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The Rock (1996)

June 26th, 2007 · 5 Comments

In the 5th season of South Park, Kyle exclaims, “Job has all his children killed, and Michael Bay gets to keep making movies. There isn’t a God.” In the second of six articles, I determine the existence of God by revisiting the films of director and alleged anti-Christ Michael Bay.

The Rock poster 1.jpg

Hoping to “elevate the thinking” of his superiors in Washington, Brigadier General Francis Hummel (Ed Harris) and a unit of force reconnaissance Marines loyal to him steal some poisonous gas rockets from a naval arms depot. Hummel establishes a base of operations on Alcatraz Island, takes some tourists hostage and threatens to launch the gas on San Francisco unless reparations of $1 million are paid to the families of his fallen men.

The FBI’s top chemical weapons specialist, a geek named Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage, in his first role since winning an Academy Award for Leaving Las Vegas) saves his co-workers from a Serbian sarin gas booby trap, finds out his girlfriend is pregnant, and while boning her, is summoned to work. The FBI Director (John Spencer) wants Goodspeed to accompany the SEAL incursion into Alcatraz and disarm the missiles.

To gain entry into Alcatraz, the FBI seek the help of the only man ever to break out. John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), an SAS agent who stole top secret microfilm from J. Edgar Hoover in 1962 and has been under lock and key every since. Mason uses the crisis to escape and visit his daughter (Claire Forlani), but Goodspeed chases him down. Then the men head to The Rock to save San Francisco.

The Rock pic 1.jpg

Producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer were seeking to recapture the lightning they’d bottled at Paramount Pictures in the ’80s with hits like Beverly Hills Cop and Top Gun. Now at Disney, they had a script by David Weisberg & Douglas Cook called The Rock. Mark Rosner did a rewrite and ultimately received a screen credit as well, but a staff of script doctors was brought in to punch up the material.

Aaron Sorkin did a polish. Connery requested Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais rewrite his lines, and the British scribes ended up contributing much of the film’s dialogue. Jonathan Hensleigh wrote what became the shooting script, and was hacked when the Writers Guild of America chose not to award him a screen credit. In response, director Michael Bay trashed the guild’s arbitration process as “a sham” and “a travesty.”

That sums up my feelings about The Rock, a sad excuse for a popcorn movie. It has its fans, many over the age of 14. Roger Ebert called it “an action picture that rises to the top of the genre because of a literate, witty screenplay and skilled craftsmanship in the direction and special effects.” The Criterion Collection – the distributor of culturally significant classic and contemporary films on DVD – even preserved this in their catalog.

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Connery, Cage and Harris were (all at the time) non-conventional casting choices for an action movie, I’ll give Bruckheimer that. The script has zero suspense and no intentional humor in it, but at least Hensleigh introduced some quirks into the standard “FBI agent versus crazed terrorist” thriller.

I had no problem with the editing or design of the film. Watched on “mute,” it isn’t half bad. But Bruckheimer insists that a musical score be used as a blunt instrument. Composed by Nick Glennie-Smith and Harry Gregson-Williams, this is music to listen to when you’re low on steroid injections and trying to pump yourself up for a weight-lifting competition. It’s an abominable sounding movie.

The main reason why The Rock is so bad is that at no moment does Bay allow reality to sneak through the bullshit visual gloss he covers everything with. Every woman under 50 is built like a model. The FBI agents and military brass operate in ways that are laughable, like ordering the goofy biochemist to coax Mason into cooperating. Bay refuses to shoot even a brief sex scene in a way that adheres to what a couple might do behind closed doors.

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Conclusion: The critical and commercial success of The Rock would indicate a lack of checks and balances in the universe. Unless, there is a God, and this was the doings of Satan.

Kerry Douglas Dye at Leisure Suit calls The Rock, “the most racist, sexist, unenlightened film to come from a major studio since fucking Mandingo.”

“Fanciful, juvenile, sophomoric, unbelievable and fun. See, ten pages into the script, everyone involved must have realized that they were targeting fourteen-year-old boys and dumber. So they ran with it,” writes Jonny Lieberman at Ruthless Reviews.

“You’re goin’ down!” View the chase through San Francisco between a Ferrari F355 Spider and a Hummer.

Tags: Interrogation · Master and pupil · Military · Shootout

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 matt // Jul 9, 2007 at 2:36 am

    Maybe Sean Connery’s accent seduced me, but I actually liked The Rock. Does this make me a Satanist?

  • 2 Helen Gynell // Jul 18, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    “A sad excuse for a popcorn movie”?! ARE YOU CRAZY?! What more do you need?! It’s an ACTION movie, no one gives a crap what you think about the script re-writes and who did them. What ends up on the screen is what counts, and if you didn’t like it, then you’re just not an action movie fan. I am over 14, and I’m old enough to know what an action movie’s supposed to be. If you’re this hard to please, don’t bother going to action movies, because if this movie didn’t have what you were looking for, none of them will. What a hater!

  • 3 Paul, the Hotel Barber // Jul 23, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    I’d take pleasure in gutting you, boy.

  • 4 Paul, the Hotel Barber // Jul 23, 2009 at 12:38 pm

    How do you know?!?!?
    I mean, how do you know?

  • 5 NewHellas // May 19, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    Is this review a joke? This is why I never care about what the critics have to say.

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