty good:
    HERCULES
    WALKING TALL
    GRIDIRON GANG?
    PAIN AND GAIN

    Good or petty good in supporting role:
    BE COOL
    SOUTHLAND TALES
    THE OTHER GUYS
    FASTER

    There are a few I haven’t seen (including RAMPAGE).

      Vin Diesel

    Genuinely like:
    PITCH BLACK
    FAST AND FURIOUS 1,4,5,6,7,8
    CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
    BABYLON A.D.
    RIDDICK
    xXx: RETURN OF XANDER CAGE

    good in supporting role or drama:
    SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
    FIND ME GUILTY
    BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK I think?

    plus the voice in IRON GIANT (bonus points for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY)

    crappy but kinda enjoyable:
    THE LAST WITCH HUNTER
    arguably xXx

      Jason Statham

    genuinely like:
    LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS
    TRANSPORTER 2
    THE ITALIAN JOB
    THE BANK JOB
    DEATH RACE
    BLITZ
    KILLER ELITE
    SAFE
    REDEMPTION
    FURIOUS 7-FATE
    HOMEFRONT
    WILD CARD
    SPY

    Plus he’s in COLLATERAL and some people love the CRANKs and some people like PARKER and I kinda like the two MECHANIC movies and he’s good in the EXPENDABLESes and even if they’re crappy it’s kinda cool that he did a John Carpenter and THE ONE with Jet Li and I think 13 was okay?

      Scott Adkins

    great action vehicles:
    UNDISPUTED II, III, IV
    NINJA I, II
    UNIVERSAL SLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING
    SAVAGE DOG
    ACCIDENT MAN
    THE DEBT COLLECTOR
    good action vehicles:
    EL GRINGO
    CLOSE RANGE
    HARD TARGET 2
    ELIMINATORS

    good supporting roles:
    SPECIAL FORCES
    THE SHEPHERD
    THE TOURNAMENT
    ASSASSINATION GAMES
    EXPENDABLES 2
    WOLF WARRIOR
    DOCTOR STRANGE

    Also he’s in ZERO DARK THIRTY and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM and CRIMINAL and he’s got IP MAN 4 and TRIPLE THREAT on the way. I think we have a winner.

  60. Ha, Vern, like me, prefers Transporter 2. I wasn’t quite sold on Statham in Transporter 1 but it was 2 that made me go, “Oh, I like this guy.” Transporter 3 is kinda fun in that batshit Luc Besson nonsense kind of way too, and yes to the other ones you listed.

  61. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 6:40 pm

    Fred-
    I mean he is a movie star in that he stars in movies. That he is more a product than artist. He’s not really an ACTOR actor- yeah, he acts and does what is expected/needed of him, but he’s not out there trying to Daniel Day-Lewis it up.

    Also, when I say he stars in movies, I mean he STARS in movies. With the exception of the rare ensemble gig, he is more often than not THE marquee name in whatever it is he’s doing.
    Taking the Fast movies out of the equation since that was already a juggernaut before he climbed on; out of his last 10 movies, there isn’t a single one that didn’t at least double its budget in worldwide gross, not even Baywatch or Pain & Gain… and most of them tripled or higher.

    He is 16 years into his “acting” career (if you count The Scorpion King as the start) and has yet to fall into DTV or streaming and is still the clear headliner of most of what he does. Only Arnold, Sly and Bruce had that kind of staying power, and even the three of them had a handful of total flops under their belts by the 16 year point.

    So I’m pretty sure people ARE going to his movies. Sure, he’s about 50/50 on actual domestic grosses but I would say that even with that in mind, he still must be in at least the top 10 consistent names putting asses in seats on their name alone these days. Add worldwide into that equation… and you have yourself a bonafide movie star no matter how you slice it.

    Is he the best or most deserving of that status? Nah… but it is what it is.

    And Dan-
    Fie on the internet and the written word versus the spoken word and me not being able to tell if you are joking or not, but if you aren’t- why is making sound financial decisions cause for disdain? Or a Republican concept?
    Would he be cooler if he took more risks, worked with more talented directors and less hacks and used his status for the betterment of all badassery? Yes, of fucking course he would. But he is certainly not under any moral obligation to do so.

