The Rock (1996)
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Few action movies carries as much morality and questionable circumstances as this one. In The Rock we follow a furious general (Ed Harris) leading a group of Marines to take control of Alcatraz Island (along with tourist hostages), a location that used to house criminals. Accompanying them are over a dozen missiles that can spell tens of thousands of innocent lives with every blast. However, he isn't just a trigger-happy man gone crazy, he is a man seeking justice for the dozens of lives he saw taken from warfare without compensation. A villain with a "moral" agenda, yikes. The only hope for the United States is the only man that has ever broken out of that prison (Sean Connery) and a chemical "superfreak" (Nicholas Cage). With the odds obviously against them, the Pentagon is one order away from destroying the entire location regardless of the innocent lives located in the island. Mindless this movie is not, as the stakes are high, there is always a risk of an innocent life going under, and our heroes rarely ever have the scenario under control. It's just enough to make you squeal in frustration.
With the tension remaining edgy and the solution never being oh-so-close, we can thank the writers for delivering a slam-bang storyline full of great one-liners, likable characters, and a villain that isn't as simple to figure out as the average evildoer. The writing staff ranges from the writer of the third Die Hard to even Tarantino. A major reason for the film's quality is the casting. Sean Connery and Ed Harris are excellent in their roles and Nicholas Cage albeit a few lines does a good job. The supporting staff helps as well, as we see the likes of David Morse, John Spencer, and Cage's love interest Vanessa Marcil.
Unlike Michael Bay's latest films, which run from mediocre to just plain bad, he blends plenty of drama and suspense along with action here. As a matter of fact, the first half of the movie is all suspense, as the situation is developed, and the risks are presented. Disregarding a superb car chase, there isn't much exploding in the first 80 minutes. However, once the protagonists enter the Rock, it all goes on the uphill action swing. We get brutal fights, brutal shootouts, near-misses, double-crosses, triple-crosses, chases, and enough explosions for action fans to sink their teeth into. The funny thing, the two main actors at the time weren't expected to be in such action. Connery was aging, and Nicholas Cage just didn't have the look or the attitude for it. Fortunately for us, they proved us dead wrong.
Bottom Line: If you want to see a true action classic, The Rock is a great example. Rising above the average action movie and above the decent ones as well, this is by far Michael Bay's best work and one of the signature flicks of the 90s. Combining tension you can cut with a steak knife with thrills, chills, and plenty of carnage, The Rock has aged well and continues to influence the work of modern action movies and the work of Michael Bay as well. Grab some popcorn and enjoy this ruthlessly clever movie. Recommend to the max, as long as you don't mind a bit of blood spewing onto the screen. They just don't make em' like they used to.
The plot takes a number of twists and turns along the road, so to discuss almost any aspect of it in detail would require at least mild spoilers. None of the plot twists are unbelievable if you are willing to accept the basic premise. The story begins with Ed Harris - a Viet Nam war hero and field leader who is now a general and has become fed up with the abandonment of covert forces operatives by the US government. To get what he wants, he recruits some of the best officers under his command to take control of and hold Alcatraz Island, holding 70-some-odd civilians hostage and aiming four missiles loaded with deadly Sarin gas directly at the heart of San Francisco.
Biehn heads an elite Navy SEAL team assigned to infiltrate and disable Harris' capabilities. Cage joins him as the FBI biochemical specialist assigned the task of disarming the warheads, and the only man who can get them in to do their respective jobs is an aging British intelligence agent who has been incarcerated for 30 years or so by the government that now needs his help. Connery's John Mason escaped from Alcatraz during his incarceration, and for all intents and purpose - is a much rougher, more real James Bond character without the gadgets and the comic-book super-villains. All of the above is established in the first ten minutes of the film and the next two hours is a wild ride, with some very tense moments and some very intense performances.
I'm sure a lot of people will pick this film apart for the occasional unbelievable scene, etc, but it's worth while to remember - as my spouse is always telling me - "its only a movie".
