It seems that once
every dozen-or-so years, Sean Connery has the urge to go back
into "Bond-age". After turning in his tuxedo and Aston Martin
following 1971's Diamonds Are Forever, Connery ventured into
the acting market as a free agent. His vow to "never again"
play 007 held for a little over a decade. Lured back by an
enormous sum of money and the offer of limited creative control,
Connery returned to Her Majesty's Secret Service in 1983,
with the "unofficial" Bond entry, Never Say Never Again. Now,
in 1996's The Rock, the veteran actor has once more come home
to the action genre. Granted, his character is called John
Mason, not James Bond, but Connery plays him exactly as he
might portray a sixty- something version of the world-renowned
The Rock was the summer
of 1996's first "traditional" action film. There are no tornadoes
to chase or dragons to slay, and, while the plot certainly
isn't Dostoevsky, it beats Mission Impossible's swiss-cheese-like
storyline hands down. There's some wry humor amidst all the
wreckage from car chases and missile strikes, and a few of
the characters are allowed to break through their stereotypical
boundaries. Not surprisingly, the energy level is high, and
there's plenty of action, ranking this film alongside Broken
Arrow and Executive Decision among the year's best high- adrenaline
As is often the case
with action films, a simple premise is the most effective.
Here, it's that a group of ex-Marines have stolen 15 VX gas
rockets and are threatening to launch a lethal strike on the
San Francisco Bay area if their demands aren't met. Led by
war hero and living legend, Brigadier General Frank Hummel
(Ed Harris), the crack platoon has holed up on Alcatraz, where
they're holding 81 civilians hostage. The U.S. government
responds by sending a troop of Navy SEALS on a secret raid,
using the labyrinth of tunnels beneath the island as their
entranceway. Their guide is the only man ever to escape from
the legendary prison: ex-SAS operative, John Mason (Connery).
Also in the party is FBI agent Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas
Cage), an admitted "chemical superfreak" who has the knowledge
and experience to defuse Hummel's rockets.
The cast is first rate.
Nicolas Cage, 1995's Best Actor Oscar winner, doesn't excel
as an action hero, but he's a good enough performer to forge
a likable character. Ed Harris portrays a surprisingly sympathetic
bad guy. Unlike most villains in this sort of movie, his Hummel
isn't greedy or mad -- just angry. He's championing a cause
("this isn't about terrorism -- it's about justice"), and
feels that drastic action is the only way to get people to
listen to him. David Morse, who left an impression in The
Crossing Guard, is Hummel's right-hand man. John Spencer portrays
the FBI director, Michael Biehn is the SEAL team leader, and
Vanessa Marcil is Goodspeed's pregnant fiancee, who has been
placed in harm's way.
But the real standout
is, of course, Connery. Having lost none of his charisma with
age, the veteran actor puts to use his mastery of mixing humor
and action. Just like Bond, Mason does all his shooting and
battling with tongue in cheek. Along the way, he develops
a nice rapport with Goodspeed, with the two actors clicking
in the best "buddy movie" fashion.
The Rock represents
a loud, fast-paced night's worth of entertainment. There are
all the expected shoot-outs, explosions, and death-defying
stunts. Director Michael Bay (Bad Boys) doesn't break new
ground, but he displays his command of the genre by keeping
the familiar from becoming boring. His steals from Quentin
Tarantino (a master of theft in his own right) and others
fit seamlessly into this movie.
Producers Jerry Bruckheimer
and the late Don Simpson have a highly-successful resume that
started with Top Gun, Crimson Tide and many more. The Rock
will add more luster to that reputation. Since Twister and
Mission Impossible are losing a fraction of their tremendous
momentum, The Rock is poised to storm past them. With Connery,
Cage, Harris, and a host of harrowing action sequences.