“It's like Die Hard, but in a...skyscraper?”
This is the kind of movie this column was made for. I've done a lot of films with similar tones and plots, that take the Die Hard formula and flip it to a different locale, but this is the first time that they don't even bother to do that. So, it's like Die Hard, but in a...well, pretty much just like Die Hard. Yeah, if John McClane was replaced with an unnaturally busty blonde helicopter pilot with possibly prescription induced sleepy eyes and a southern accent that would make most southern people feel uncomfortable. And if all of the masterful action scenes and high strung tension were replaced with enough slow moving, hole filled cheese to melt on a Reuben and less tension than a broken guitar string. Oh, and if all of the memorable secondary characters were replaced with rejects from a Die Hard porn parody...or A Good Day to Die Hard. No, Skyscraper exists in a dimension entirely separate from Die Hard, despite its blatant “inspiration”. It's kind of like if Tommy Wiseau made a student film in '96 after only seeing Die Hard and 3 Ninjas: Knuckle Up, finding his star at the local Hooters when she said she loved his work as the bad guy in Mary Reilly, has always wanted to be an actress, and would do ANYTHING to be in his next movie. Alright maybe that's stretching it a bit, but that's the state of mind this movie leaves you in.
The 90s were a strange time. For some reason, after bursting onto the scene of nude modeling, someone thought Anna Nicole Smith NEEDED to become a movie star. Maybe they saw the next Pamela Anderson, or perhaps it was her Marilyn Monroe style looks and endearing ditziness, or maybe there was some other reason...or two. I'm sorry, I'd like to say that will be my last boob joke in this piece, but I just can't promise that. Surprisingly enough, this is her fourth movie and her second as a leading lady. From what I remember of her bit parts in The Hudsucker Proxy and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, any good will she had on screen deteriorated immediately. Her presence quickly went from novel to annoying, and all it took was trying to make her play an actual character instead of a brief iteration of her own personality. I almost feel bad making fun of the film's lead (seeing how she's dead and all), but let's face it, Anna Nicole Smith never really gave the world anything beyond some Playboy centerfolds and mind numbing reality television (plus, everybody dies...so calm down). As much dumb fun as this film can be, it stirs heavily conflicting feeling of enjoyment and downright hatred within me. Maybe I would have been kinder to it if I were still a desperate 12 year old boy with more boners than I knew what to do with, because that is certainly this film's target demographic. And it hits the mark something fierce. It's a nightmarish masturbation fantasy from beyond puberty. Boobs, helicopters, guns, rocket launchers, 'splosions, and boobs! This movie has everything!
We begin with ANS (as she will henceforth be referred) piloting a john...uh, I mean client for her company Heliscort (not even making a joke there). Get used to this footage kids, you'll be seeing it all again over the opening 20 minute setup. I feel like they only had the helicopter for an hour and made sure to use the shit out of the small amount of footage they got to justify its rental cost. Her southern drawl delivers ADR lines in a way that's both grating and completely oblivious to the meaning of basic pilot jargon. Through a series of uninteresting events, we discover that she's married, wants a baby (like, REALLY wants a baby), and that's about it. She ends up shuttling around a terrorist that's collecting pieces of a console that...controls satellites, or something. It's basically just a MacGuffin falling into the 90s territory of technology being magic. She becomes trapped in their titular final stop and has to fight off the bad guys...kind of. Honestly most of the fighting is done by her cop husband and a doofy security guard that would make Barney Fife blush (his name is fucking Dudley Wright, guess what everyone calls him). The action in this film is laughable, but also just really boring. Instead of really going for it and embracing its silliness, we are instead subjected to a 5 minute long scene of ANS slowly swinging back and forth from a scaffold on the side of the building as someone with the worst aim you've ever seen continually misses her (and that's the highlight of the film action-wise). But she does have a really uncomfortable attempted rape scene that I'm sure drove all the teenage boys wild with its Skinemax style execution. And she has a flashback nude scene where she has sex with her husband after learning to fire a gun! It then becomes awkward as you realize she is hiding in a building full of terrorists and supposedly remembering the training she has to fight back, only to get caught up in a sexy memory (with some sexy mammaries, amiright? Damn it, I thought I was done!). Wait, she also saves a kid, who goes from being frightened and hiding from the terrorists to forgetting he's in danger and continuing to lightheartedly ride around on his Big Wheels. But she saves the day by kicking the bad guy off of the building! But it ain't really fair...cuz he wasn't lookin'. This movie is exhausting.
The plot is simple enough, hell they more or less copy and pasted from a vastly superior script, but they somehow manage to make it incredibly boring. The one real saving grace here, other than the continuous stream of “What the fuck?” moments, is the main bad guy (or is he the second in command, it's hard to tell). He's a Shakespeare quoting (and sometimes misquoting) nutjob on par with Hans Gruber, if Alan Rickman decided to show zero restraint and chew the scenery ragged with his jaws of cliched evil. Watching ANS “act” opposite him in scenes teeters between really sad and ridiculously entertaining. The strange thing is that this actor, Charles Hubner, is given an “Introducing” credit, despite appearing in several feature films previous to this. I can only imagine him thinking, “I fucking nailed this guys! This will be the film that introduces my raw talent to the world! Be sure to make my opening credit reflect that!”. The writers are a strange duo in their own right. There's William Applegate, Jr., whose 6 of 11 writing credits all came out in 1996, including a C. Thomas Howell joint featuring what may be the greatest mustache in human history. Then there's Joseph John Barmettler, who did several of the same films, but wrote and directed a movie called Time Barbarians, which I think I need to see immediately. The director, Raymond Martino, was closely tied with ANS, helming her only other starring vehicle, To The Limit (and her Exposed video). But before he was an ANS wrangler, he was trying his damndest to make Joey Travolta a B-movie star...he did not succeed. Basically, this film led me down an IMDb wormhole where I found about 20 obscure, horrible looking films I need to see.
The really hard thing (besides all the teenage boys that came across this film...or is it came to?) is whether I could actually recommend this film or not. It's closer to the Die Hard formula than any other film I've covered, but it's also the worst (except for Derailed, of course). I went from finding it amusing, to growing delirious from its blatant incompetence. It made me question what I was doing with my life, sending me on an existential journey full of doubt. Why do I do this to myself? Why do I find solace in beating myself down with poorly executed cash grabs in a vacuum lacking passion or creativity? I...I can't do this anymore. I need to go do something substantial with my life and stop subjecting myself to these abominations that only leave me dazed and fumbling through obscure pop culture comparisons. Eh, who am I kidding? Join me next time as I fight my way through not one, but TWO Corey Haim starring Die Hard in a school flicks. It's demolition time with Demolition High and Demolition University! That should fix this, right?