“This is stupid,” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson says before jumping out the window of the world’s tallest building. He isn’t kidding. The highest-paid actors’ latest action flick is brainless, predictable and worse than it looks. Universal has embraced the comparisons between “Skyscraper” and “Die Hard” or classic disaster film “Towering Inferno.”

Writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s first foray away from comedy and into blockbuster action is a misfire, as the audience can anticipate every single moment. It’s difficult, for those of us who leave our brains turned on while watching a movie, to derive even the slightest amount of suspense.

Johnson’s name on the marquee means this film, like all his others, will follow a basic formulaic blueprint. He will save the innocents, save his loved ones, and save the day, while you pay to see something you have already seen.

Will Sawyer (Johnson) might have lost his left leg during his time in the police force, but it didn’t take away his ambition. Looking at his misfortune as a blessing, Will’s injury introduced him to the doctor who saved his life, which results in having beautiful, twin children.

The Sawyer family is in Hong Kong because Will has been invited to test the security on Billionaire Zhao Long Ji’s revolutionary skyscraper. When a number of items go wrong, bad guys invade the building, forcing Will into combat mode to battle a nasty crime syndicate as he makes his way up the 220-story building to rescue his trapped family.

The bad guys here are without cause, their motive is so minor that if you blink you will miss it. Villains wear obvious plaid suits and or have accents, making it clear for the American viewer. Unlike other disaster films where innocent people die from extreme natural circumstances, “Skyscraper” is determined to stay family friendly, even if it detracts from expectations.

Johnson’s character uses his prosthetic leg as a weapon rather than a deterrent. No stranger to action or suspense films, Neve Campbell (Scream) is allowed a few moments where she is more than just the damsel in distress. Thurber’s script includes a running duct tape gag that will please the mainstream Wal-Mart crowd, where there is no doubt some cross promotion happening.

I expected mind boggling visuals and at least some San Andreas type actions stunts, but “Skyscraper” is a disappointment on all levels.

Its biggest misstep is forgetting that the tall building is supposed to be part of the story. “Towering Inferno,” and all the disaster films that followed understood “the disaster” part of the story is supposed to be the big draw. “Skyscraper” is far more interested in selling Johnson than the building or even the action. With chaotic and congested special effects, this contrite flick has little wow factor and plays everything extremely safe. No life lessons, no moral dilemma, not an ounce of material to contemplate after the credits roll.

Final Thought — Johnson saves the day in another generic action flick that’s as predictable as it is corny.

Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. Visit texasartfilm.com.

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