The Rock is a 1996 action film directed by Michael Bay, written by David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook, and Mark Rosner and stars Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage, Ed Harris, Michael Biehn and William Forsythe. The film follows the story of an FBI chemist and a former SAS Captain as they attempt to stop a group of rogue US Marines from unleashing multiple rockets filled with VX gas on San Fransisco.
So let’s address the elephant in the room. “Welcome to The Rock” is what Dwayne Johnson says when he brings a woman to his bedroom right?
Alright, moving along.
Once the end credits started to roll, I had but one thought. Why did I like this film as much as I did? I know the plot is preposterous. I know Nic Cage didn’t throw in a crazy Nic Cage performance (which would have made this movie infinitely more enjoyable). I know every action scene is cut to death, I know all that and much more. So, why didn’t I hate it? I zeroed in on an answer a second after I asked myself those questions. The answer is
*drum roll please*
I did not think of any of those things while watching the movie.
As simple as that, the movie was so fantastically paced that I had no time to think about any of those issues. I was completely engaged starting minute 1. Ed Harris was busy chewing scenes up for breakfast and his motivations alone had me wired in. I was too busy taking that one breath of air in the segues that I dared not to take my eyes off the screen. What happened to this Michael Bay? Is it his doing that this film plays as well as it does or is the uncredited script rewrites done by Sorkin and Tarantino that make the film as compelling as it is? I truly don’t know nor do I care.
It is one of the very few big dumb action movies which is smart enough and dumb enough in equal measure that the tightrope act it does while not falling into either extreme makes it truly enjoyable popcorn schlock. The plot is simple. The actors suit their roles. Some of the scenes are tense as fuck. Strangely enough, there is a good deal of emotional resonance to it. And also, having a few shades of A Few Good Men make this film oddly relatable.
I keep myself away from big action spectacles for the most part because I dread one simple thing. Most action films have downtime between scenes where the action and plot come to a grinding halt as the film goes out of its way to infuse its characters with some “traits”. And most of the time, the character development is not strong or interesting enough for me to care about it. I slowly sit back in my chair and think about the plot thus far and that is when I start deconstructing the film while watching its most boring moments. More often than not, said film eats itself alive and stops being compelling. A recent example of that very phenomenon would be Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2.
The Rock does no such thing. I knew what I was getting into. The film delivered action and thrills in spades. The character moments are deftly woven in with well-executed action sequences and most of all, the sheer kinetic energy propelling the plot makes me smile like an idiot child while watching the film. I know we’ve lost Michael Bay to studio mandated cash grabs but it is fun to reminisce about a time when he was one of our most promising action directors.