The Rock (1996) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, language and a sex scene
Running Time: 136 min.
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Michael Biehn, Vanessa Marcil
Director: Michael Bay
Screenplay: David Weisberg, Douglas Cook, Mark Rosner
Review published February 20, 2004
Those who read my site regularly will know that I have little respect for Michael Bay's (Bad Boys, Armageddon) style of direction and even less for mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer's bloated, mind-numbing, explosion-ridden action flicks. You may be surprised to know that I don't hate all of their movies, as The Rock seems to be the one kind of movie they excel at -- dumb over-the-top excitement. The primary reason for this being an enjoyable vehicle doesn't stem from the writing (which is laughable) or the stylish direction -- it's the performances of the main actors. Although Cage (Face/Off, Gone in Sixty Seconds) doesn't really play to his strengths here, Connery and Harris have rarely been finer, and watching the intensity boil over from their overwhelming personalities makes this a film well worth seeing. The explosions and car crashes are just icing on the cake.
Ed Harris (The Truman Show, Apollo 13) plays Brigadier General Francis X. Hummel, one of the best soldiers this country has ever known, and one who has felt that the many men and women who have fought the hardest for their country in covert operation have not gotten the honor, respect or monetary compensation they deserve. His plan is command a small unit of specialists to take over Alcatraz, holding many civilians hostage, and threatening to release missiles full of a deadly biological gas in the heart of San Francisco if they do not receive $100 million. The Pentagon balks at the plan, sending a team of Navy Seals, an FBI chemical weapons specialist (Cage), and the one man who has gotten out of Alcatraz alive, a former covert ops specialist turned convict named John Patrick Mason (Connery, The Untouchables). Getting in proves just as hard as getting out, especially with trained killers with deadly weapons on site, but the fate of tens of thousands of innocent people hang in the balance.
The Rock isn't really much more than an amalgam of other very successful movies, although Die Hard is probably the biggest influence. It's a wholly implausible film, full of some very egregious plot holes, so those who scoff at dumb logic will probably be pulling their hair out in frustration at how idiotic it truly is. It is also full of explosions, crashes and people falling through windows, so you will either be riveted or get a tremendous headache, depending on your tolerance for such things.
Connery makes the movie, so if you are a fan, this is a must-see performance. As for the rest, it certainly delivers all of the action you could want, although you may have a hangover afterward from all of the silliness. Enjoy it for what it is -- no one would confuse it for fine cinema, but as a popcorn movie, it's quintessential.
©2004 Vince Leo