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The Rock

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Rock

Starring: Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage
Director: Michael Bay
Rated: R
RunTime: 136 Minutes
Release Date: June 1996
Genres: Action, Suspense

*Also starring: Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, William Forsythe, David Morse, John Spencer, John C. McGinley, Bokeem Woodbine, Tony Todd

Review by MrBrown
3½ stars out of 4

Put together two Oscar winners (Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage), an Oscar nominee (Ed Harris), the slick producing team of Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson, a stylish action director (Michael Bay), Alcatraz, and a bunch of explosives and you get... a major action hit, which The Rock is sure to become this summer.

The somewhat preposterous plot has a group of renegade Marines, led by General Francis X. Hummel (Harris), seizing control of the legendary island prison, take its visitors hostage, and threatening to launch a deadly biological weapon at the San Francisco bay area if the United States Government does not give the families of dead Desert Storm vets millions in government aid. What does the government do? Call in a force of Navy SEALs (led by Michael Biehn), assisted by FBI biochemist Stanley Goodspeed (Cage) and John Patrick Mason (Connery), an old prisoner who was the only person ever to escape "the rock," to try to break into Alcatraz, thwart Hummel and free the hostages.

Contrary to outward appearances, this project shares a number of striking similarities with Bay's Bad Boys, and not just in terms of visual style. Both films open with a break-in; both feature an elaborate chase sequence which ends with a circling shot of the hero(es) getting up off of the street; both are essentially bickering buddy films; and in both one of the heroes has to overcome a shortcoming that the other ridicules: in Bad Boys, Martin Lawrence had to learn how to drive fast; in The Rock, Cage's scientist character has to learn how to handle a combat situation. Parts of the film are also strongly reminiscent of Crimson Tide, with a little Executive Decision and Outbreak thrown in. But these similarities to other films don't detract from the enjoyment of The Rock on its own terms, which is not to say it's not without its problems. While its opening 45 minutes are far from boring, it takes that long for the plot to really get going, i.e. for the "good guys" to begin their break into Alcatraz, when the film really starts cooking. Bay uses a lot of the flashy eye candy visuals he brought to Bad Boys--lots of blue light, slow motion, quick camera moves and editing. But unlike his debut film, here his style comes dangerously close to being at the expense of coherence. It's one thing to use the "shaky cam," but it's quite another to use it while it is fixed in a tight closeup of something or someone; the resulting chaotic shot is more confusing than visually arresting. In spite of this, though, Bay really knows how to stage exciting action scenes (the aforementioned chase scene, while using every chase cliche in the book including the infamous fruit cart, is a real standout) and large--very large--explosions and juggle them seamlessly with the comedy, which David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook, and Mark Rosner's lively script surprisingly has a lot of.

In taking a dive into action, it would be easy to think that Cage has sold out, abandoning his trademark quirky characters for a more straightforward, mainstream action hero. Happily, that's not the case. Goodspeed is as much an oddball as Cage's usual roles, a neurotic, wimpy Beatlemaniac who only very gradually toughens up; needless to say, Cage is perfect in the role. Connery proves he still is a credible action hero after all these years though having his character being a former agent of the British Secret Service seems a bit too gratuitous. Harris adds layers of complexity to a not very dimensional role, and Vanessa Marcil (my favorite General Hospital star) manages to make a lasting impression as Goodspeed's pregnant girlfriend Carla. Those not so fortunate actingwise are Biehn, who is wasted once again as the SEAL leader (isn't it time that he be cast in a role deserving of his talent?), and William Forsythe's FBI director is just a rehash of his police chief character in Virtuosity.

The Rock's ads urge you to "get ready to rock." After seeing this energetic action-packed ride that truly does "rock," I can't think of better advice.

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