Inferno: Skyscraper Escape (2020)

Yes. At first glance this looks like an Asylum Studios mockbuster inversion of 2018’s Skyscraper. But let’s be honest: Didn’t that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson “summer blockbuster” stupidly steal from The Towering Inferno and Die Hard?

Yep.

And the studio knew it. Just look at these “tribute” posters (below) to both of those disaster-film antecedents. And you know those ridiculous “prosthetic leg” stunts we guffawed at? Well, this Euro-production has its share of the impossible as well. . . .

Along with all-over-the-place accents from its unknown bit-player, international cast. . . .

And the wood in the acting department is adrift.

And don’t be poster duped by Inferno: Skyscraper Escape either. This is another Christmas Icetastrophe (which, ironically, rips off The Rock’s San Andreas) where the image on the poster never occurs in the movie. And, shouldn’t it be a woman hanging off the chopper? (Oops. Plot spoiler!)

Skyscraper Inferno
Holy déjà vu stendhal syndrome, Batman!

So, did you read our B&S About Movies review for Skyscraper, yet? Then you’re up to speed. But wait . . . this Euro-Towering Inferno comes with a very cool twist: this time, it’s the man who is the whiny bitch-boy damsel-in-distress and the wife is the kickass mountain-climbing structural engineer.

Briana Bronson (Claire Forlani, Precious Cargo) is a career woman gallivanting in Paris while working on an Antwerp-under construction skyscraper project; her soon-to-be-ex-hubby Tom is the stay-at-home dad with two whiny-bickering, smarter-than-the-adults teens (is there any other kind in these movies?) back in Antwerp, Belgium. Of course, the building’s destruction serves as the catalyst to bring them back together—as all biblical Armageddons do.

While hammering out the details of their divorce (Briana’s evil-greedy bosses set her up in an “affair”), they all end up trapped on the 60th floor when a “gas leak” ignites the spire of glass and metal (see Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, China’s Shanghai Tower, and Taiwan’s Taipei 101; but the more accurate across-the-channel The Shard in London is the model here). Since hubby Tom is the “Neve Campbell” (and since this all ties into The Rock and San Andreas, he’s the “Carla Gugino”) of these action proceedings, it’s Briana who goes “The Rock” on everyone’s ass and saves the day.

If you watch American network television, you’ve seen the series work of British actress Claire Forlani. She was Queen Igraine on Starz’s Camelot (2011), portrayed Lauren Hunter on NCIS: Los Angeles and Alicia Brown on Hawaii Five-O for CBS-TV, and she’s currently on NBC-TV’s Departure. But Forlani’s been around since the early ‘90s, with support roles in Kevin Smith’s Mallrats, Nicolas Cage’s The Rock, and Brad Pitt’s Meet Joe Black, along with a long list of direct-to-DVD and Euro-produced films. (Australian actor Jamie Bamber from SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica reboot is her husband, Tom.)

The Eurasian theatrical one-sheet.

The director behind this French-Belgium co-production shot in Bulgaria is Eric Summer: don’t worry, I never heard of him either. But he has a pretty impressive resume of French language television series and TV movies. He made his international film debut with the 2016 animated feature Leap! starring Elle Fanning (Maleficent, The Neon Demon).

However, chances are you’ve seen (but may not know it) the work of Phillip J. Roth (I sure have, and do), the writer behind this film originally known as Crystal Inferno during its overseas theatrical run. His direct-to-video/cable career stretches back to the early ‘80s with the sci-fi-actioners Prototype X29A (Terminator rip) and A.P.E.X (love ‘em both; still have the cable-taped VHS), Digital Man (Universal Solider rip), Total Reality (Total Recall rip), Velocity Trap (Demolition Man rip) and Interceptor Force (both with the always-welcomed French-bred action star Oliver Gruner). And while you can say most of his films are rips of popular films, there’s no denying that 2016’s Arrival starring Amy Adams ripped Roth’s own 2001 cable-aired Epoch (right down the floating stone monolith space-spires). Most recently, you’ve seen quite a few of Roth’s sequel productions in the Boogeymen, Death Race, Doom, Jarhead, Lake Placid, The Messengers, Sniper, Taken, Wrong Turn, and SyFy’s monster-shark franchises.

But even with the Phillip J. Roth pedigree, and my having seen the aforementioned films from his resume during my video store days, I have to admit I didn’t know this movie existed. I discovered it by accident on TubiTV—as result of my searching for a copy of the Frank Harris-directed Skyscraper starring Anna Nicole Smith from 1996, which I linked in the mini-career retrospective included in my Mill Creek “Explosive Cinema” reviews for two of his Leo Fong-starring films: Killpoint and Low Blow.

And truth be told: If you want to be trapped in a Murphy’s Law skyscraper, you want it to be Roth’s monolith—and not Anna Nicole Smith’s. Sorry, Frank, I love ya, brother, but Roth’s wins the Towering Inferno sweepstakes this time.

Don’t believe me? You can check out both—Inferno: Skyscraper Escape and Skyscraper ‘96—for free on TubiTv and compare. Since this was rolled out internationally market-by-market and not worldwide-premiered, the release dates are all over the place: it premiered in Europe in 2017 (before The Rock’s 2018 version), Asia in 2018, the U.S in 2019, and made its worldwide, free online streaming debut in 2020.

About the Author: You can read the music and film reviews of R.D Francis on Medium and learn more about his work on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

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