Opens: June 7, 1996 | Rated: R
There may have been only two movies directed by Michael Bay, but there is very definitely a Michael Bay style.
"The Rock," which opened yesterday, looks very much like "Bad Boys," Bay's first film -- gunfights galore, enormous explosions, superfluous slow-motion, encroaching incidental music and very occasionally a little plot punctuated by grandiose dialogue.
Most of the 50-cent-word lines are reserved for Ed Harris ("Apollo 13"), playing General Francis X. Hummel, a disgruntled Marine who steals a few chemical missiles, takes over Alcatraz and threatens melt everyone in San Francisco.
He is a thoughtful, calculating character on whom the script bestows a sense of honor despite his antagonistic role. He makes a good argument for his cause: honoring soldiers lost in U.S. covert operations and compensating their families. With this as the motive for his terrorism, it makes for a more compelling bad guy.
But this isn't the majority of the movie. In fact, "The Rock" spends most of the second reel away from the old prison and focuses on Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), a British spy (wink, wink) captured 30 years ago with U.S. state secrets and held on Alcatraz without trial.
As the only man ever to escape the island prison (only to be recaptured and moved), the FBI hopes he can lead them back in, in exchange for his freedom.
Of course he is uncooperative at first and escapes into San Francisco, stealing a HumVee from valet parking at the Fairmont Hotel and leading a chase through the city.
Nicolas Cage is Stanley Goodspeed, a meek FBI chemical weapons expert reluctantly taken along to defuse the extremely dangerous weapons, who has to become the hero in hot pursuit. The chase, for which he "borrows" a yellow Ferrari, is where he finds his inner chutzpah.
They zoom over hill crests, crash into a water truck, mow down parking meters and cause a cable car to explode (it looks as silly as it sounds).
This chase is the movie in a nutshell -- a creative candy coating (HumVee vs. Ferrari) on the same old schlock (cliche-laden chase scene).
Once on the island the FBI and a Navy SEAL team are ambushed, leaving Mason and Goodspeed as the only insurgents alive to stop the terrorists.
What follows is mostly aesthetically-driven shootouts, fist fights and underwater scenes.
The film is full of Bay's penchant for clever visuals -- extreme close ups and constantly moving cameras keep the eyes busy. But although "The Rock" comes on like a speeding bullet, it has all the impact of a squirt gun. Despite ample gunfights, chases and explosions (even the title sequence has fiery blasts that come out of nowhere), the tension in "The Rock" never translates into excitement for the audience.
It's just another so-so action movie lucky enough to recruit real talent to play the leads.
Connery is Connery, which is really all he has to be anymore. Harris has a gift for finding a soul in his bad guys. But Cage is far and away the best thing in the movie. Only an actor as serious about his craft as Nicolas Cage would take the time to fully flesh out an action hero, to find his weaknesses and make him as non-standard as possible.
Cage fans probably should see "The Rock" just to see what he does with it. Everybody else, there are at least seven more action flicks coming out this summer. Be patient.
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