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THE ROCK (1996 - R)
This exciting action yarn begins to roll when Brigadier General Francis X. Hummel, USMC, because of a huge grudge against the government, takes a group of marines and break in and steal nerve gas from a military facility. After taking over Alcatraz prison museum in the San Francisco Bay, Hummel proceeds to extort the city of San Francisco with his demands, threatening to attack with nerve gas! YIKES! Enter nerve gas specialist, Dr. Stanley Goodspeed, who works for the FBI as a scientist, not a field agent. Goodspeed is paired with the only man, John Patrick Mason, who is an ex British agent, unjustly doing hard time since 1963 without a trial. Mason is offered his freedom if he helps Goodspeed and the FBI team regain control.
Director Michael Bay's "The Rock" is an exciting, big budget, action adventure thrill fest.
"Jeepers! the creepers are after somebody - and guess who!"
The basic story has renegade Brigadier General Francis X. Hummel (Ed Harris) taking over Alcatraz, due to past injustice by the U.S. Government. Hummel Explains: "The men of marine force recon are selected to carry out illegal operations throughout the world. When they don't come home, their families are told fairy tales about what happened to them... and denied compensation. Well, I have choked on these lies my entire career! Well here and now the lies stop!"
He decides to blackmail the city of San Francisco for compensation money for these men's families. When Hummel threatens to zap San Francisco with poison if he doesn't get his money, an F.B.I. gas expert Dr. Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) and a former Alcatraz resident, ex British agent John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery) who had escaped at one point, race to save the day.
This action - buddy exciting screenplay was written by David Weisburg / Douglas Cook ("Double Jeopardy") and Mark Rosner, an imaginative effort that manages to develop its characters quickly in the fast -paced action genre, with twists and turns that keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The characters actually have some depth to them. For example, knowing that the boatload of tourists about to take the Alcatraz tour were about to spend an uncomfortably long time as hostages in the jail cells, Hummel, who came ashore with the group, stopped a group of girls, and told them to go back on the tourist boat because something unpleasant was about to happen in the prison.
Directed by talented newcomer Michael Bay, who also directed "Armageddon" and "Pearl Harbor," the film moves at an exciting pace, and skillfully intermingles the character's personal lives with their tasks at hand. The action sequences are well directed and put together.
Connery and Cage make an unusual buddy team. Radically different in size, age, appearance and accent, this teaming breaths some life into the much plowed action buddy film genre.
Cage, in rare action film appearance, gives a highly entertaining performance as a quirky, Beatles loving deadly gas expert. It's quite a contrast to his Oscar winning role in "Leaving Las Vegas."
Connery is well cast as a British spy who has been imprisoned under harsh conditions, without benefit of trial, since 1963, for a really dumb reason. He is offered his freedom if he helps Cage and military enter Alcatraz through the underground tunnels. Sly hints and references to Connery's spy past seem also to be tips of the hat to Connery's Bondage. (He played the original James Bond, in Ian Fleming's Bond movies.) Just like James Bond would do, Connery uses his wits to get the upper hand when they transfer him to a swanky hotel for a little pampering, as he requested. While distracting his guards, he gets even briefly with the sneaky F.B.I. Director, who was responsible for his imprisonment in the first place. This creates a diversion, and he escapes for awhile until Cage tracks him down.
John Spencer is excellent as the sneaky FBI Director James Womack Spencer appeared on the last season or so of "L.A. Law," to good effect.
My favorite scene is a wild chase that features Connery, in a military Humvee and Cage in a Ferrari, which happens right after Connery escapes fro the swanky hotel. The exciting, involving chase is one of the best in years, holding its own with the classic chases from "Bullitt" and "The French Connection."
Other great action scenes happen when they land on Alcatraz to fight and defeat the bad guys. Twists and turns keep it all very exciting.
Ed Harris commands the screen as the general threatening to kill the residents of San Francisco. Harris is excellent in a pivotal role.