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Review: ‘Tower’ collapses under its own special effects

Sentimental and jokey until it rains hell on its high-rise-trapped characters, the Korean action epic “The Tower” recalls the heyday of Irwin Allen’s ‘70s reign as the Master of Disaster.

When a pair of luxury skyscrapers is set to open with a lavish Christmas party involving helicopters raining snow on partygoers, signs of schematic drama lurk: a kind-faced building manager/widowed father (Kim Sang-kyung) forced to work the party instead of be with his moppet daughter; faulty architecture that a real estate kingpin would rather ignore; a dedicated firefighter (Kang Young-kee) who’d rather leap into the fiery breach than deal with his failing marriage.

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When things go kerblooey, director Kim Ji-hoon wastes no time setting up explosive peril involving elevators, window-washer scaffolding, controlled flooding and a fragile sky bridge. Whether 11 years after the World Trade Center is too soon for anyone to be entertained by incessant catastrophe and grim sacrifice in a tall, collapsing building is another matter entirely.

“The Tower” may be skillfully executed as an effects-laden opus, but its miniature portraits in courage are ultimately too jerry-built to feel like anything but filler between the combustive set pieces.

Robert Abele

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“The Tower.” No MPAA rating; in Korean with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute. At Edwards University Town Center 6, Irvine.

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