Well, having just reviewed one of Nicolas Cage's more insipid action movies - Next - I thankfully get to wash away the bad taste with arguably his best - The Rock. The reason the movie is so good however, is that Cage and his wacky character are only a part of the quality ingredients. The meat comes in the form of one Sir Sean Connery. Once everybody's favourite Bond, he is the certainly the ex-Bond who has most successfully eschewed the super-spy mantle and become a big name in his own right, stealing scenes from the lead actors in movies like The Untouchables, The Hunt for Red October and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The Rock offered a clever revival of Connery's dusty old Bond persona, and provided us with arguably his last decent action movie (he was good in The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, but he was just about the only thing that was good about it). Master cheesy action movie producers Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson, and director Michael 'Transformers' Bay, managed to get together their best cast for this production, with solid performances all round, some tremendous (and tremendously silly) action scenes and just enough plot to piece it all together over its satisfying two-hours-plus runtime. It is a tour de force action adventure flick, simply outstanding.
Ex-war veteran Brigadeer General Hummel and his team of mercenaries have just stolen a bunch of missiles armed with VX nerve gas and infiltrated the tourist attraction that was once Alcatraz prison - The 'Rock'. They have an agenda, with Hummel feeling resentful over the unacknowledged sacrifices that his fallen comrades made during the first Gulf War. But at the end of the day it all comes down to money. The military response involves blanketing the entire complex with Thermite Plasma, a prototype advanced form of Napalm, designed to eradicate the VX nerve gas capsules, but before discarding the lives of all of the tourist hostages there, they first wish to try an infiltration. Unfortunately the only man who knows the back-routes into Alcatraz is the one man who managed to escape, the captured British SAS-trained spy John Patrick Mason, who has been in prison for several decades. Reluctantly recruited and partnered up with a slightly nervous chemical weapons expert, they become the unlikely duo who must single-handedly tackle the mercenaries and neutralise the VX warheads. Welcome to The Rock.
There is very little that I can criticise about this movie. Sure it is absolutely packed with plot holes and goofs, but it is so action-packed, stylish, funny and consistently entertaining that you simply forget everything and just enjoy the ride. Pairing up the quirky Nicholas Cage, with all his crazy mannerisms and wacky lines, with powerhouse legend Connery, on ass-kicking top form, with his own fair share of cool one-liners, is a solid casting move. It is classic odd-couple teamwork that makes for an unusual buddy-buddy setup in a cool military action environment, and with dialogue penned by Quentin Tarantino himself, as well as some clear improvisations, you can guarantee you'll be entertained. We have our heroes deployed by a suitably back-stabbing set of Government suits, including William 'Palookaville' Forsythe and John 'West Wing' Spencer, preceded by a crack but disposable Navy SEAL unit led by Michael 'Aliens' Biehn and facing off against a tough, well-trained enemy formed up by powerhouse Ed 'The Abyss' Harris' General and his men, who include David 'Proof of Life' Morse, John C. 'Scrubs' McGuinley and Tony 'Candyman' Todd. It's a top-notch cast, who all put in great performances, whatever the requirements of their respective roles.
As I've stated, some of the action scenes are silly but there are so many thrilling moments and they are so professionally done, that you simply switch your brain off. When a SEAL commander tells you in detail how he is going to avoid the detection of a laser beam transmitted across an entry point, you forget the complete lack of logic in his words and simply accept that this is a SEAL, and that you really are watching the infiltration of a terrorist-controlled facility. And before you know it, there's a devastating fire-fight, with Connery and Cage evading multiple explosions, diffusing rockets, engaging in hand-to-hand combat, shooting up bad guys and shouting at each other, and you've become totally lost in the visceral fun of it all. Sure, they're all taking it seriously, but you know that they're just doing it to entertain you, and you don't have to take it so seriously. You can be amused by the fantastic lines, the great repartee between the leads and the machine-gun delivering of speeches by Harris' disillusioned General, without it ever taking away from the tension and enjoyment of the action scenes. It really is an exercise in how to mix up a pretty-much perfect - and highly re-watchable - action adventure, and it comes highly recommended.
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