    If he is more interested in retaining his brand and navigating mostly blander, safer waters than in being an ARTEEST, then so be it. It may make him less interesting, but I don’t think that makes him a some kind of villain.

  62. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    In a cooler world, Adkins would be a marquee name in theaters and not just at RedBox, Cynthia Rothrock would have had at LEAST the run in theaters that Van Damme had and Billy Zane’s last notable wide release credits wouldn’t be cameos in Zoolander movies.

    But we don’t live in that cooler world (or Cool World for that matter, thank christ)… I’m not gonna begrudge the relative success of others in their steads.

  63. I’m glad to have seen Mr. M take a break from his break because it’s not the same without him.

    I don’t expect you to believe me but Jumanji 2 was fucking good. It really was. It was funny and directed well. It’s good.

    No disrespect to Vern because Vern is the most level headed man on the internet, but don’t tell me that somehow Babylon AD is somehow above and beyond the lesser Dwayne Johnson movies.

    I think the bigger issue here, guys, is that the type of movies you’d think The Rock would do they’re not making regardless of who is in it. Action movies generally do not sell unless it’s a big franchise. Sure we’d all love a Commando style action movie from The Rock but they’re just not going to make a Commando style action movie for the big screen period.

    Like I’ll be fucking shocked if Mile 22 isn’t anything but a bomb or, at best, a modest hit even though it’s exactly the type of movie we should all be excited about.

    Plus, if people in America wanted action movies Scott Adkins would be a huge star and he still wouldn’t be starring in low budget VOD action films.

    Then again, and this is going to just make you ignore everything I’ve said, but I don’t like the Fast and the Furious movies. Well, I kind of liked that one with Gina Currano, but I mostly find this annoying and boring. And it’s weird because they have all these great action stuff that I should love. But I don’t. Probably because I want to barf whenever they talk about family even 5 minutes.

    God damn I look like an unfun poopy head.

  64. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    That stuff Sternshein said too…

    And again, seconded on Jumanji.
    It did two things I did not thing were possible. 1) It made me even more in love with Karen Gillan and 2) I watched an entire movie with Kevin Hart as one of the leads and did not punch a hole through my television.

    I also thought the idea of Jack Black “playing” a 16 year old mean girl sounded like the most insufferable thing ever… but he was actually probably his best and funniest since Tropic Thunder in it.

    And since there’s been all this Vin Diesel talk (and now Karen Gillan) in this thread, I guess it is at least vaguely on topic to bring up James Gunn getting canned from GOTG 3… What in the fuck!?!?

  65. Dan P- Having gone through theater school and spending the last long while working in fringe-type theater/“other” (burlesque, if I’m honest) productions, I have come to have much more respect for the actors who understand that it’s a JOB first and foremost, and an artistic calling a distant second. I’m certainly not denying that there’s value in pure art for art’s sake (whatever that means), but it’s a fact of the world that folks gotta eat and folks gotta pay the rent. Even Michelangelo had to get the Pope to foot the bill.

  66. Oh and also, yeah, Jumanji 2 was shockingly entertaining. I didn’t even like the first one and found the completely unnecessary sequel to be more enjoyable in just about every way. It might help if you’re a bit of a video game person, but I think it stands up either way.

  67. Vern had the most level headed response to the James Gunn thing on Twitter.

    “It’s so pathetic and childish to spend your life complaining about so-called political correctness and then get a guy fired by pretending to be offended by him. Grown adults using little boy tattle tale methods to get a guy fired for being anti-Trump (like any reasonable person).” – Vern 7.20.18

  68. I don’t get the FF films. Tried em, and I just couldn’t do it. But I know I’m in the minority there, and tons of people love them, so, I won’t press that.

    I did enjoy Vin Diesel in BOILER ROOM.

