Combustible Celluloid
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With: Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, John Spencer, David Morse, William Forsythe, Michael Biehn, Vanessa Marcil, John C. McGinley, Gregory Sporleder, Tony Todd, Bokeem Woodbine, Jim Maniaci, Greg Collins, Brendan Kelly, Steve Harris, Danny Nucci, Claire Forlani, Celeste Weaver, Todd Louiso, David Bowe, Anthony Clark
Written by: David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook, Mark Rosner
Directed by: Michael Bay
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, language and a sex scene
Running Time: 136
Date: 06/07/1996

The Rock (1996)

3 Stars (out of 4)

I Got a 'Rock'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The hastily-scrawled review below was written in 1996 after having seen The Rock on the big screen, on the Fourth of July. In 2022 I watched it again, after seeing and unexpectedly enjoying Michael Bay's Ambulance. The Rock was his only other "fresh"-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes, so I thought, why not? Plus it'd be fun to see images of San Francisco from back then. Given that much of the action takes place on Alcatraz, there aren't many vintage locations to savor, but even so, I found myself giving in to this movie the second time. Not much has changed, and many of the gripes listed below still apply, but I think time has cast a new perspective on this un-cynical popcorn flick. And certainly, the jerky quality of the cinematography and editing is smoothed out by the small screen. I'm officially upgrading my review to 3 stars. On with the original review:

I wish I had found some cool symbolism or metaphors in this movie, but it's just plain dumb.

What we've got is a bunch of terrorists, led by Ed Harris, who's not really a bad guy; he's doing what needs to be done for the families of his fallen comrades. So these good-guy terrorists steal these poison-gas missiles, capture a bunch of tourists on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, point the missiles at the City, and demand $100 million bucks.

First of all, this guy's in the Marines. They spend $100 million bucks on breakfast. He probably could have swindled the money from the inside and saved everyone the trouble. But instead, they call in a dozen top trained Navy SEALS, and Sean Connery, who escaped from Alcatraz 30 years ago, and Nicolas Cage, who knows how to deal with explosives, but who's never left the lab.

Who lasts more than 10 minutes, the highly trained SEALS, or the misfits? Correct-a-mundo!

But that's small potatoes. The dumb story I can live with. It's just that the dialogue in this script is so bad, I was having Showgirls flashbacks. There's even a scene when one Marine utters the line, "let's be all we can be," which is the Army slogan. Only Connery and Cage get a couple of decent lines, and that's only by comparison.

My other major complaint is that the movie, directed by sophomore Michael Bay ("Bad Boys") is almost unwatchable. Whenever a cool action scene kicks in, Bay goes with the shaky-cam and rapid-fire editing that renders everything mishmash. They spent a lot of money blowing stuff up and we can't even see it. He also telegraphs everything in advance and cuts away from stuff seconds before he should. I'm wondering how in the name of Mississippi did this guy get a job as a movie director?

Cage turns in a jittery, smart-guy performance, and Connery is just plain cool, but you can tell that anything the actors do that's any good at all comes from their own instincts. It's nothing the director told them to do.

Oh, that guy from that TV show "Boston Common" (Anthony Clark) makes a funny appearance as a gay hairdresser. (A gay hairdresser in San Francisco? Imagine!)

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