To foil an extortion plot, an FBI agent undergoes a face-transplant surgery and assumes the identity of a ruthless terrorist. But the plan backfires when the same criminal impersonates the cop with the same method.
Stanley Goodspeed, who lives in Washington D.C., is a biochemist who works for the FBI. Soon after his fiancée Carla Pestalozzi announces that she is pregnant, Stanley gets a call from FBI director James Womack. Womack tells Stanley that San Francisco's Alcatraz Island has been taken hostage, along with 81 tourists, by marine General Francis Xavier Hummel who, for years, has been protesting the government's refusal to pay benefits to families of war veterans who died during covert military operations. The death of his wife Barbara Hummel on March 9, 1995 drove General Hummel over the edge, and now he's holding hostages in order to get his point across. Stanley is needed because General Hummel has stolen some VX gas warheads and has announced that he will launch them onto San Francisco unless his demands are met. Stanley knows how to disarm the bombs, but Stanley needs someone who knows Alcatraz well enough to get him inside. That man is former British intelligence agent John Patrick ... Written by
This movie is definitely for action junkies. If you enjoy disecting a movie looking for silly dialogue, plot holes, or looking for inner-meaning in a movie, you might want to skip The Rock. This movie is 2 hours, 15 minutes, but the action is almost nonstop and the movie moves briskly. It's typical Jerry Bruckheimer fare, including plenty of action, an implausible storyline, and big stars doing a fine job of acting.
Some Bruckheimer characteristic events were obvious, such as the scene immediately after the car chase where Cage stands, and the camera rotates around him. This is reminescent of a similar scene in Bad Boys, another Bruckheimer film, where Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are standing in a similar pose with the same rotating camera view. Also present was the presidential address and accompanying slow-motion dramatic scenes near the end, ala Armageddon. I'm not saying it's bad for Bruckheimer to reuse his old ideas, just that if I was able to spot them, other people probably did as well.
Some of the dialogue was way over the top, and tended to get a bit macho and silly. When Mason tells Lomax, "...you're between the Rock and a hard case", I felt like groaning. There was plenty of self-referential comments, such as this one where Mason refers to himself as a "hard case". There were also other comments where the characters would try to "build up" the other characters, such as when Lomax says, "You don't know Mason." I hate it when movies do this. They try to make you believe how tough a character is by other characters talking about him. I would prefer to SEE how tough he is by his actions, rather than be told about it constantly using dialogue. Several parts of the movie, such as the stalemate in the shower, seemed melodramatic and reheased. I couldn't imagine Michael Biehn, in real life, giving the "We spilt the same blood in the same mud" speech to a general that's holding a gun on him, but that's just my opinion.
Cage plays the geek very well, with some very humorous scenes. The scene near the beginning where he's difusing the bomb, and finding the Playboy mags and gas mask, and his assistant screaming about the long needle, was darkly hilarious. I love that sort of humor. There were lots of very good scripting, such as the dialogue between Cage and Connery about the difference between winners and losers, and Cage's "Actually, I'm a chemical SUPER-freak" response was a great one-liner.
I did feel like there some were plot holes, or at least some weird occurances. For example, when Cage calls his girlfriend and tells her not to come to San Francisco, she yells back into the phone, "Like hell I won't!" and hangs up. Why would she do that? Wouldn't she more likely ask something like, "Why not?" Or at the very least, maybe start accusing him of being with another woman? Of course, this was the perfect vehicle for her to come to San Francisco against his wishes and have to be rescued. It didn't make sense, but it made the story move along. Also, she runs away from the FBI agent when he comes to pick up her. Why? Because the FBI agent refused to answer her questions about where her boyfriend (Cage) is. Why would she run away? I would assume the FBI agent is there to take me to safety or to her boyfriend. But again, by running away this furthers the plot--now she's in danger and Cage can agonize about her fate, and thus he has motivation to disarm the poison rockets. If she had stayed and allowed the FBI to whisk her to safety, he would not have been motivated to save the city. He'd already been shown to be a bit of a coward in the scene where he's throwing up out of nervousness. Of course, in other scenes he's terribly heroic. His character was a bit inconsistent, but you could explain it as him being thrust into the situation and once there, exceeding his prior limits.
The incinerator was another weird plot device. It looked a bit unrealistic. It was obviously something dreamed up for an action movie, with moving cogs (wheels) that would turn and have to be dodged by the hero, all the while fire is rushing through the same area. I've seen an incinerator, and it didn't resemble this monstrosity at all. I have no idea if the motion sensor that detected the marines arrival was accurate and if the military really has something this sophisticated, but I thought it was an ingenius idea.
You may feel differently, but I actually enjoyed the villains of the story more than the heroes. Most of the lines that struck me as powerful were delivered by the noble villains, Harris and Morse. I found the combination of Ed Harris, David Morris, and Michael Biehn (admittedly not a villain in this movie) a powerful combination. I consider all these actors excellent, and the stalemate in the shower room was especially powerful, as well as the standoff with the villains near the end. These scenes didn't feature Connery or Cage, or the occasional humorous tension breaker. These scenes showed us that all villains are not the same, and that some villains are evil, and some just misguided. This degree of gray, in an otherwise black and white character movie, added a level of complexity to the film. Thus, a film that I would have otherwise said was "okay" became a really good action movie with some characters that I actually cared about.
There was lots of violence and profanity, and a brief sexual situation (although no nudity) near the beginning. Despite my problems with some of the dialogue and plot, I found this movie enjoyable and engaging. If you don't mind overly macho acting and some silliness in the dialogue, and you love action, then you'll probably love this movie. If seeing serious characterization and motivation if more your style, you might want to check out Steel Magnolias and leave The Rock at the video store.
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