If you want reality, take a walk outside or go to work!
There are no discernible powerful political messages in this film. While it must be acknowledged that the USA does sometimes treat members of its armed forces in an unappreciative and cavalier manner, this film does not really drive this point home in the way that, for example, Saving Private Ryan did. While it is also true that the US government does occasionally cover-up its own illegal activities, or soft-pedal them with propagandistic white lies, these issues are not really the subject of this film. This is made abundantly clear by the oddly out-of-place references to Roswell, New Mexico. The writers either did not want to dignify any perceived political messages by bringing up real-world transgressions and cover-ups - many of which are far more sinister than the secret development of stealth planes. This film is pure entertainment and - at that - a work of art. Treat it as such and you might just have a good time with it.
When else would you see a 60+ year old retired SAS agent who's been wrongfully banged up for 30 years and kept away from his daughter, break back into Alcatraz (after successfully breaking out all those years ago), take out an entire SEAL team almost empty handed, save 81 hostages held at gun point and a city of 5 Million held ransom with 15 deadly poisonous VX gas rockets?? Generally excellent acting by Ed Harris as you could expect and an almost convincing performance by Nicolas Cage.
...and thats just the half of it.
The best quote of this movie: "This isn't about terrorism, this about justice. It's about reminding you people of something you find politically convenient to forget."
While The Rock is essentially an action flick that most of the time doesn't take itself too seriously, its perfect blend of all the ingredients required suffices to make it an enthralling experience. With more and more movies actually failing to know what the term 'Action' really means (don't ask me how such a thing is possible, but it seems most producers have forgotten how to make a simple movie nowadays), The Rock definitely stands out as the best action movie, even 8 years after its release. The only other movie that actually manages to be somewhat on par with it in the genre is Broken Arrow, which was also released in 96.
Bashed by many for unrealism and choppy dialogues in some instances, The Rock is still an awesome film. I could point out that the flaws listed by the other reviews plague all action movies without a single exception. Instead of looking for flaws you are certain to find in a movie, and a mere action flick at that, wouldn't it be better to like the movie for what it goes out of its way to provide? And by this, I'm referring to the excellent acting with even the minor roles being beautifully played (David Morse and Micheal Biehn spring to mind), the pumped-up action scenes, and the nice touch of humour.
The movie's real asset however is Ed Harris, even beyond Sean Connery. His portrayal of a disgruntled general who's fed up with the way his men are treated by the Pentagon definitely ranks among his best roles. He simply wipes away all the actors, although I do need to stress on how this movie has a truly astounding cast. David Morse is also excellent as Major Baxter who's dedicated to Hummel, and all of the ex-Marines do have that military feel about them.
On another note, I was particularly pleased to see Micheal Biehn as SEAL leader Commander Anderson, although it is a shame how he was killed off so quickly. You don't get to see a whole lot of him, but like all the actors, he is superb in his role, and I do get the feeling he would have been ever better had he been given a role that required more time on-screen. However, his death does serve a purpose, and shows how ludicrous the US Government's behaviour really is as far as fallen soldiers are concerned.
Of course, as far as plot goes, The Rock is pretty average, but even then it has some nice touches other action movies would love to steal. The character development is particularly surprising since that's not a thing I would expect in an action movie. Hummel's stance on the mission is the biggest point in the story, and, upon seeing how he reacts and how he will not kill innocents, it's no surprise he's everybody's favourite character throughout the movie. His refusal to dispatch the rockets is perhaps a tad predictable (as Connery himself points out to Cage), but it results in my second favourite scene of the movie where the mutiny starts and Hummel himself is killed.
Another intense scene, and my favourite by far, is the shower scene where the Marines wipe out Anderson's team. In addition to the intensity and viciousness of the scene, we also catch a first glimpse of Hummel's real character. Likewise, several scenes have a unique feeling to them, and this is one of the few movies where the filler doesn't seriously detract from the movie as a whole.
