Quite a collection of talents, Michael Bay’s The Rock has been gaining traction of late in terms of being a secret James Bond film. While not part of the Eon franchise, star Sean Connery generally gets quite a lot of authorship of his projects from the 70’s onwards, and seems to have been given a certain amount of input into the character of John Mason, as ex SAS member and card-carrying representative of British Intelligence. With Connery carrying over a number of Bondian ticks into his performance here ‘but of course you are…‘, and the film’s script setting out a timeline that matches the Eon/Connery films, it’s a theory that holds some weight.
Bond or not, The Rock deserves its reputation as an action classic, a well-honed slice of studio product that makes the ridiculous nature of the story into a plus. Chemical weapons expert Nicolas Cage plays Stanley Goodspeed, an eccentric nerd who also matures in a matter of hours into a crack military man, then wavers between the two. He’s under the tuition of the best; John Mason (Connery) is engaged because he’s escaped from Alcatraz, where a rogue team led by General Frances Hummell (Ed Harris) are holding San Francisco to ransom with deadly gas-filled missiles, but Goodspeed has plenty of other secrets. After recapturing Mason during a high–speed car chase, the two join forces to lead a crack team into the Alcatraz tunnels and attempt to stop a chemical catastrophe.
It’s something of a culture-shock to see Connery in a Michael Bay film, but Bay’s shock and awe tactics married to a Simpson/Bruckheimer production certainly provide a seductive gloss. Seeing Connery speaking Quentin Tarantino’s re-written dialogue is also a novelty, and the Scottish star seems to enjoy having a bit of bite in his lines; the constant references to his ‘grunge’ hairstyle are certainly amusing. Cage gives one of his Wild Man of Borneo performances, never quite taking a consistent line on whether his character is a dweeb or an ubermench, and filling the gaps with random shouts and strange epithets. Harris adds class, as do a top-notch support including Michael Biehn, Tony Todd, Phillip Baker Hall, David Morse and John C McGinley. Finding his signature moves, Bay throws in plenty of explosions to keep the pot boiling; if The Rock lacks any kind of realism, particularly when Hummell’s real motives are clarified, there’s no shortage of crowd-pleasing antics to amuse all classes.