Directed by Michael Bay. Starring Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn, William Forsythe. (1996, R, 140 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., June 7, 1996
The epitome of summer movie machismo, thus far. From the production team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Bad Boys) comes this archly invigorating exercise in explosions and tough-guy heroics, the kind of film you either love or hate, with very little middle ground in between. I've never been much of a fan of the production team, or director Bay's brand of theatrical bombast, but The Rock is a step above their usual fare, taking itself about as seriously as a Sennett pie-fight, and nearly as entertaining. This may be the capstone to Simpson's career; he passed away last year, and, as such, it's an above-average end note, full of the sort of mindless, high-gloss fun and games Simpson was known for, both at work and play. Harris is the noble villain here, a renegade U.S. general who takes 81 tourists prisoner on Alcatraz and aims a battery of nerve-gas rockets at the San Francisco Bay Area in a misguided attempt to call attention to some vague injustice. Cage is the FBI “chemical super freak” called in to bring him down, and Connery plays a British expatriate criminal enlisted from within the bowels of the penal system to break back into “The Rock,” having been the only man to ever escape from the island fortress in the first place. It's a race against time with the fate of the entire San Francisco population hanging in the balance, and a remarkably swift two-and-a-half-hours in the bargain. Director Bay has streamlined his action-movie chops since Bad Boys -- The Rock moves along at roughly the same speed as a Six Flags roller coaster, barely pausing to set up the initial story line and then refusing to even pause for breath, cramming in enough stylized angles, breakneck editing, and nail-eradicating excitement to give Jan de Bont a run for his money. All three leads are excellent, with Cage topping them all as the queasy, self-deprecating FBI agent forced, against his will and better judgment, into his first combat situation. The Rock is the Guy Movie to end all Guy Movies, a ridiculously overblown summer testosterone blowout right down to the Wagnerian strains of the soundtrack and its stunningly high body count. It's also a hell of a lot of fun.