The Rock (1996)

Originally Reviewed – 7/8/2011

Oh Michael Bay, how I dislike thee. Let me count the ways….

Is it your innate ability to take something as simple as a goofy movie about an unlikely duo breaking into Alcatraz to stop a renegade general from launching chemical weapons at the population of San Francisco and turn it into an overblown mess?

Is it the way you eschew character development for flipping cars and uninteresting gun battles?

Is it your skill in filming in a place full of haunted spiritual power like Alcatraz while using none of that energy to elevate your movie beyond hack one liners and random violence?

Or is it your complete lack of respect for the intelligence of your audience.

You know? It just might be all of the above.

Welcome to The Rock, a loud, obnoxious and overblown film that does nothing but blow a few things up in the City by the Bay. Starring Nicholas Cage as a chemical weapons expert, Ed Harris as the rebellious general and Sean Connery as a convicted escape artist, The Rock does its best to be everything at once and in the end, fails to be anything at all. While the movie does have some bright spots, the entire experience is plagued with some head scratching decisions concerning story, character development and plot holes the size of Ghirardelli Square.

The main problem with The Rock is that the film suffers from having too much story. Yes, you read that correctly, too much story can be a bad thing. If the writers had kept things a little simpler, Bay would have had more opportunity to flesh out the situations and actually have them make a lick of sense. Some fans may claim some suspension of disbelief is in order for this genre to work but I find it hard to believe that Sean Connery, after being given a hotel suite, lavish food and a suit in return for helping the FBI sneak into Alcatraz would need to go on a fifteen minute car chase just so see his daughter. Couldn’t he have also demanded, “Hey, I’d like to see my daughter”? Sorry, but no amount of “loosing myself in the movie” will explain how the general with his team of heavily armed mercenaries was able to walk into a military installation and steal chemical weapons. Did the Army not have the budget for surveillance cameras? Silly leaps of faith like this cause the film to crumble under its own preposterousness.

Of course, if you can get past the ridiculous story, the characters don’t help the cause either. Harris is over the top as the general but the biggest issue is that his performance never gives the audience any direction. Harris has held the city ransom for a hundred million dollars, to be paid out to the families of men killed under his command. While a little ambiguity is fine, the audience doesn’t have a clear antagonist to root against. Should they see him as a hero going outside the rule book to prove a point or do we see him as a villain, willing to put an entire population in harms way for monetary gain. Having a complex villain is fine so long as his motivations are clear but in the case of The Rock, you never really know what the general’s end game is, making him frustrating to watch.

Cage, as the chemical expert, suffers from the same issue. Half the time playing the role weirdly funny and the other half as an action bad ass, Cage flip flops between the two performances, again, causing our brains to hurt from inherent confusion. Sean Connery is the only lead who doesn’t have this issue as he completely ignores any direction and simply plays himself. I imagine he realized there’s no real character to immerse himself in, so he just spouts the lines in his Scottish accent and the result is classic Connery. Despite the weakly drawn characters, the relationship between Connery and Cage is the best part of the film, featuring two actors who are genuinely having a good time. However, even this fun chemistry is destroyed by horrible one liners, cheesy jokes that fall flat and action scenes that, aside from a few exceptions, fail to deliver even the most modest of thrills.

In the end, The Rock is just plain stupid. Stupid marines holding a group of stupid tourists hostage while they bully a stupid government into paying up for a stupid cause, this movie is like a disgusting stew: throw every ingredient you can think of into a pot, boil it all down to the bare essentials and force us to spend over two hours eating it. With bit characters that go nowhere, plot jumps that make no sense and an ending that was telegraphed hours beforehand, The Rock is all noise with little impact. Alcatraz deserved better than this.

Score – 30%

About Bill Tucker

Jersey based and New York bred, Bill Tucker is an author of film reviews, short fiction and articles for variety of sites and subjects. He currently blogs for The Austinot (Austin lifestyle), the Entertainment Weekly Blogging Community (TV and film) and SkirmishFrogs.com (retro gaming). He's also contributed articles to Texas Highways magazine. His favorite pastimes include craft beer snobbery, gaming and annoying his friends with random quotes from The King of Comedy. You can check out all of his literary naughty bits at www.thesurrealityproject.com View all posts by Bill Tucker

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