Saturday, July 28, 2018


There was a moment during this movie when I realized that I was laughing in an inappropriate manner, in response to a stimulus that was no laughing matter. But I simply had to laugh, to let some of the strain off my nerves. If I were a nail biter, I might have emerged from this movie with one of my arms chewed off up to the elbow. I spent numerous minutes of this movie gripping parts of myself and of the furniture around me. If the theater (on the last, lightly attended showing of the movie before it left town) hadn't been almost empty, I probably would have gotten punched for grabbing somebody else. I also grimaced, groaned, squealed, partly covered my face and peeked between my fingers. Who wouldn't, during 102 minutes most of which, to my recollection, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson spent dangling in a variety of ways from a burning 200-story building while representatives of three organized crime syndicates fired automatic weapons at him from one direction and the Hong Kong police fired automatic weapons at him from the other. Also, his wife and two kids were in the building. Also, his boss was in there somewhere, feverishly working out how to avoid ending up like Mr. Takagi in Die Hard.

Also appearing in this movie are Neve Campbell of Scream fame, who gets to kick a little ass herself as the wife of Johnson's one-legged security consultant; Pablo Schreiber, half-brother of Liev, as the best friend who betrays Johnson and gets his right away at the beginning; Noah Taylor, who played Mr. Bucket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as a (spoiler deleted) whose dying scream suggests an alternate method of chocolate making; Byron Mann, who played Yao Fei on Arrow, as a Hong Kong cop; and as the lead villain, an actor who actually has an extensive criminal record. Talk about casting true to type!

Three scenes that made it for me: (1) Dude with one artificial leg climbs up the outside of a 100-story crane gantry, extends the crane toward the burning skyscraper, and (long story short) takes a running leap across the gap toward a broken window. OK? (2) Dude with one artificial leg sidles along the outside of a skyscraper, way about the 100th floor, with duct tape on his hands to help him stick to the glass, then jumps through the blades of a whirling dynamo, then jumps back out again as the motor explodes, then dangles by said artificial leg by a rope connected at the other end to an objet d'art positioned precariously across another broken window, then - you get the idea. The audience watching from the street below did not cringe more convincingly than I did, though they were better company than the almost empty theater around me. (3) That scene where the mom has to walk a wooden plank that barely spans a collapsed section of a bridge over a drop into 100 floors of raging inferno, then carry her kid back across, while The Rock strains to hold the bridge up by sheer cussedness. Don't talk to me about it. I don't think I can look at that scene again in my mind's eye, just yet.

So yes, it's an incredibly intense piece of action/suspense, and Johnson displays a considerable part of his acting range that I have not seen before - specifically, the part that refrains from quirking an eyebrow. The movie is very successful in conveying a convincing sense that its characters are in, on, and dangling outside of a 200-story burning building. And what a lovely building it is; it's a pity to see it reduced to ruin. It's even, in my opinion, a pity that it doesn't actually exist, ruined or otherwise.

I am so glad that I got to see a movie this weekend (well, Thursday) that wasn't either Momma Mia 2, Hotel Transylvania 3 or Mission Impossible 6(!!!). The very idea of MI6 just makes me sick; I still haven't gotten over the staggering injustice the first film in the series did to the TV show it is supposedly based on, and I cared less to see each installment since then, to the point where the amount I care has gone past zero and gone out the other side into the realm of a passionate, vehement "No!" The opportunity to see a trailer for the new "Fantastic Beasts" movie, due out in November, was a big treat, too. But Thursday night's trip to see a truly towering inferno restored, for the moment, my lately lukewarm enthusiasm for the movies.

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