Kevin: The release this Friday of “Skyscraper” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a welcome throwback to the days when every third action movie seemed to be “inspired by” (i.e. ripping off) “Die Hard,” including “Under Siege” (terrorists on a ship), “Passenger 57” (terrorists on a plane), “Sudden Death” (terrorists in a hockey arena), and “Air Force One” (terrorists on, uh, a plane again). Now with “Skyscraper,” it appears we have circled all the way back to just straight up doing “Die Hard” in an office building again, but while The Rock’s version is obviously bigger in every way, someone already beat him to it: the late former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith, in 1996’s “Skyscraper” (currently available on Amazon Prime):
“Skyscraper” was one of many direct-to-video “Die Hard” copycats back in the day, such as “No Contest” (“Die Hard” at a beauty pageant), with Robert Davi and Andrew “Dice” Clay, and “Crackerjack” (“Die Hard” at a ski resort), starring Terry Silver himself, Thomas Ian Griffith. These low-budget productions took advantage of the cost-saving nature of the formula established by the Bruce Willis original, because hey, as long as you have a hero, a few bad guys for them to shoot, and only one location to deal with, you too can make a shitty action movie!
Of course the budgetary restraints meant that instead of the army of highly armed terrorists Bruce faced off against in the “Die Hard” films, in “Skyscraper” the hero takes on about half a dozen scrubs, including the requisite female that every bad guy squad had to have back then, one who looks like Tarzan with an NRA membership, and another who apparently decided that tight leather pants would be appropriate attire for this deadly mission:
We are also a long way from Nakatomi Plaza in terms of location here. The building where the action unfolds in “Skyscraper” doesn’t even look like a skyscraper, more like a medium-sized office building, but I guess “Office Building” doesn’t sound as good a title for an action movie. And while Alan Rickman set the bar incredibly high, the main villain in “Skyscraper” is one of the least-intimidating I’ve ever seen. He looks and dresses like a middle-aged version of one of the Milli Vanilli guys, he constantly laughs at shit for no reason, he obviously thinks quoting Shakespeare makes him seem sophisticated, and his lame-ass catchphrase after killing anyone is “Ciao, bella.”
(I did have a laugh when he recites “When a world of man could not prevail, with all the oratory, yet to have a woman’s kindness overrule,” which Anna Nicole Smith immediately identifies as coming from “Henry IV.” Ha ha ha, sure “Skyscraper,” whatever you say.)
Speaking of this villain, I wondered why the actor playing him got the credit “And introducing Charles Huber as ‘Fairfax’,” since he is clearly in his late 40s, and according to imdb Huber had small roles in a lot of films and TV shows before this. Of course I also wondered why they even cast this goofy dork as the main villain to begin with, but this later credit cleared that up for me:
Of course who needs a good villain, or even a good script, when you have Anna Nicole Smith showing the kind of dramatic range one would only expect from trained thespians like Traci Lords or Ginger Lynn. Smith plays a professional helicopter pilot who finds herself stuck in a building taken over by a group of terrorists who are after some device that can control a satellite that … I don’t know, it’s kind of vague, but apparently the fate of the world is in the hands of a heavily medicated former pinup who still manages to take out the bad guys while sporting breasts that are as fake as her nails:
Now we might as well go back to her breasts, since the movie itself does so A LOT; “Skyscraper” may be the only “Die Hard” riff to feature multiple Cinemax-style sex scenes. First we get an extended look at Smith’s surgically altered body as she soaps herself up in the shower, which then transitions into a graphic love scene with her police officer husband, set to a song with lyrics such as “When I’m gliding down an interstate with some visionary/Or flying in the night sky over some tributary” (Not since James Brown’s “Living in America” has our nation’s transportation infrastructure factored so heavily in a song).
Now with a former Playboy Playmate as the star I expected some pre-action T&A at the beginning, but once the shooting started I didn’t expect a second sex scene halfway through the movie, this time when Smith takes time off from hiding from terrorists to remember the shooting lesson her husband once gave her, and oh yeah, also the copious fucking they did right after. Just to highlight how totally gratuitous this is, try to imagine “Die Hard” coming to a complete stop halfway through so that John McClain could reminisce for a couple of minutes about the time he and Holly got it on in an alley behind their favorite nightclub (video safe for work):
(Note this is the second movie we have covered recently, after Chuck Norris’ “Silent Rage,” in which a wine, cheese, and fruit basket makes a prominent appearance in a love scene.)
And we’re still not done, as Smith gets naked one more time near the end, this time as one of her captors does the old “try to molest my hostage while not noticing she’s reaching for a letter opener” maneuver, which ends with said weapon stabbing him squarely in the balls. Now lest you think Smith was cast merely for her ability to take off her clothes, recite dialogue incredibly awkwardly, and make faces like this on a regular basis …
… she does get to show off her action chops in a number of sequences that will seem very, very familiar to anyone who has seen “Die Hard.” For instance, remember the heart-stopping moment when McClain had to make his jump off the roof of Nakatomi? Well Smith has her own version that is slightly less heart-stopping:
Although the sequence ends with her breaking through an office window that is such a carbon copy of the similar moment in “Die Hard” that I’m sure Twentieth Century Fox would have sued for copyright infringement if they were aware this movie existed:
And as with Alan Rickman, the main villain here similarly plunges to his death, although unlike with Alan Rickman, it occurs after he gets thoroughly defeated by Smith’s slowly telegraphed karate kicks (if nothing else she finally shuts him up in the midst of yet another damn Shakespeare quote):
Smith’s “Skyscraper” does share a similarity with its Rock-starring namesake in that both involve fire, although as befitting it’s rock-bottom budget, in this case that mainly entails having Smith summon the fire department by setting a fire in a very small waste basket. Will there be other similarities with The Rock’s version? CJ and I will find out when we see it tonight (review to come shortly), but as long as we don’t have an equivalent scene of The Rock taking a long, erotic shower, I’ll be happy.