The Rock is also a movie with terrific music; my favourite soundtrack, composed by Hans Zimmer and Nick Glennie-Smith, with Harry Gregson-Williams and Don Harper doing some additional tracks. The result is truly awesome, and really shows what Zimmer can do with good material.
More importantly, The Rock will always stand out as the movie that so superbly combined the music with the images. As an example, the first 5 minutes of the movie, which are accompanied by 'Hummel Gets The Rockets' and are actually synchronised with it, totally blew my away. I had never seen images and music so expertly combined while flowing so smoothly and with impeccable transition, and yet, The Rock managed to do that. Add to this all the pros of the movie, and it's no wonder The Rock is still considered as a turning point both in the action genre and in Hans Zimmer's career (though not as big as Crimson Tide).
Because of all these, it is not only my favourite action movie, but indeed my favourite movie ever, its main advantage being that it's a flick I can watch over and over again without getting bored. And that's also where its asset of being a mere action powerhouse effectively jumps in.
Starring: Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Jon Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Bokeem Woodbine, and Vanessa Marcil. Directed by Michael Bay. Running time: 135 minutes. Rated R (for strong intense violence, language and brief sexuality)
Notes taken while screening The Rock:
· The film contains superior character development of both the antagonist and protagonist. Each is clear and well defined. We also learn the characters motives, reasoning, dramatic situation, and premise--all brilliantly introduced within the setup.
· Sean Connery provides us with strong character development through John Patrick Mason--although the character is somewhat a rip off of the Anthony Hokins' Hannibal from "The Silence of the Lambs."
· It is uncanny how well the movie's visual style works. It propels the film's suspense the extra mile, increasing the tension and enticement. Also contributing to the style is the fitting soundtrack.
· Some of the events are excessively coincidental. For example, during an exciting chase scene, Mason dashes out of a building, escaping the clutches of concealing police, discovering a Hum-V seemingly awaiting his arrival. Experienced chemist, Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), chases after him, in a high speed Ferrari sitting outside his position in a building. Another coincidence occurs in the high security prison, where Mason escapes a grenade blast by dashing at random into a room, where, of course, there just so happens to be a secure bathtub to climb in.
· There is a stolid, aggressively effective cast present. Each actor contributes a taut, penetrating performance, especially Ed Harris as the film's villain, General Francis X. Hummel who demands a moral purpose holding the lives of an urban area at stake.
* The character's motives and perfectly defined, especially General Francis X. Hummel. Even as the film's bad guy, he serves an understandable position, thus we empathize with him, unlike most villains witnessed in modern day thrillers.
· The standard three act structure is flawless: each scene propels the plot forward. The sequences either create a new problem or complicate a previous conflict, favoring with the later concept. This raises the line of tension even further.
· Most of the production takes place in a high security prison, Alcatraz, crafted with a complex, awe-inspiring atmosphere towering over that of most action movies.
· Sean Connery handles the complicated role of John Mason with mere simplicity, yet easily torments the audience with a sense of omniscient knowledge of the plot.
· The picture is unpredictable and contains several inducing and unexpected twists proving this movie is imaginative and free to surprise us. The conclusion is not fomulatic. "The Rock" is filled with artful design and crafty performances. It is one of the year's best action films.
Brought to you by Hollywood Pictures.
All round great film with good acting with just the right amount of comic relief when it was most required. thumbs up fellas
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.
There are four central characters in this film. Hummel is the man in charge of this hostage takeover. He is a highly-ranked general who is doing this to teach the government a lesson: they've been neglecting forgotten soldiers who died in the Gulf and Nam, and instead of their families being told the truth, they've simply been marked as "Missing in Action." He is played by Ed Harris, who does such a good man torn between duty, conscience, and vengeance, he is the best film villain since Jack Nicholson in "The Shining."
