Classic Intel: The Rock - Online Review

'There's a point where Cage, Connery and Spencer spend an entire scene turning the air blue. 'Cut the chit-chat, A-hole', squeals Cage in a scene shortly after, where that dialogue was a scripting choice, not a bid for a 12A.'

Unlike a plethora of other 1990s Action films, The Rock manages to achieve that rare status of actually getting better as time goes by. As cynical contemporary rubbish like A Good Day To Die Hard make cuts to achieve box office bang, Michael Bay's film is an unashamed 15-certificate. In fact, it almost revels in it. There's a point where Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery and John Spencer spend an entire scene trading insults, turning the air blue. 'Cut the chit-chat, A-hole', squeals Cage in a scene shortly after, where that dialogue was a scripting choice, not a bid for a 12A.

All very well. If all The Rock had going for it was nostalgia for a time when making films for adults was OK, this would have proved a nice trip down memory lane. As it is, it offers much more.

Where Bay opens himself up to criticism with films that don't look like they would know a narrative if it popped up and smashed a metal fist into their mouths, here he gets a screenplay by David Weisberg, Douglas Cook and Mark Rosner, which weaves in enough conflict for several Wrestlemanias. Goodspeed (Cage) has an uneasy alliance with Mason (Connery), Mason is forced into trusting sworn enemy Womack (Spencer), Hummel (Ed Harris) has mutineers within his band of mutineers, Paxton (William Forsythe) doesn't like Goodspeed because he's clever, the military collective cannot agree on one strategy. They may be simple, base, disagreements but they keep The Rock moving effectively and generate a plot where everyone is on edge with everyone else, all the time, for some reason or another.

In the end, there are two or three instances where the film can't escape its genre trappings and it conforms to non-fun cliché. The chase through the San Francisco streets may look good but in plot terms it is a clear case of Bay bottling the slow build-up. Instead of saving a major set piece for when the protagonists arrive at Alcatraz, he spends oodles of his pyrotechnics budget here instead, on what amounts to little more than a cheeky game of hide and seek. Goodspeed, predictably enough, has, by the end of the film, thrown off any suggestion that he is a bookish doctor, instead now resembling Rambo.

All that though is rather mute when The Rock gives Connery lines like, 'Pershonally, I think you're a fucking idiot' and has Harris gives his best Hans Gruber impression: 'WHERE ARE THE GUIDANCE CHIPS?'. This has a sense of fun and a sense of humour of the sort which marks out the very best offerings in the Action genre (see also: the aforementioned Gruber film, several Shane Black-scripted things). It also knows not to take itself too seriously. Just look at the end. Sure, it gives Goodspeed the Christ pose, but it also gives him two fireworks to hold in the process.

The Rock is streaming on LOVEFiLM Instant.


  1. "Welcome to the Rock!"

    I may be in a very small minority but the triumvirate of Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon are really good, entertaining action films. You could see the bloat that Bay would add to in future films in Armageddon, but other than that, they were fun, irreverent with some delusional moments in them.

    I don't think Bay has made a better film since.

    1. Yeah, I like this and Bad Boys and I actually think the first Transformers is a decent blockbuster. Agree that I don't think he's bettered this... and probably never will.