    It was hyperbolic to say that the Rock has no charisma. He’s got some, just not enough to merit his reputation as modern day action / box office god. I agree that he’s in some respects a victim of his era. With some exceptions, no one seems to want to make a gritty, hard-R action film. I want to see him star in a hard-R action film made by the dude who did GREEN ROOM and BLUE RUIN. Of course, Rock would not be my first choice for the lead in the film, either, but if we’re starting with the premise that it’s a Rock film, that’s one I’d like to see.

  69. Would it perhaps make more sense to compare The Rock as a movie star to Will Smith rather than Arnold/Sly? Smith came from a background even less conventional than wrestling (TV sitcom and rap), but he made calculated decisions about what kind of movie would make him big (big budget sci-fi adventure with comedy) and while many of them may have been mediocre, they were blockbuster hits. Sure, he miscalculated with Wild Wild West but he recalibrated and was still opening big movies until he took time off to produce his kid’s Karate Kid remake.

    Maybe Fast Five is The Rock’s Independence Day, Central Intelligence his Men In Black and The Game Plan is his Hitch.

    If Skyscraper is a blockbuster internationally that’s good news. I liked it and would like to see more like that and less like Rampage.

    And Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle is legit good. It’s Jake Kasdan, you know, those Kasdan boys direct real good.

  70. grimgrinningchris

    July 20th, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    Yeah, Fred… I think the parallels are there to an extent. Though Smith definitely took more chances (shit, wasn’t WHERE THE DAY TAKES YOU his first feature? That’d be like if Justin Bieber was in BULLY or something) and has FAR stronger chops as an actual ACTOR actor… when he tries to… but his bankability in the current climate isn’t even on as steady ground as Johnson’s is right now. Sticking strictly to genre and/or action fare, his most recent was a straight streamer, the one before that was an ensemble- sold to the public more on concept and Queen than his character and the one before that was the biggest flop of his career.

    And I think I need to point out again, that I am in no way implying that anyone’s Box Office is a mark of their talent or lack thereof, just their worth in the industry- separated from art. And to reiterate, I think Johnson is in mostly crap movies. And I really don’t know if its a lack of taste or bad agents or a calculated attempt to make the biggest, dumbest movie he can at any given time that is going to give him the biggest paycheck. And it really doesn’t matter and is no reflection on him as a human being either way.

  71. I don’t begrudge any actor right to just work a job and churn out disposable crap for easy money, but I also reserve the right to call them shameless grifters coasting on unearned goodwill when they do it consistently. Johnson has every opportunity to make better artistic choices than he does, and he either doesn’t want to or just doesn’t know how; either way, I have zero interest in defending him for it at this point in his career. If the money is worth it, so be it, that’s his reward and he doesn’t need to care what some asshole on the internet thinks. But I’m at a loss as to why any of you would try and stick up for that kind of attitude. It’s not like he’s a fry cook at a greasy spoon; he’s a multimillionaire entertainer commanding obscene budgets who’s asking us to spend money watching him. I think it’s fair to criticize an entertainer with his level of resources for not trying very hard to entertain.

  72. The Rock’s filmography should have more unassailable hits by this point, I’d agree, especially since he’s allegedly the #1 star in Hollywood, or at least in the discussion for a few years. Because he’s that big a star, I do think it’s fair to ask that he does more.

    He might not be the actor Denzel is, but Denzel still took a risk and did a TRAINING DAY project right when he was seemingly settling into certain types of parts. Schwarzenegger for all his limited range went out of his way to work with great directors. Stallone always looked at himself as a visionary and sort of lived and died by that brand (I’d say mostly died if you want to compare Arnold vs. Stallone movies after that became a live conversation post-Terminator 1).

    I haven’t seen this movie yet and didn’t see RAMPAGE. I like Dwayne alright, but I feel like he’s rarely in the type of project that gets me geared up to go to the cinema. In a supporting/heat check role? Sign me up. In a lead….most of his projects are kinda by the numbers. Then again all my little cousins swear that JUMANJI is the shit and if I saw that I’d be way more high on The Rock. Maybe he needs a director like Arnold benefited from to give that extra shine to his projects so that they rose above their genre. I can only guess from afar but it seems like ceding a big chunk of creative power over to a “visionary” vs. a collaborative type of personality is what’s held him back some. But then again, who knows, maybe Johnson would do great in a more “serious” Adam McKay project.

    Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if the opening scene for this flick was put in there because of what WME/Endevour wanted for the movie, and by extension what Johnson’s agents and possibly Johnson wanted. The director as auteur is a tricky proposition when you get to some of these modern projects with big stars and where the hollywood talent agency is arguably the creative force driving who gets what roles and develops the project.

  73. Will Smith may have a similarly calculated My Personal Brand Is Biggest Movie Star In the World attitude to The Rock, but part of his formula is to challenge and reinvent himself. He started by going from rapper to sitcom star to serious actor to action star. In fact, after he lost the ability to be guaranteed smash hit July 4th superstar he had a pretty interesting stretch: THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, I AM LEGEND, HANCOCK, and SEVEN POUNDS all in a row. I don’t love all of them but they all have him doing very different things and are not straight ahead normal people movies. I know I’m in a very small minority thinking SEVEN POUNDS is good, but his playing purposely unlikable for the whole thing is more than The Rock has ever been willing to challenge us.

    I also think AFTER EARTH is interesting. I have to admit, I get more excited for The Rock movies and I shouldn’t.

  74. I read the other day that The Rock was the highest paid actor last year, making over $100M. So his strategy of starring in mediocre inoffensive family and redneck-friendly films is paying off. He took the highest-paid crown away from Marky Mark, who has built his career on crappy glorified DTV features about heroes saving the day in movies based on recent events (the Iraq war, Deepwater Horizon, firefighters, whatever). And Transformers. I seriously can’t think of a Marky Mark movie that I have actually liked him in since I HEART HUCKABEES, which in retrospect seems kind of similar to Rock in SOUTHLAND TALES actually. Muscle bound non-film star playing a weirdo in an oddball “artsy” film.

    Rock has charisma, but wastes it on whatever shit they will pay him to do. There is nobody to blame but himself. If he wanted to make a PREDATOR or a TERMINATOR or a DEMOLITION MAN or a TRANSPORTER he would get a new agent. Instead he is cashing out and making bank. Nothing wrong with that I guess but put the blame where it belongs and don’t give the guy any excuses like blaming his agent. The guy is a sellout. A likeable sellout, but a sellout nonetheless.

  75. Calling Mark Wahlberg Marky Mark is SO 2001…

    But no love for his Team-Ups with Will Ferrell? Okay, the DADDY’S HOME movies aren’t exactly good, but man, if Wahlberg isn’t Ferrell’s 2nd best sidekick, I don’t know.

  76. grimgrinningchris

    July 21st, 2018 at 5:27 am

    Subtlety- I think he IS trying to entertain though. And that is ALL he is trying to do. Entertain and not challenge. And unlike say an Adam Sandler or Bruce in FAR too many movies… he is never sleepwalking. Even in complete dreck, he’s giving it his all. The more I think about it, the more I don’t know if he has better, more challenging work in him or if his own tastes are just so middle of the road or what.

    I’m reminded of a quote Sammy Hagar had about Nine Inch Nails. I’m going to paraphrase here cuz it’s been at least a decade and I can’t find it (it may have even been a talking head spot in one of those “I Love…” shows or something) but anyway he said something to the effect of
    “I listen to Nine Inch Nails and it’s just so fucking cool… so smart and angry and cool… and I wish I could make music like that… but then I realize that I’m not that guy and even if I COULD make music like that, nobody would accept it from me at this point”

    rainman- He’d only be a sellout if he had given turned on an interesting filmography to make these kind of movies. But this is what he has done from day one. Like if I dunno, Fugazi, had- after years of success as an indie/punk/whatever band and espousing the virtues of independence and art in music and low ticket prices and yada yada, suddenly signed to a major and started sounding like Creed… that would be selling out. But someone like KISS, no matter how big they got or how crass their merchandising got or how many disco songs they recorded or how many shitty tv movies they made- couldn’t be called sellouts, because the band was conceived as a mass appeal product from day one.