Goodspeed is a computer nerd working for the C.I.A. He's never been in combat situations, but because of his advanced knowledge of chemical bombs, they've sent him into Alcatraz with a group of Navy SEALS, and he has no idea how to react in war-like situations. Played by Nicolas Cage, his performance is believable and powerful.
Anderson is the man in control of the Navy SEALS on the mission to Alcatraz. Tough as nails, bound by duty, he freely admits he agrees with Hummel's reasoning, but he says those are risks that are part of the job, and Hummel is wrong in his action because he took an oath to serve his country no matter what. He is played by Michael Biehn, who delivers a top-notch performance, and one similar to his role in "Terminator."
But the most powerful character in the film is Mason, the only man who has ever escaped from Alcatraz. Tough, cunning, and full of one-liners, he has been caged up in a maximum security prison for years. It's hard to say whether the viewer can trust him or not, and he has many secrets and much knowledge of the facility...which is why he was chosen to go with the SEALS. He is played by Sean Connery, who's performance is perfectly Sean Connery-ish. But who would want it any other way?
This film is great, and it is a great character study for anyone who might be majoring in it or just likes to watch films with good casts. Recommended. ****1/2 out of *****.
Car chases of course are de rigueur. This one involves a Ferarri and a dozen cop cars chasing a Humvee up and down the steep hills of San Francisco. There are multiple smash-ups with flying glass everywhere. The Ferarri knocks down a row of parking meters, spilling thousands of pennies. A telephone pole collapses across the street. Cars do one-and-a-half gainers in midair. A streetcar is blown straight up and comes straight down. And so forth. The chase itself is without point.
I lost count of the number of bodies that crashed through glass windows in slow motion, or the number of deaths by slow-motion exploding squib charges. Bodies fall through glass ceilings or are impaled on some kind of pointed spikes. Is all this beginning to sound familiar?
There is one novel note -- the labyrinthine underground of Alcatraz. Who really knows or remembers what's down there? What we see is a jungle of twisted and rusting iron, crusty gratings, burnt orange bursts of flame that come out of nowhere and accomplish nothing, over-sized rotating cogs, small railroad tracks with small carts on them, caverns, sewers, lots of water, pipes emitting plumes of steam (where is the steam coming from and where is it going?). But -- well, why not? Nobody knows or cares what's really down there. It could be the hanging gardens of Babylon for all anyone knows.
That's about it for originality. Sean Connery and Nicholas Cage and Ed Harris are good, as usual. The production values are high (all those smashed cars). The script is sprinkled with wisecracks, like a Schwarzenegger movie, in order to warn us against taking all this too seriously, as if warnings were necessary. The car chase is punctuated by the expectable imprecations -- "Hope you have insurance!" and "Sorry about that!"
It must have been a bad idea to turn the Marines into heavies, so in the finale, the movie makes General Harris the only man of principle, however misguided that principle may be, and turns the others into nothing more than money-hungry mercenaries. The plot is so disarticulated that after Ed Harris is offed, another Marine has to become the chief heavy and he has a jaw like King Kong and a haircut like Hugh Grant or Hugh Jackman or whoever it is that has his long hair parted in the middle. You can tell all the bad guys anyway because they have bulging eyeballs that glow with lunacy, or they have sneers that radiate contempt for all the good things God has blessed us with in modern life, like Brittny Spears. Ed Harris, the Marine of principle, had to die a noble death. His evil successor has to be made to swallow a poison pill the size of a tennis ball and then melt on screen.
The others, the "phony soldiers", to borrow a phrase, are just in it for the blackmail money. This is a common device used to avoid offending anyone in the audience. It can't be the REAL Marine Corps, so it has to be a loony splinter group of thieves. In "Patriot Games", it's not the real IRA but a splinter group. In "Air Force One", it's not the real Russians but a splinter group. In Clint Eastwood's "The Enforcer," it's not even the real "People's Army" because the "people" in the audience might take it personally, so it's a phony band of greedy gangsters posing as a populist army.
