Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Rock Review (Classic Write-Up)

Rock N' Roll All Night
Watching The Rock is like stepping into some kind of super warped time machine, one that takes it's viewer into the wonderful world of 1996. Here is an age where Michael Bay was a promising director coming off the previous years hit Bad Boys, and was making easily his most audacious project yet; The Rock, an action feature that has Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery teaming up to take down Ed Harris, who has taken the entire facility of Alcatraz (it's also referred to as, cue dramatic music, THE ROCK) hostage. Oh, and did I mention the villain has numerous deadly bombs with him?

It's the kind of set-up rife with potential for explosions, mayhem and quick cuts, elements that would pop up in future Bay efforts that ranged from fun (Armageddon!) to the torturous (Transformers: Age Of Extinction). Here, they have a decent rate of success, especially once the action shifts over to Alcatraz. Here, the dynamic between Cage and Connery is the primary focus of the film and things get surprisingly fun, mainly because the two are so contrasting in personality in this heightened scenario. Plus, Cage gets all kinds of fun lines that I'll be quoting for days to come (just a heads up to everyone I know; I'll be saying Cage's legendary utterance of "How in the name of Zeus's butthole?" at any given opportunity).

Another Michael Bay hallmark, an excessive runtime, doesn't really pop up here, thanks to the credits rolling in at 132 minutes, though that doesn't mean there aren't extraneous sequences to be found. Most notably is a car chase scene that goes on for forever in terms of pacing, but is even more offensive in terms of how it's filmed. There's enough shaking going on with the camera to render the entire affair incoherent, and it doesn't help that the whole sequences is so heightened in terms of destruction that it feels like the very definition of overkill. 

While that particular scenes allows a glimpse into the filmmaker Michael Bay will soon become, the rest of the film mostly avoids being tremendously offensive, save for a character that's a stylized gay stereotype that's insanely dated. Otherwise though, the feature relies on some of cinemas simplest and most effective elements, such as tension, to keep the film entertaining. During the final action scenes, set at a lighthouse where Cage is trying to disarm the final nefarious bomb, I found it refreshing in how unblemished the moments of combat are, they're typically just one-on-one hand to hand combat matches, which make the scenes A) easier to follow and B) makes it much more likely for me latch onto the characters involved in the conflict. 

I freely admit that The Rock is far from some overtly memorable adventure (save for all of Cage's lines and a final shot of him holding flares as jets soar overhead), but it does serve as a nice gaze into the early days of one of cinema's more well-known filmmakers, as well as a showcase for some fun action moments. You could do better, but as other Bay efforts like Pearl Harbor showed, you could also do far worse. Plus, you really do have to say Nicolas Cage play the guitar shirtless while contemplating the vulnerability of humanity, it's a sight to say the least. 

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