The Rock

on June 07, 1996 by Susan Lambert TWO DEATHS
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   An enthusiastic young filmmaker once said, "It's been done and it's been redone, but never quite the way we're going to show it to you." Which is exactly why movies end up being variations on a theme and why "The Rock" is more of the same only bigger, louder and faster. This "Attack on Alcatraz Island" boasts too much plot, shorthand storytelling and two very interesting, fun characters which automatically pits it above "Mission Impossible" and "Twister" put together. But being better than two bloated, style-over-substance movies does not equal good.
   The Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson are famous for their over-the-top, to-the-limit, no-holds-barred filmmaking and "The Rock" is no exception, but Michael Bay's direction lacks suspense and any real feeling beyond a "Look at this, ain't it cool?" mentality. Using wanton destruction and violence in place of action, Bay's fast, indecipherable cuts replace choreography. Explosions replace climactic moments. And story is superseded by the plot which has something to do with San Franscico being held hostage by upset marines armed with chemical weapons. But, so what. The city never truly feels at risk; neither do the hostages. Nor do our intrepid heroes, despite how darn likable they are, ever truly feel the heat of the fire.
   The surviving grace of Michael Bay's big music video is his cast (which has always been vital to the Simpson/Bruckheimer recipe). Nicholas Cage brings his usual brand of brilliance to his super-quirky role as chemical super-freak Stanley Goodspeed who must help an elite group of Navy Seals take back Alcatraz before Ed Harris and his marine boys dust San Franscico. Harris, with his eyes on full-blast blue, takes command of a role which ultimately doesn't amount to much. William Forsythe is also wasted here as the frustrated agent-in-command. He has cut his teeth on meatier parts in better films and deserves a role he can make his own. But Sean Connery saves not only the day, but the movie. His charm, class and charisma raise the film to new heights. Together Connery and Cage create great chemistry. This is their game and it's fun to watch to watch them waggle at each other in between random explosions and gruesome deaths. But while the ingredients may be the freshest and finest, if it's done, redone and then overdone, as it is here, this movie meal ends up being about as palatable as a rock. Starring Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris. Directed by Michael Bay. Written by David Weisberg & Douglas S. Cook and Mark Rosner. Produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. A Buena Vista release. Action. Rated R. Running time: 137 minutes
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