Skyscraper (1996) — Anna Nicole Smith wants a baby with John McClane

“See, that’s why you don’t want to have a baby — you’re married to the police department, not me!”

Justin’s rating: This movie needs to be handed a bathrobe and a lesson on modesty

Justin’s review: Considering the flood of Die Hard knock-offs that followed the 1988 classic, it’s kind of surprising that nobody ever made a female Die Hard. Scratch that — a good female Die Hard, as we got an attempt in 1996 with Skyscraper.

(For my money, I wish that Hollywood had made Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s Lucy McClane the star of Die Hard 5, because she showed a gritty spark in Die Hard 4 that I quite liked. There’s really no way that she would’ve been any worse than Bruce Willis sleepwalking through the fifth movie.)

Skyscraper was an effort to prop up the struggling acting career of Anna Nicole Smith, whose entire legacy was being in Playboy, marrying a very old guy, and getting in legal battles over money. Somewhere along the way she was convinced she could act, so why not aim high by taking out terrorists with pluck and verve?

Smith plays as the adorably named Carrie Winks, a helicopter transport pilot who’s actually married to a cop named Gordy. I had to pause the film when I heard that, because I always thought that every action hero star was a required to be single by Movie Law. Anyway, her being married is part of a running joke that Carrie really wants a baby. You as a viewer better be very invested in her obsession with babies, because it’s going to make all the difference whether you connect with Carrie or not.

You’re not really going to be impressed with Carrie’s read of the room, because she spends the first part of the movie flying the bad guys around and doesn’t realize it — even though her husband talked about them earlier. I can’t imagine John McClane giving a lift to Hans Gruber while ignoring all of the blood stains and sinister grins, but that’s what you get when you use a Groupon on air travel.

Anyway, eventually Carrie is clued in to the fact that these terrorists are actually bad and are trying to assemble some sort of powerful weapons system. By the time she gets to the titular skyscraper, she decides that it’s probably better to fight them than get a tip.

So let’s talk about our villains, because they are glorious. This casting director went completely nuts here, because we get Fabio (or a close enough substitute), a martial arts expert, a Jamaican, a guy who absolutely loves his rocket launcher, a hippie Frenchman, a guy with flowing locks of silver hair, and a woman in leather. They’re all led by Fairfax, a grinning South African loon who constantly quotes Shakespeare — because that sort of thing makes you a deep villain, don’t you know.

They’re the sort of undisciplined outfit that’s probably the right skill level for Carrie, whose face tells me that she’s channeling medium constipation as she kills a bunch of human beings. Smith is in so over her head in this role, so bad that she can’t even handle mild interactions without flubbing it. The editing tries to do what it can, but there’s no auto-tune for terrible acting.

It’s all awful in the right way, where you can laugh and point and generally feel superior. There are so many deliberate Die Hard copycat moments that you can probably make a bingo sheet out of spotting them. Multinational terrorist group? Helicopter gets blown up? Hero falls off the building on a line, kicks in a window, and has to untie before they get dragged down? Computer systems that lock up a building tight? C4 explosives that blows out a floor? A failed SWAT incursion? Good guys crawling in air ducts? A turncoat who tries to turn our hero? Desk jockey who gets a big heroic shooting moment? Bad guy who falls screaming to his death? It’s all here.

My only complaint is that, probably like the rest of Smith’s movies, Skyscraper creates unlikely opportunities to get her undressed. As I was skipping the video forward during these random scenes, I genuinely felt bad for Smith. You know that nobody was going to give her a real shot, so they figured, hey, might as well exploit and discard her.

Full of absolutely bizarre characters, laugh-out-loud plot developments, and a rogue helicopter pilot who wishes she could be creating a registry at Babies ‘R Us instead of shooting people, Skyscraper is weirdly fun. It’s certainly not boring, and you might even pick up a little Shakespeare education while you watch it.

Didja notice?

  • Assassination by rocket launcher and guys with really big hair
  • None of these bad guys, girls included, have sleeves on their shirts
  • That bad guy really loves his murder speeches
  • That first person perspective with heavy breathing? That’s you, you perv.
  • BEEPERS!
  • Climbing up the outside of a skyscraper (!) with a rocket launcher doesn’t get you any weird looks in L.A.
  • Random martial arts fight in a hallway
  • Two punches to the spine is enough to kill you
  • It’s good police procedure to ask the bad guys to cuff themselves
  • That stunt double really loved being on fire
  • Jimmy noooooo
  • Women like to be referred to as “delicacies”
  • Lots of people like to crash through windows in this movie
  • The older security guard who’s really, really gung-ho. I loved this guy.
  • The slow-mo jump onto a window washing lift
  • Carrie’s having way too much fun being a human pendulum
  • Kid on a big wheels in a corporate skyscraper. Sure, why not.
  • Computers can tell you exactly how many people are in an elevator
  • There are only 11 spots to land a helicopter in ALL of L.A.
  • “Mommy’s dead, kid”
  • Kids can’t walk, so you might as well carry them everywhere
  • This movie loves shooting up empty rooms
  • Firefighter gets blown up by a rocket launcher. But then he gets better.
  • Oh, the computer hacker lingo
  • How many times does the villain have to betray people?
  • Every shot of this kid biking around the place makes my heart happy

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