    All that said, for all of my defense of Johnson, you guys are starting to wear me down here and I actually AM starting to see some of the cracks in the seams in what the dude is doing. But again, since the I have enjoyed (to varying degrees) his last couple of movies, I’m going to stick it out for the moment.
    If either (or both) THE JUNGLE CRUISE and BLACK ADAM are even on par with JUMANJI, I will likely stay on Team Johnson… but if they are both shit, then I’ll have to find myself another giant Samoan.

  77. Regarding the notion that Hollywood doesn’t really make the kind of hard R-rated action flicks we’d rather see The Rock in, I’ll note that Keanu Reeves revived his career with “John Wick,” which is soon going to be a trilogy. Similarly, Gerard Butler is getting ready to star in a third “Olympus Has Fallen” film, while Tom Cruise made two “Jack Reachers” (admittedly PG-13). One of Denzel Washington’s biggest hits was “The Equalizer,” while “Equalizer 2” just opened with $34 million this weekend. I saw it and the audience was much more viscerally excited watching Denzel simply punch someone in the face than the folks I saw “Skyscraper” with, who sat stone-faced during all the non-stop CGI “action.”

    Point being, a star can get these kinds of movies made at a certain budget, and audiences have demonstrated an appetite for them. Plus since they usually don’t cost $150 million+ like every Rock movie does nowadays, he wouldn’t haven to constantly look for the box office in China to bail him the next time another of his blockbusters underperforms in America.

  78. I’m not fully turning on The Rock. I haven’t actually disliked most of his movies. They’re mostly okay. It’s just been 15 years of hoping that each new one will finally be the one that fulfills his potential, and I think I’m done hoping. I guess I used to believe that he really wanted to be a real action star and that The Man was just holding him back, but I don’t believe that anymore. This corny PG-13 four-quadrant crap with a subplot about an estranged daughter is who he is. That’s what’s in his soul. He should follow his bliss and all and it’s not like I’m gonna boycott his movies or anything but I’m done being excited about them.

  79. But you know what? I promised you positivity and goddammit I’m gonna give it to you if I have to ram it down your fucking throats.

    There’s been a lot of talk here about how action is a dying genre and nobody wants to see it anymore. I have two things to say about that: “Bullshit” and “Good,” respectively. “Bullshit” because I’ve seen more action movies I love in the past two years than I did in the previous decade and a half combined, and “Good” because it means the genre can stop being The Rock and chasing that elusive four-quadrant high. It can go back to its roots and deliver the goods only for the people who really appreciate it. JOHN WICK hasn’t become a trilogy and a TV show because it played it safe to get that Big Gulp money. It was pure and hardcore and beautiful, and it stayed close enough to the ground that it didn’t need to make a bazillion dollars and please literally every human being who has ever lived. It wasn’t for everyone. It was for us. And I see a lot of action movie like that right now. It’s a good time for the genre. The people making it care. They have passion. They’re not doing it to see their name at the top of a list. They’re doing it for love. Maybe the days of humongous pure-action big-budget 90s-style explodoramas are over, and maybe that’s a good thing. Remember, that’s the school of filmmaking that invented PG-13 action. That broke John Woo. That sent Sly into exile and Arnold into politics. That pretended Nic Cage was a legit action hero and not a subversive post-modern kabuki performance art freakout in human form. That school is not our friend. It killed the down-and-dirty action that got us all excited about the genre in the first place. We shouldn’t wish for a return to those days, because we should be happy about the days we’re living in, where people like Leitch and Stahelski and Scott Adkins and Jesse V. Johnson and the KICKBOXER crew and Ethan Hawke, the man with the best low-budget taste on earth, are giving it their all for a tenth of what The Rock is making to waste our time. Let us celebrate what we have, because we might not have it for long.

  80. Darth Irritable

    July 21st, 2018 at 7:33 am

    Just putting it out there that the disability piece stemming from an incident we saw, but not defining him has actually been called out as a really good thing by Some folks in the disabled community.

