Sunday, June 26, 2016
(June 1996, U.S.)
Has it really been twenty years since THE ROCK? Where the fuck has my youth gone??
(okay, I've temporarily gotten that anger out of my system...sort of!)
Michael Bay is a modern Hollywood film director that I have repeatedly slammed and bashed as nothing more than a sophisticated demolitions expert...and yet...well, there are always exceptions in life to even the most horrid of cinema's atrocities. From early on in my blog, those exceptions were three; the first being BAD BOYS (1995), the second being PEARL HARBOR (2001) and the third one being what I discuss now, THE ROCK, quite possibly, Bay's best film of his questionable career, and it's largely due to a man of such gifted talents as Sean Connery.
Set primarily on location at Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay Area, this action thriller fuses the elements of biological terrorism, the heroics of the U.S. Navy Seals and the questions and the controversies of American patriotism...and there's also Sean Connery, who proves that age doesn't reduce the hard-ass actions of the man who played James Bond so well. As John Mason, the only man in Alcatraz's history to ever successfully escape the legendary island, he's released from federal prison (from which he was unjustly put in the first place) to take part in a rescue operation of eighty-one tourists and the recovery of stolen armed rockets filled with a deadly gas in exchange for a full pardon. Alongside is FBI chemical weapons expert Stanley Goodspeed (played by Nicholas Cage) who has no field experience, but must be part of the dangerous mission, nonetheless, due to his extensive knowledge of disarming the weapons. The terrorist behind the great takeover is General Frank Hummel (played by Ed Harris), who has become grossly disenchanted with the way United States Marines have been forgotten about and swept under the rug by a government who lied to them and paid nothing to their families in financial compensations. Hummel threatens to launch the stolen rockets against the San Francisco citizens unless our U.S. government pays millions of dollars from a secret military slush fund, which he, in turn, will distribute to his group of mercenary men and the families of the Marines who seemingly died for nothing. This is, perhaps, where American patriotism is questioned, most particular in a scene in the shower area at Alcatraz where the Navy Seals manage to penetrate and confront their enemies in a fatal standoff. Before everyone begins shooting at each other, there is a rather poignant moment where Seals commander Anderson (played by Michael Biehn) expresses his sympathies and understandings for why Hummel feels disenchanted and angry with his government superiors, though he cannot condone the man's direct actions in trying to get what he feels is justice. There is a sense of great tragedy when American soldiers on opposite ends start killing each other, and I suspect Michael Bay appreciates this in not only the way the sequence is filmed, but also in the way the musical score turns somber and tragic. I suppose we can give Bay one solid point for emotion and feelings with this one. The rest is pure Bay action, thrills and fiery explosions in a way that does manage to work well with the story we're watching. I mean, if you're going to stop deadly chemical rockets from annihilating the population of San Francisco, sometimes you have to blow shit up...a lot of shit!
THE ROCK hardly engages one's brain, as violent action films go. In addition to the usual special effects, there are improbabilities and suspensions of disbelief one must contend with, but perhaps that's just part of what makes a good action film for the purposes of pure (and even mindless) escapism. Still, one can't ignore the positive elements that men like Connery, Harris and even Cage bring to the mix. They're all men of physical action, indeed, but there is some literate substance to their character performances and the human conviction each one holds to the story. There's even the right blend of wit to moves things along, especially the very end when Goodspeed momentarily tempts us with the secret behind who really killed John F. Kennedy. That's only a tease, of course, to conclude the Hollywood happy ending to the big crisis.
Favorite line or dialogue:
John Mason: "Are you sure you're ready for this?"
Stanley Goodspeed: "I'll do my best."
John: "Your "best"! Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen!"
(a good philosophy to remember in real life! Thanks, Sean!)