This article contains major spoilers for the Sky High ending.
In its two-hour runtime, it’s almost comical how much… stuff Sky High manages to chew through. It’s also unintentionally comical how little of it makes sense in character terms, but nevertheless a movie so dense with developments is worthy of some degree of unpacking, even if it’s simply a way to make better sense of things in one’s head. Let’s do that then, shall we?
Sky High actually ends where it begins, with sad-looking protagonist Ángel (Miguel Herrán) driving a swanky car into a jewellery store. But from there we wind back four years to chart Ángel’s rise from the slums of Madrid to its high-society on the back of robberies, first with a gang of goons under the leadership of small-time criminal Poli and then with the same gang of goons under his own leadership. Above them all is Rogelio, a well-connected crime boss with ties to a police official, which will become important later.
Ángel initially meets Poli because of his obvious obsession with Estrella, Poli’s girlfriend. The transition from fighting to working together on dangerous, risky heists occurs in two scenes or so, which is obviously ridiculous, but frankly so is everything else in the movie, including the character of Mercedes, a lawyer who represents Poli and his gang whenever they get into trouble and manages to spring Ángel from prison almost immediately. Having not forgotten that he was fixed up to take the fall for the first heist they all carried out together, Ángel quickly betrays Poli, steals his girl, turns most of his goons against him, and strikes out on his own to make it “sky high”, as far as the social ladder is concerned.
Eventually, Ángel makes a deal with Rogelio to be basically his private thief, and as if to seal the deal he marries Rogelio’s daughter, Sole, despite still carrying on a relationship with Estrella. Despite the fervent efforts of a detective named Duque, Ángel is able to remain one step ahead of the law and continue his rise, thanks in part to Rogelio’s association with a police official whose name I never caught. He has a badly scarred face but only shows up once or twice, though crucially in a key scene we’ll get to shortly.
Ángel becomes so successful that he’s introduced to a money launderer who, through a series of international favours, deposits, emails, and cash transfers, can move huge sums of untraceable money on demand. If Ángel has a character arc, it really peaks here, with him staring from the window of the high-rise office and declaring that the people below look like ants – a direct inversion of an earlier scene in which Ángel and his friend speculated about being the ants themselves, an almost imperceptible nuisance to those above them.
Because Ángel has a seemingly pathological need to steal everything he sees, he and his gang plan to rob the Chinese gangsters who’re transporting the laundered money, leading virtually every major character to a hotel for a climactic sequence in which Ángel realizes that the police are due to raid the place and catch everyone red-handed – including Sole and his men. This is because of Mercedes having her phones tapped, in a roundabout way, which has to come up twice because nobody does anything about it the first time and Ángel keeps working with her. Maybe he’s just hard of hearing.
Naturally, it all goes wrong and the police arrest everyone, but Sole has just enough time to stash a couple of briefcases full of money. She calls Estrella, of all people, to come and retrieve the cases once the police have left the scene, and also asks her and Ángel to run away with each other, despite knowing her father will pursue them. She has always known that Estrella is Ángel’s true love, even though Sky High itself had great difficulty saying so in a convincing way. Seeing a potential future with Ángel, Estrella retrieves the cases, and as she looks at an old picture of him on her phone, the scar-face copper shoots her in the head through the window. When we return to the opening scene with a bit more context, we see Ángel looking at the same picture and sporting a very similar tattoo before smashing into the jewellery store, presumably on a mission of self-destruction.
Why Estrella is killed is anyone’s guess. While it’s understandable that Rogelio would have a grudge against her given Ángel’s affair, I don’t imagine a high-ranking police official would be his triggerman for a favour. Then again, this robbery was Ángel once again trying to go above and beyond his associates, including Rogelio, so it stands to reason that he’d be the one behind the hit.