    Its a realistic representation of an abled person losing that regular ability, and just integrating it into their life,without defining them. I’m not saying that’s why it was written that way, but it makes the film uniquely accessible for that community.

  81. Larry Sternshein

    July 21st, 2018 at 8:32 am

    I kind of want to give Mr. M a hug because he put me at ease.

  82. grimgrinningchris

    July 21st, 2018 at 8:41 am

    Thinking about it, I’m kind of curious if Johnson DID make a hard R, down and dirty action movie now… would he be accused of being a poser, of trying to cash in on the Atomic Blondes and the John Wicks because that’s not “who he is”? Would he be accused of turning his back on his own more family-friendly audience?

    Granted, I know nobody HERE would make those accusations, I’m speaking of the general public.

    And again, once more in defense of the deeply stupid RAMPAGE. Like I’d said before, I’m almost positive I saw intestines at one point and I do know I saw a guy get totally crushed into a glorious splat of blood and goo (ZOMBIELAND piano and A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST ice block style). I don’t think I have ever seen either in a PG-13 movie before.

    And WETA did as good a job or better on their gorillas and monsters as they’ve ever done.

  83. Yeah, I had the JOHN WICK films in mind as exceptions to the rule. I also enjoyed the EQUALIZER a lot for what it was, and the trailer looks pretty fun to me, notwithstanding the bad reviews. I don’t fully understand the personal psychological economics (if you will) of superstardom. Intuition tells me that once you’re a $100M you can just do whatever you want, so why not want and do cool, different things? I don’t know if it’s a combination of your crazy lifestyle escalating to where you are spending as much as you make even though we think it’s an obscene amount (Johnny Depp), or if it’s just a question of one’s inertia and professional/social network. Once you get to be a big celebrity, you start to develop a certain network around yourself that insulates you from new blood and keeps you working with the same people. If those same people are Scorsese or John McTiernan or David Lynch or John Hyams, then you’ll probably keep churning out interesting stuff. If your network is Michael Bay and Marky Mark and your agent and Kevin Hart, then you’ll probably keep churning out schlock (seems to be the case for Will Ferrell AND Rock, notwithstanding the exception of THE OTHER GUYS).

    I can’t even with DADDY’S HOME. Unlike Rock, Mark Wahlberg is a straight up thug, and that’s not irony or humor. The dude committed a documented hate crime, and although I think he’s matured and civilized a bit, underneath it I think the dude’s a paycheck-chasing gangster. Which is not to say that I didn’t like ITALIAN JOB and a handful of his other joints, but I instinctively don’t like the dude.

  84. Mr. M — Amen to that, brother.

  85. I’ve only seen a handful of his films, but have always enjoyed the idea initially that a wrestler could get that far in Hollywood. The first time I’d ever seen him on television was on our local public access channel, shortly before starting with the WWF. I wasn’t really a big fan of his during the Attitude Era, because I wasn’t really a big fan of the product they were putting out (more focused on sex and violence, shamelessly going for the lowest common denominator). But I recognized he was special, and not surprised it took him long to boomerang into bigger and better things.

    But now there’s Dave Bautista who is making his own path and genuinely coming across to me as wanting to be taken more seriously as an actor as opposed to a movie star which I find almost more admirable. John Cena has been doing more high-level stuff lately too. It’s altogether not too surprising to see these kinds of cross-overs, in the age where the culture is able to appreciate and understand what wrestling is. Especially when you see mainstream media cover it like they do now, especially ESPN and Sports Illustrated (who basically treated it as a joke for a long time).

    As for his career, I wholeheartedly agree with Vern that he’s in need of the right director to bring out more than what we’ve seen so far. He’s done some of the best acting of his career on BALLERS, but I doubt he’d ever consider being full-time into television and who would blame him. It’s a shame he never got to work with Tony Scott particularly, as I think Johnson could have taken Denzel’s place at a certain point. It’s another shame that Michael Bay just didn’t go headlong into the pivot he did with PAIN & GAIN, and had Dwayne along for the ride too.

