Right on the heels of Executive Decision comes The Rock, a second interpretation of a fairly esoteric formula. While Executive Decision was Die Hard on a plane, The Rock is Die Hard on, well, a rock. Alcatraz to be more specific. Both films involve a madman holding innocent people hostage and threatening to rain chemical weapons on an unsuspecting populace. Also in both films, the president has to make a decision of whether to negotiate or simply blow the island/plane sky-high and kill the hostages in the process. And if that wasn’t enough, both films employ a non-military egghead who gets wrapped up in the action when the plan goes astray. Is it original? Not anymore. Does it work? Yes it does – quite well, in fact.
The Rock is aided by three smashing performances: Ed Harris plays General Hummel, a career marine who’s gone slightly off his rocker and – with the help of a couple dozen mercenaries – takes over Alcatraz in an effort to force the U.S. government to compensate the families of marines killed under his command. Nicolas Cage brings his Oscar-winning skills to bear as dorky chemical weapons agent Stanley Goodspeed who has to play soldier despite leaving his sidearm in his sock drawer. Finally, Sean Connery displays his customary brilliance as John Mason, the only man to ever escape from Alcatraz – he was wrongly imprisoned for 30 years but is released to guide the rescue forces.
“Talk is cheap,” the saying goes – but in The Rock, bullets are apparently a whole lot cheaper. Ammunition flows like water and bodies fall like rain. Throughout most of the film, Cage and Connery wander around in the bowels of Alcatraz trying to locate and disarm chemical-laden missiles while being hunted by ex-Force Recon marines. Sound simple? It is. Two hours of actions builds to a stunning climax as jets swoop in to blow the island off the map. Michael Bay, who directed last year’s cops and robbers tale Bad Boys, does similar things with this film as he captures the action with an originality and drama that John Woo would envy.
If you’re looking for subtlety, look elsewhere. From Ferrari/Humvee duels on the hills of San Francisco to skin-melting chemical weapons, subtlety is in short supply. But if you’re looking for action that makes no excuses and doesn’t wait for you to catch your breath, then The Rock is right up your alley. Just remember to schedule time for a nap afterwards.