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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

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

As in EXECUTIVE DECISION, we have another movie where part of the entire country may die, but the President is basically AWOL and his aides and the military brass handle all the decisions. This film is called THE ROCK and rather than wipe out a mass of humanity with nuclear weapons, this time it is chemical weapons so lethal than a teaspoon in the air kills everyone in an eight block radius. To get large audiences these days you must threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands, a couple of dozen I guess is considered passe.

In an extremely well cast movie we have Ed Harris playing the major bad guy, U. S. Brigadier General Francis Xavier Hummel. Of course, it is our government and not him to blame. As he explains it, "The men in military special ops are selected to carry out illegal operations throughout the world. When they don't come home, their families are told fairy tales about what happened and denied compensation. All my career I've choked on these lines. Well, here and now the lies stop." Later he quotes Thomas Jefferson in justifying his behavior saying, "The tree of liberty from time to time must be watered by the blood of patriots."

General Hummel turns a bunch of our soldiers into mercenaries. They kill large numbers of people securing the chemical weapons called V. X. nerve gas. Once they have it, they take over Alcatraz. While holding 81 hostages there, they position four rockets to fire V. X. over San Francisco unless they get $100,000,000 in 40 hours. Like Robin Hood, they are only going to keep part of loot and give the rest to the relatives of soldiers who have died in other covert missions.

The best part of the show is Nicolas Cage as Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, a chemical and biological weapons expert, and Sean Connery as John Patrick Mason, a non-person who once escaped from The Rock. Mason was in the British secret service, but did something that caused our government to incarcerate him for the rest of his life in total secrecy. The only problem is that he is an escape specialist and keeps breaking out of the prisons where he is put. They let him out of prison so he can help them sneak into The Rock with a special forces team.

Before Goodspeed and Mason go to The Rock for the big rescue, they have an excessively long car chase through the streets of San Francisco. In this highly derivative film the writers try for a small twist by having it be a yellow Ferrari chasing a Hummer. Among other over the top special effects we have a cable car blown straight in the air and fly over head. The director (Michael Bay) looks like he had too much money and wanted to spend it all. As I was having fun, I kept thinking of all of the great films made with small budgets that have something to say and yet it is these, admittedly enjoyable, escapist entertainment pictures that bring out the crowds.

The script by Douglas S. Cook, John Hensleigh, and David Weisberg is preposterous and overly dramatic, but funny. Typical of the humor is an interchange between an exhausted Goodspeed and Mason during one of the action scenes. Goodspeed asks, "You enjoying this?" Mason smiling says, "Well it's certainly better than my average day, reading Shakespeare and avoiding gang rape in the washroom." When they finally get to Alcatraz, Mason starts droning on about the prison's past. This irritates Goodspeed who tells him, "I like history too. Maybe when this is over we can to the souvenir shop. Right now I want to find some rockets." Finally, Mason explains his qualifications as, "I have a unique knowledge of this prison facility. I was formerly a guest here."

Beside the excellent acting by the three leads. There are scores and scores of good actors in minor roles, including, but not limited to Commander Anderson (Michael Biehn), Eddie Paxton (William Forsythe), Major Tom Baxter (David Morse), FBI Director Womack (John Spencer), Captain Hendrix (John C. Mcginley), Captain Darrow (Tony Todd), Sergeant Crisp (Bokeem Woodbine), Special Agent Shepard (Danny Nucci), and Captian Frye (Gregory Sporleder).

The editing (Richard Francis-Bruce) is too choppy in the beginning, but the cinematography (John Schwartzman) is striking throughout. The San Francisco scenes have lush, bright colors and the Alcatraz ones are full of a warm radiance. If anything, they make the prison seem almost too pretty. There are a few cute cinematographic tricks. The most dramatic is the quick cut to an extreme close up of a spinning quarter.

THE ROCK runs about 2 hours. It is rated R. There is a little sex, no nudity, a fair amount of bad language, and lots of gory deaths. It would fine for most teenagers. As an action film, this movie delivers the goods, but the best part is the acting. This is a well made piece of escapism that I recommend to you, but warn you not to make the mistake of engaging your brain during the show. Go with the flow and you will enjoy it.

Copyright 1996 Steve Rhodes

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