Yes. If you like to see cars doing grand jetes and exploding fireballs and ugly guns, this is your movie. Cage and Connery work very well with one another and seem to be having a lot of fun. They have just solved the problem and ended the threat, but can they call off the air strike that is seconds away from being unleashed on them? Guess.
My biology is long behind me and I know nothing of VX, but if it is a cholinesterase inhibitor, isn't it similar to, or the same thing, as black widow spider venom? And if so, what does it have to do with melting your skin?
In short, The Rock doesn't have an original bone in its body, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Michael Bay, the film's director who is somewhat notorious due to his penchant for mindless action, clearly hadn't learnt many of the bad tricks he's picked up in more recent offerings.
Most impressively, for Bay, rather than spending genuine hours with over the top car chases, helicopter action, foot chases and just about everything else we've all come to loathe in 'A Michael Bay Film' the director succeeds in turning in an extremely tight, well paced movie which thrusts you into the top notch action almost immediately, but doesn't fail to show you the human side of the protagonists.
Nicolas Cage is excellent as the lab rat, Stanley Goodspeed, a man who would probably call himself a geek. He's happy, drives the epitome of dull vehicles, has a gorgeous girlfriend and usually lives a very boring life. However work in any department of the FBI during a Michael Bay film is seldom going to be prosaic and it's not long before good old Stanley is disarming bombs, getting sprayed with poisonous gas and finding out unfortunate, ill timed, wonderful news...
But that's all in a day's work. What is unusual is when Ed Harris, wonderfully straight laced and sincere, steals a number of rockets armed with a chemical capable of eradicating an entire city in the time it takes to breath in the gas... Harris', or General Hummel's, choice of target is San Francisco and what better choice of venue to launch a battery of VX poison gas, a compound that exists and is genuinely as horrible as described, than Cisco's most famous penitentiary?
Hummel turns up with a bunch of 'can do' type marines who all agree that America, particularly the Pentagon, has been screwing the Special Forces for too long... it must stop! Naturally, as a bona fide patriot and all round good army guy, Hummel reckons the best way to achieve this is to take several dozen tourists hostage on Alcatraz, aka the Rock, ring up the director of the FBI and demand $100 million dollars, most of which will be given away in a fairly hefty act of altruism.
The fact that none of this rings untrue is the central tenet of the movie and is all down to Harris, whose lined, worried face manages, with almost no overacting, to portray a wide range of emotions. These vary from impassioned orator to reluctant villain and he does it with a wit and skill that Michael Bay might well not have asked for. Regardless, having such an excellent central bad guy is what pulls The Rock away from the pack.
It's also helped by Cage's comedic foil in all this, Sean Connery clearly relishing the part he receives and probably amazed that someone decided that he could genuinely be Scottish in at least one major role! With a mixture of twinkly eyes, physical brawn and his typical slurred delivery, big Sean comes away with the lion's share of the good lines and the humour, his best moments coming when he's face to face with Harris or nattering with Cage.
The two leads work very well together, the hyperactive, fidgety Cage inhabiting Stanley with just the right mixture of nervous fear and 'let's do it!' attitude. Connery smirks his way through the entire piece, loving every wet, dark, dank moment while Harris is clearly on another plane of acting, imagining himself as the devil's advocate rather than another, bad as sin, Michael Bay villain.
All in all, the film cannot be faulted for its three principles, the pacing, the script, the one liners, the quality of acting, the suspension of disbelief or any of the things that have grated, on me at least, with films like Bad Boys (1 and 2), Pearl Harbour, The Island and so forth. This is a tightly wound action thriller that achieves both goals handsomely, throwing in the comedy and happy ending without detracting from anything.
That is not to say there aren't faults. One personal bugbear is Hanz Zimmer's awful use of panpipes to indicate moments of emotional growth. There are occasions when Cage's wide eyed mania gets a little annoying and the standard continuity problems are present... how does Connery's John Mason get from hanging upside down on a wrecked mining cart to poised delicately above a pair of marines who are travelling on an entirely separate vehicle?
