“This is stupid.” That’s the line that Dwayne Johnson’s lead character says just before he scales the side of a 225 story building, with nothing but duct tape around his hands, and a rope connecting his waist to a statue that is wedged against a broken window. Yes, Dwayne… this is very stupid. As summer seems keen on showing us at least a few times a year, there’s a fine line between a movie being “So Bad, It’s Good” and being completely unwatchable.
Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI agent who runs a small security company after losing his leg on a mission. His company gets its big break when a former partner (Pablo Schreiber) recommends his expertise in performing analysis on the newly built, largest skyscraper in the world. But after a terrorist (Roland Møller) and his minions break into the building to kidnap its creator (Chin Han), Sawyer finds himself attempting to scale the tower to rescue his wife (Neve Campbell) and children from inside.
You can’t go halfway on the ridiculous. If you’re going to have a movie where a guy with one leg can jump from a construction rig to the edge of a broken window and survive with barely a scratch, then don’t undermine that with serious stakes and an abundance of straight laced characters. Johnson has been gold on the big screen as both a serious and comedic tough guy. He tries his best to create the right balance in this movie by delivering a few 90’s style quips here and there. But most of the humor comes from things that probably aren’t meant to be funny… like plot holes, dumb character decisions, and bad CGI.
This movie is clearly marketed to those who’d pay $10 to see Dwayne Johnson open pickle jars for 2 hours. The only thing other than Johnson that makes Skyscraper remotely watchable is the occasional 3D effects that accentuate the feeling of Acrophobia. But, the movie does little to create unique personalities for any character involved, including Johnson’s, and the story is predictable. So unless you’re a huge fan, the entire experience is a ludicrous bore that will invoke more eye rolls than actual thrills.
FINAL GRADE: D
Den of Thieves is a high stakes thriller with a band of ruthless cops facing off against a team of convicts. It’s Ocean’s 11 meets Training Day. Well… at least that’s what they were probably going for. If you’re going to make a movie like this, you’d better cover all ground, or else you’ll risk being an occasionally fun movie with enough holes to drive an armored truck through.
O’Shea Jackson Jr. stars as Donnie, an ex-con who is recruited to join a group of former soldiers led by Merrimen (Pablo Schreiber) and Enson (Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson). After a plot to steal an armored truck turns violent, they catch the attention of a team of vicious L.A. officers led by degenerate Nick O’Brien (Gerard Butler). Despite the police being on their tales, the crew of thieves prepares for an intricate plan to steal millions of dollars from the Federal Reserve.
There are moments in Den of Thieves that are truly intense and exciting. The cat and mouse game between Schreiber’s Merrimen and Butler’s ‘Big Nick’ O’Brien is fun to watch. Despite being a police officer, O’Brien is a demon of a character who cheats on his wife and breaks protocol at the drop of a hat with deadly consequences. This creates a film where there are no good or bad guys, but a bunch of characters with their own intriguing motivations.
But for all of the action and cheap thrills, this actually ends up being an egregiously faulty movie. The federal reserve heist, which starts off as an ingenious plan, unravels as it goes. The plan bounces from crafty to outright ridiculous and ends with several instances of poor planning that make you wonder how in the world they ever thought it could work. For instance, the thieves manage to brilliantly distract the entire L.A. police force and sneak into a heavily guarded bank but don’t account for traffic?
As a narrative, things get flimsy too often. There is far too much screen time attributed to O’Brien’s atrocious personal life. It’s necessary for character development to have a moment showing his failing marriage, but do we have to get several scenes reinforcing the fact? O’Shea’s Donnie is also recruited to be a Vin Diesel-esque getaway driver, but the skill is virtually unrelated to the overall plot. Then there’s ’50 Cent’s’ character. Placed in top billing, the character barely speaks and has an utterly irrelevant scene that is ripped straight out of Bad Boys II. A solid ending twist will help you enjoy Den of Thieves if you put forth minimal thought, just don’t expect anything groundbreaking from this one.
FINAL GRADE: C