The Rock is inescapably entertaining, a high-octane, kick-butt actioner that dresses up a far-fetched premise out of a Steven Seagal movie with top-flight actors and an ultra-slick package. This final outing from the Simpson-Bruckheimer team has the strutting, souped-up, hardware-fetishizing personality of their signature productions.
A tense tale of rebel military officers who take over Alcatraz Island and threaten to unleash rockets on San Francisco unless their demands are met, this is a pure popcorn picture. They yarn has its share of gaping holes and jaw-dropping improbabilities, but director Michael Bay sweeps them all aside with his never-take-a-breath pacing.
Opening stretch is given over to the perpetrator of the dastardly scheme, Brigadier Gen. Hummel (Ed Harris), a veteran of every US military engagement since Vietnam. With an elite unit of like-minded mutineers, Hummel absconds with a bunch of rockets loaded with deadly VX liquid gas, takes 81 hostages from a tour group on Alcatraz and promises to launch the missiles on the Bay Area unless Washington forks over $100 million from a secret slush fund within 40 hours.
The only man who can save the day is John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), a former SAS operative who was secretly imprisoned for making off with J. Edgar Hoover’s most closely held secrets. Officially, Mason doesn’t exist, but he is nonetheless compelled to lead a team of Navy SEALs underwater to Alcatraz, with FBI biochemical weapons expert Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage).
Bay, who debuted with the same producers’ Bad Boys in 1995, seems right at home with the macho posturing, tough talk and military logistics. Connery trades winningly on his sophisticated, elegant sense of cool, and Cage proves equally engaging as a sort of goofy chemical-set geek who must rise to the occasion of proving he’s a man among the he-men elite. Harris is similarly outstanding, conveying the discipline but also the thought and weight behind his extreme decisions.
Film is dedicated to Don Simpson [who died in January 1996, aged 52].