However, these problems are usually over before they've started and seldom detract from the feeling of fun and excitement. Other standouts are the supporting cast, John Spencer on fine, waspy form for example, the limited, well crafted car chase (not chases), including one of the most legendary lines ever committed to film from Cage and the rest.
In short, this is as perfect an action film as you're ever likely to see, creating an overall product certainly the equal of, if not superior to, the sum of its parts. I'd advise any fan of action flicks who hasn't seen this movie to buy it, not just see it, at the first possibility. However, there's unlikely to be that many of you!
It is Ed Harris best performance- no doubt about it. General Hummel is a former Special reckon Marine, and we already know how tough these guys can be. They go from one mission to another serving their country with outstanding stamina. They are elite and deserve the highest respect and gratitude from all.
But one day, Gen. Hummel goes mad about a betrayal operation in Baghdad resulting in several Marines being abandoned under enemy fire after serving the cause of freedom with indomitable honor. This is when Hummel decides to stomp in and try to change things in a terrific way. Another great American actor, Nicholas Cage is the Chemical expert who can stop a group of crap mercenaries who threaten the beautiful American city of San Francisco with chemical weapons that could kill the whole population. Sean Connery is a perfect complement for this excellent action movie where Michael Bay shows how brilliant director he is.
Oh, yes, he most certainly is.
See, The Rock is the explosion filled wet-dream of an ADD addled teenager. Chases are often inexplicably overdone, with the characters aiming FOR people and objects, with enough cuts to make the whole thing an incomprehensible mess. Character development is forced, and crammed between the obligatory action sequences so haphazardly one wonders if any thought at all was put into it. Many shots don't make sense in context and look developed for the film trailer, and there are often massive errors in scripting - though many are late in the film and I don't want to spoil anything. Often the film also goes for cheap, emotional moments which simply don't work, especially since the characters are never presented as remotely likable and relatable - in spite of the haphazard "development".
This film has a rating of 7.0 here, yet I found it almost completely unwatchable. Not only is it bad at being an action movie, it also happens to be overly full of itself. I'll even go so far as to say the more recent Catwoman was better, at least it knew it was crap.
It has a good male cast with Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, Ed Harrris, David Morse, William Forysthe and more, and some spectacular action scenes.....but it's just too intense for too long. Also, about 20 blatant abuses of Lord's name in vain didn't make it attractive for me, either. Who do the script-writes have doing the blasphemy: the supposed "good guys," the government agents and bigwigs. Of course, in Hollywood the cops are usually the bad guys and the crooks are the heroes.
If you like mindless action, and very little credibility - especially in the last 30 minutes - this movie is for you.
The story at the center of the film involves a renegade Marine General who wants to have the government compensate those people that have given their lives for the country without being properly compensated. His way of doing this is to "hijack" Alcatraz, the notorious former prison in San Francisco and stage his revenge from that strategic point. The only thing is, that in doing so, he and his men take hostage the unsuspecting tourists that have come to see the place.
Meanwhile in Washington, all the powers that be, have to deal with the threat General Hummel presents. Someone remembers a man that has been imprisoned thirty years before for doing the unimaginable: he stole secrets from Edgar Hoover. That is how Mason, an Englishman, is asked to help the people that are trying to infiltrate Alcatraz, since he served there and escaped from it, and knows all its secrets.
There is also a scientist who understands the chemical danger of the equipment that Hummel, and his men, stole illegally. Those missiles are now in place in Alcatraz and Dr. Stanley Goodspeed is commanded to get to San Francisco to help in the operation. Goodspeed, whose girlfriend had just told him he is going to be a father, has no way of getting out of the mission.
