In what has now become a monthly tradition when lacking inspiration for which particular film to choose in a given month, I asked the weekly poker game what they would like me to write about. It was pointed out to me that The Rock (1996, dir. Michael Bay) recently turned 25 – causing many of my poker friends to note this was the first R-rated movie many of them had seen in the theater. (I am MUCH younger than them, so mine is something else altogether that I cannot remember.) In honor of those super old friends of mine, time to dedicate too many words to this fun action flick.
Before we get going, it is interesting to me and no doubt nobody else that from 756-759 on my list, you will see Happy Gilmore, Office Space, The Rock, and Date Night. Given how often those are on and how much I enjoy them despite them not being good films, I doubt I could find a more oft-viewed consecutive foursome than that on my list. It is bizarre to me that it comes so low on the list.
I simply cannot imagine anyone reading this far who has NOT seen it, but The Rock is the story of a group of US military terrorists (led by Ed Harris) that take over Alcatraz prison and threaten to launch VX poison gas at the world if their demands are not met. Enter FBI chemical weapons specialist Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), called in to find a way to neutralize the gas before they launch. Of course, it’s super hard to get to Alcatraz without being noticed, so they need to break in…using the skills of the only man who ever broke out, John Mason (Sean Connery at his pithiest). As you might guess tons of action follows, and the world is not destroyed.
As an action film, The Rock works very well for me. There is a ridiculous car chase involving stolen Humvees and Lamborghinis that ends (no joke) with a trolley car sliding out of control down a steep hill. This is the kind of ridiculousness that Michael Bay is known for and only works in action movies. Of course, as an actual movie, that makes it laughable – kind of the point of action sequences. While it does not rate terribly high on my list, I find it eminently rewatchable. You get great lines like “losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and f*** the prom queen.” You get to watch an amphibious assault on one of America’s most recognizable landmarks. You get to watch a treasure trove of “that guy” actors (David Morse, Danny Nucci, Philip Baker Hall, John Mahoney, John C. McGinley, Tony Todd, William Forsythe, Xander Berkeley, and Michael Biehn) parade through fast paced, jump cutting sequences. And you have one of the all-time greatest movie scores.
If you want depth and a film with a message, you won’t find it here. (And you must endure the horrific forced character development in between the zingers. Goodspeed is a Beatlemaniac. We know because he said so. It has no bearing on anything and never comes up again. Goodspeed also never swears – to a point of ridiculousness, but this is never explained.) If you want cool chases, fights, gun battles, and a whole lotta loud machismo, then you have come to the right place.
FUN FACT – Since Alcatraz is regulated by the National Park Service, it remained open during filming, which meant shooting these scenes with tourists wandering around on set. No fun moments with a random kid from Kentucky in the background of a shot, but still crazy to think about.
Just Watch says that The Rock is not streaming anywhere but is available for rent/purchase on most platforms.