What’s the most enjoyable aspect of an open-world game? More than the storyline and the tasks, the real joy lies in the virtual freedom the game offers: the freedom to drive cars at breakneck speed, explore the world in an unrestricted way, perhaps even perform crimes, and manage to get away. Now, what if your haphazard, indulgent virtual tour turns out to be a film? That’s what Sky High on Netflix feels like.
A young Ángel (Miguel Herran) is brimming with the desire to move from the streets of Madrid to the high-rise buildings, the latter becoming a metaphor for his aspiration to climb the social ladder. Smitten with Estrella (Carolina Yuste), the girlfriend of local gangster Poli (Richard Holmes), it’s expected that the two characters would come to blows.
For a split second you are reminded of This Means War, a film in which two alpha males wage war over a woman. However, there’s no such action here, even of the garden variety. This film mistakes flashy visuals for engaging storytelling. Barely a scene later, Poli and Ángel join hands for a robbery. Not only is this transition baffling, what is worse is that this goes on to serve as a foundation for ensuing drama.
From omnipresent light-flares and eye-catching colours to high-speed automobiles and electronic music, the film’s ultra-stylish exterior bears a strong resemblance to video games. So does the pace. One wishes that it would somehow slow down and give the spectator a chance to enjoy the visuals rather than have it all run by in a blur. The screenplay is reminiscent of video games as well. The caricaturish characters always seem to be on the run. Halfway through the runtime, the film’s identity crisis kicks in. It’s a film that never seems to be able to make up its mind on what it wants to be—a heist or a relationship drama. The result is that you are left groaning for a joystick to wish it all away.
Ultimately, the film ends up biting way more than it can chew, lining up an array of subplots that fail to add any depth. Towards the end, when Ángel finally makes it to the high-rise buildings of his dreams, there is a throwback to the film’s opening moments. Unfortunately by then you are too indifferent to his story.