  86. I read things like “highest paid actor” and “biggest movie star in the world” and I sincerely ask when did that happen? It couldn’t have been based on Tooth Fairy and Journey 2. It could quite possibly be that The Rock just charmed the pants off the industry and looked the part so much that they just accepted he was this hulking action hero movie star. Nothing wrong with that I suppose, look the part and make it happen.

    My comparison to Will Smith was in every way meant to credit Smith for doing it well. He launched three franchises in a row (Bad Boys admittedly taking its good old time but still happening), and from 1995 – 2012 his only real bombs were Ali and Bagger Vance, admittedly “ones for him” so he’d earned them. Even Wild Wild West broke $100 mil domestic and Seven Pounds (which I too love) did solid business for an adult drama with no explosions.

    I think he only lost momentum because he took so many years off to manage Jaden’s career. Four years is an eternity in movie star time, but even then Men in Black 3 still hit. After Earth was when his choices started losing touch with the public, but he’s still paying attention, hopping on the Netflix train and still trying to use his star power to take risks like Concussion and Collateral Beauty. Anyway, even if he’s never back to ’90s Will Smith, I think his 17 year run is worth studying and respecting. Aladdin will probably be huge.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hobbs and Shaw is not the big hit they’re expecting it to be. The Furious franchise works because of the ensemble. How many times do they have to say family for people to get it? Taking characters out of that for a solo/duo movie might not work. I hope I’m wrong, because I’d love to see the Furiousverse expand. But even if it just does fine, would that be considered acceptable? I mean, it would have to do at least $100 mil domestic to be considered a hit, right?

  87. I wish people would just say they don’t like Mark Wahlberg instead of saying it’s because of what he did when he was younger. A lot of times it comes as hypocritical because if it were somebody we like, for example Danny Trejo, we don’t hold his past crimes against him.

    If we can’t allow for people to change from their past mistakes then what’s the point of being human?

  88. Good points, Mr. M. At the same time, can’t we ask that the alleged top star in Hollywood (which I denied when it first was claimed because I thought that was RDJ…now I don’t know who it is since RDJ hasn’t shown much outside of marvel and sort of abdicated pursuing other stuff) actually goes out to recruit a top director for a project or signs onto his project?

    You’re going to tell me there’s not an interesting Ridley Scott, PTA, Tarantino, Cuaron, or even JJ Abrams part out there for The Rock? I don’t think his movies overall are as bad as some…but he does have a classics issue, imo.

  89. Darth Irritable – I know you’re reiterating someone else’s argument, but if you know the answer, what is the importance of us seeing him lose the limb? I don’t understand why that’s needed for it to be a positive portrayal. My complaint is that by making the climax echo what happened to him at the beginning they ultimately *are* saying it defines him. But I could be missing something.

  90. The Rock had a social media post not too long ago about meeting Wu Jing. If he’s going to do one of those Chinese co-productions, doing something with Wu Jing would certainly be interesting.

    Gerard Butler is apparently set to do a movie with the director of The Villainess. Who knows how that will turn out, but I’m definitely intrigued.

  91. I saw Will Smith’s Netflix direct to streaming movie BRIGHT the other day and it wasn’t too bad. Joel Edgerton was really good as the co-star, even under a lot of makeup. I wouldn’t say it is great, and certainly will be long forgotten in five years, but I think it was worth watching for a brief bit of entertainment.

  92. Darth Irritable

    July 22nd, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    So the basic argument from the disabled critic was that we see him fully abled, then we see something that removes a limb, changing him physically, then he just adapts and live his life, as opposed to most movies where the disability defines him and is either a sob story, or the defining obstacle to overcome.

    Here, the incident may define him, but the disability does not.

    Full link here https://www.slashfilm.com/disability-in-skyscraper/

  93. The idea of Dwayne Johnson working with Shane Black is pretty exciting, and Doc Savage seems like a good fit. Unfortunately, the latest update is that it seems to be dead in the water, something to do with rights-issues. Johnson says they’ve “made a pact” to work together at some point, though. Hopefulyl sooner rather than later.

