Skyscraper: the sky’s the limit for Dwayne Johnson

Skyscraper is the year’s biggest “not based on anything” studio release, and the weight of its expectations is resting on the broad shoulders of its affable lead, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson is one of a tiny handful of modern-day movie stars able to front mid-to-big budget vehicles based on their perceived value to the audience moviegoer. And before Skyscraper, there’s Rampage, the movie trailer that got me thinking about our Dwayne this morning….

Fast Five

Fast Five is the latest in a series of shoot-em-up actioners staring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. The films seem to be about a gang of honorable car thieves, from what I can tell. (No, I haven’t seen any of the earlier ones, but I’ve seen enough trailers to have a bit of an idea of what’s going on.)

By the time of Fast Five, the ridiculously good-looking team (well, not Ludacris, obviously, but just about EVERYBODY else is drop-dead) has assembled in Rio. Against this atmospheric backdrop, they cross paths and swords with a crime boss who wants them dead, and an elite squad of the FBI who wants them behind bars (cue man-mountain Dwayne Johnson) and all sorts of shenanigans follow. A roof top chase through (or rather over) the shanties is particularly energized; the grand finale car chase through the streets is literally gravity-defying. So it’s all a bit silly really, but a more than entertaining-enough way to spend a flight, if you ask me.

I remember a few years back, being quite astonished that Paul Walker – something of a charisma-bypassed nobody – was demanding (and getting) $10 million a movie. And let’s face it, at that time, the high point of his career was that truly awful adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Timeline. Well, ten years later he’s still here, and strangely, I think, his earlier woodenness has morphed instead into what passes for commendable acting restraint. Here, I thought, he was worth every cent.

Faster

I don’t know if I’ve admitted this before on this blog (or actually even out loud, ever?) but I really love Dwayne Johnson. For obvious reasons, generally – plus, in my opinion, it’s hard to diss a man who made his way in the world clad primarily in hotpants. But I also love him because he comes across as a kind of charming everyman. OK, an everyman with outrageous biceps, but still…. he seems nice. So, I’m partial to a bit of Dwayne, which is how I came across the movie Faster.

Here, our Dwayne plays a parolee who comes out of prison running, literally, and doesn’t look back. He also undertakes a swift and bloody revenge spree on the people who killed his brother and caused him to be incarcerated in the first place. A couple of cops are on his tail – delicious Carla Gugino, and curmudgeonly, drug-addicted, retiring-age Billy Bob Thornton. Dwayne is also being tracked by some whippety British Jake Gyllenhaal look-alike assassin, in a sub-plot that’s disjointed, and a bit unnecessary. But otherwise it all hangs together well enough, and I quite enjoyed it – even though Dwayne’s character is clearly completely bat-shit from start to finish.

Faster filmed in Los Angeles and also lovely Pasadena; one of the first encounters between buff Dwayne and scrawny man-turkey Billybobbalina takes place at the St. Luke’s Medical Center at 2632 Washington Boulevard, Pasadena.

The Other Guys

When two of New York’s finest are killed in the line of duty (a cracking comedic turn from Dwayne Johnson to start the movie) it’s left for two desk-bound paper-pushers – The Other Guys – to fill their shoes. At first that seems pretty unlikely; Allen (Will Ferrell) is one prissy, nerdy, perky forensic accountant who irritates the living shit out of his partner Terry (Marky Mark Wahlberg). But as they investigate a massive multi-billion dollar fraud, Allen’s darker alter-ego begins to take control.

Oh, you know, I’ve tried writing this review so many times but there’s just not that much to say. It’s an absolutely silly film, carried by Ferrell’s completely impervious performance, a bit of ridiculous banter and some daft running jokes. I found the workplace hostility all a bit off-putting, but otherwise it’s a ludicrously non-challenging way to spend an hour or two. The setting is undeniably New York but it’s kind of random and could really have been anywhere – there’s a scene at Madison Square Garden (Jennifer Connolly; “Call me!”) and another great little setpiece at the Golf Driving Range at Chelsea Piers but for the rest, it could have been Toronto.

Oh, one last thing: Ray Stevenson won’t get any awards for his Australian accent though: what was that?