Although one knows how everything is going to come out, there is not a dull moment in the movie. Director Bay stages with flair all the action, which involves the typical car chase in the streets of San Francisco. David Weisberg, Douglas Cook and Mark Rosner contributed to the screen treatment. The story defies all logic, but all the films of this genre are like this. John Scharzman's cinematography enhances the film and the action.
The film works because of the chemistry between Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage. They make an odd team, who are great together. Ed Harris is Gen. Hummel. His anger is real and he gives another vivid portrait of a man that is seeking justice, if even going beyond sanity to claim it. Other great actors in the film include, David Morse, John Spencer, William Forsythe, Claire Forlani and many others too numerous to mention.
"The Rock" is entertaining and it is highly recommended even for a second viewing thanks to what Michael Bay did with the film.
Three years ago I bought the last remaining Criterion Collection DVD at my local video store and I can see now beyond the horizon that another edition of this masterpiece probably isn't coming any time soon. It is squarely the best film ever done by music video champ-turned-big-budget-Hollywood-music-video-director Michael Bay and the last film ever produced by the Don Simpson/Jerry Bruckheimer duo (Simpson died shortly before "The Rock" was released and the film is dedicated in his memory).
But "The Rock" is all about one thing: entertainment, and nothing else. It's a hell of a ride from start to finish with plenty 'o explosions, humor, car chases, and one-liners supplied in a dynamite script by Douglas Cook, Mark Rosner, and David Weisberg (that also contains un-credited work from Quentin Tarantino). Even after this praise, you are, naah, you're not, still interested in seeing why "The Rock" is so essential, are you?
To put it like this, the action begins with General Francis "Frank" R. Hummel (Ed Harris) having a vigil at his wife's grave and tells her that he is about to make a haste decision in the name of the many men who have died under his command and were consequently forgotten by the American government.
So he and his men stage a daring heist at a military depot and make off with 16 rockets loaded with deadly V-X gas, which in the words of one of the film's characters, "Is one of the deadliest substances known to man." Their next move is to make a point that they aren't to be toyed with anymore. So Frank stages a hostage takeover at Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay. He tells the kids that are part of a tour group to head back to the boats while the 88 hostages are held in the prison's cells.
Hummel demands the government make restitutions to the surviving family members of every man who has given his life for this country and if they aren't met, San Francisco will be reduced to nothing but a giant cloud of poison gas. The Pentagon and assorted officials know the score: they know that Hummel knows he isn't to be messed with and they take his demands seriously.
A plan is put into effect: a SEAL team is dispatched to try to retake the island, but there is one catch. No one alive knows the inner workings of Alcatraz prison. No one knows, except John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), the only man known to have escaped the infamous island and lived to tell about it. But he's under maximum security incarceration because in the eyes of one F.B.I. Director John Womack (the late John Spencer), he knows all of America's most "intimate" secrets (including who really shot JFK) and allowing Mason to be on the loose would be a pretty bad idea.
There is a third prong: an F.B.I. lab rat with no field experience, Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), is also assigned, and with Mason in tow, they'll accompany the SEALs to Alcatraz to try to dismantle the rockets and Hummel. Of course Goodspeed is reluctant but because a baby is on the way with his longtime girlfriend, he decides he has no choice but to go.
From then on, you know the game since any attempt to further describe the plot would be an exercise in futility: lots of people get shot, firefights, and breakneck pacing that's trademark of one Mr. Bay and any film produced by a certain Mr. Bruckheimer. What keeps this boat afloat is the dynamic and unlikely partnering of Connery and Cage, who both know their roles well and play off one another, add to the other's performance like old friends as they navigate through Alcatraz's labyrinth of dark tunnels and sewers. Ed Harris is even given a third dimension in his villain role that elevates him above the typical action-movie bad guy. He's a soldier with a chip on his shoulder and his argument is quite convincing (I almost bought into myself). But his true motives later become the subject of a rather colorful and inventive plot twist late in the film.
"The Rock" is why we go to theaters for action in the first place. My view: "The Rock" rocks, big time.
Just check it out to see.