  94. Here is another point for Dave Bautista.

    https://youtu.be/vi6wxNivpu4

  95. In The Rock’s defence – Snitch was pretty awesome!

  96. Dwayne Johnson To Play Kamehameha In ‘The King;’ Robert Zemeckis Directs Script By ‘Braveheart’s Randall Wallace For Warner Bros & New Line

    EXCLUSIVE: In the last sizzling film package of the summer, Warner Bros and New Line have won an auction for The King, an epic-sized film that will star Dwayne Johnson as Hawaiian king Kamehameha. …

    This looks like it could be the kind of project that a lot of us were hoping for he’d get. This has been a passion project of Johnson’s for a long time, so I’m sure he’s going to bring his best A game to do this.

  97. And most of all: It’s directed by Robert Zemeckis! Y’know, a real director, with decade-long experience and a damn good track record. Not the director of DODGEBALL, the director of CATS & DOGS 2 or some other guy, who only got the job, because they are apparently really nice and Johnson wants to help them with their career (Sounds harsher than I mean it). He really needs to work with more of them. I’m sure there is a role for him in Spielberg’s WEST SIDE STORY remake.

  98. It’s too bad this movie’s box office failure set off a wave of “is Dwayne Johnson over?” thinkpieces (and not just here). Jumanji 2 isn’t even a year old and it’s one of the top 30 movies of all time, but of course Johnson had to follow it up with 2 similar-looking PG-13 explosion-fests and now everyone’s down on him for being a one-trick pony ball of mediocrity. And I totally get it! There’s something a little eye-rolling and calculated about his persona, and yes, he comes out with way too many movies that are perfectly competent and totally unmemorable. (On a side note, I’m also a little tired of him being announced to star in every movie ever, most of which never materialize – I swear he’s been talking about the King Kamehameha biopic since the fucking 90s, and what happened to the John Woo Spy Hunter movie that he kept talking about? Where’s the Big Trouble in Little China remake? And I like how he officially announced he was going to be Black Adam over 4 years ago and now the DCEU will probably be over before his movie even begins shooting).

    On the other hand, I think Johnson gets a little more flak than he deserves – he takes a decent amount of risks – weird, small movies like Southland Tales and Faster, movies where he plays the villain (redacted for SPOILERS) – yeah I know he hasn’t really done anything risky onscreen in about 10 years, but only 5 years ago the man returned to the ring to wrestle when he didn’t have to and suffered a horrible injury, so yeah, I think he shouldn’t be accused of always playing it safe (also, yes, i know most of his movies are PG-13 four-quadrant movies made in a lab for maximum profitability, but let’s also remember that Hard-R Reboot of Baywatch was last summer and was seemingly made for only one quadrant. It was also borderline unwatchable and probably the worst movie of his career).

    Now as for Skyscraper itself, it’s like most of his movies – i.e. it’s perfectly adequate afternoon matinee material. Yes that’s faint praise but I’d argue this is better than most of the Die Hard Ripoffs (Sudden Death, White House Down) and better than maybe half of the F&F movies. It’s fast-paced, just over 90 minutes, has a couple of cool setpieces (including a weird hall of mirrors finale that feels straight out of Poltergeist III). Johnson is solid as always, but I’m honestly not sure if he helps or hurts the final product – his character doesn’t shoot anybody so I’m not sure why he has some tactical squad background, and he barely fights anyone hand to hand – I’m not sure if they should have gone full Bruce WIllis and cast an unlikely hero in the role, or pull an Under Siege and make his character more of an unstoppable badass. Because as is, having The Rock play a computer guy who used to be a badass doesn’t quite work.

    All I do know is had this script gotten into the hands of Tom Cruise, we’d probably have a new action classic on our hands. Considering the whole thing feels like a feature length version of the skyscraper scene in MI:4, it’s surprising how rote and workmanlike the CGI-enhanced thrill sequences are. MI:6 and it’s meat-and-potatoes practical stuntwork made Skyscraper feel obsolete as soon as it came out.

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