– Summary –
Director : Michael Bay
Year Of Release : 1996
Principal Cast : Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Michael Biehn, Vanessa Marcil, John C McGinley, Gregory Sporleder, Tony Todd, Bokeem Woodbine, Greg Collins, Todd Louiso, Danny Nucci, Claire Forlani, Sam Whipple, Jim Caviezel.
Approx Running Time : 136 Minutes
Synopsis: A rogue military commander takes control of Alcatraz and threatens to detonate a horrifying chemical weapon over San Francisco; a team of Navy SEALS, a scientist, and a former inmate of the prison, attempt to break in and stop them.
What we think : Dynamite sophomore effort from Michael Bay delivers Crazy Nic Cage, Cool Sean Connery, and classic 90’s action. A simple plot, terrific direction, and powerhouse performances from all involved make The Rock one of the best of the decade.
Michael Bay films have a polarising effect on the modern audience. On the one hand, his command of the visual medium is superb, crafting a good story with oddball characters, coupled with extravagant effects and action sequences: Bay has redefined the action genre for the modern age.
The Rock, his second film following the breakout Bad Boys, see’s Nicholas Cage team up with original James Bond Sean Connery, battling the forces of moderately misguided in Ed Harris, as a poison gas scenario plays out on Alcatraz Island.
Cage plays Stanley Goodspeed, an FBI agent who deals with poison gasses, and he’s sent to Alcatraz to deal with Ed Harris, an army Colonel who has gone right off the deep end and threatens to fire some nerve gas rockets at the population of San Fransisco unless his demands are met. Cage is forced to enlist the help of Sean Connery’s Mason, a hardened ex-British Intelligence agent who has been held without trial for near on 50 years. Mason, with his own grudge against the FBI and the US in general, isn’t keen to help, but he has to in order to escape his own fate.
While the convoluted scenario might read like something from a fantasy novel, or a join-the-dot-script-for-action-movies kind of playbook, The Rock manages to overlook it’s own inadequacies with a ripper cast, a complete acknowledgement that the whole thing is insane, and a disregard for logic or nuance. Yep, it’s your typical Michael Bay film. And I loved it.
Cage plays Goodspeed with a straight face, his inadequacies inherent in every frame of the opening half of the film, before he gets to start kicking ass with Mason as the Navy Seals penetrate the Rock and try and take control of the renegade army dudes. The chest beating, flag waving machismo of all involved, especially Michael Beihn’s Seal commander character, is ludicrously overstated, although utterly enjoyable, if not for the fact that he’s got no idea what he’s walking into, but just that the whole Navy Seal unit seems hell bent on showing their balls rather than keeping them.
Ed Harris is awesome in his role of the army commander, his reasoning for holding the city to ransom is exemplary, it’s just that he’s going about things the wrong way. He’s an ultimately sympathetic character, loyal to the corps, but fed up with the bureaucracy.
The Pentagon boys, led by the late John Spencer, are all generic cliches of action movie roles, they shout and scream and spout bravado-ridden gung-ho-isms that are typical of any standard action film trailer. Still, it’s these guys who want to see the conflict ended, and their moral quandary is the driving force behind the films outcome.
Bay throws himself at the screenplay with the kind of abandon he’s since lost in his more recent films. The visual flair with which he uses the camera, the sensational editing and use of sound to draw the audience into the story (regardless of quality) is superb, and it’s easy to see why he’s one of the preeminent action directors of the last decade or so. The car chase, with Cage in a Ferrari chasing Mason in a Hummer, is an example of how to do it right: from the music, the stupidly overblown explosions and visual effects, and the idiotic dialogue (Mason on the phone, trying to get in touch with his daughter, as the streets of San Fran are reduced to rubble around him as he drives) is incomprehensibly lame, yet for some reason, you watch it all with a cheesy smile on your face as things explode for no apparent reason. Imagine Bullit with fireworks, and that’s the essence of The Rock.
Hans Zimmer’s thumping score accompanies the action, one minute in sweeping, patriotic overtures and the next, a thunderous bragadoccio of furious drums and synthesisers. This is the kind of film that popcorn is designed for, and the reason they invented surround sound.
Connery looks like he’s having an absolute blast, and his rapport with Cage is entertaining to watch, as they verbally and thespian-ally spar on the screen. Connery is by far the more charismatic actor, however they both do extremely well with the hackneyed script.
There’s no better way to describe this film than simply as an excuse to blow crap up: it’s not trying to teach your children anything, there’s no subtlety, and it’s a film not designed for anything erudite in it’s execution. There’s no redeeming moral or context with which to view this movie, it doesn’t warrant the effort.
It’s simply entertainment, nothing more or less. And as far as simple, cheesy entertainment, there’s nothing better than a trip to The Rock.
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