Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Rock

You know, I've repeatedly seen The Rock referred to as one of if not the only good movie Michael Bay has made. But... I really don't see it. It's not as bad as some of his other work. I didn't hate it. But as far as big action movies go, I've seen a hell of a lot better and smarter. It's clear that some people, including developers of popular video games, took quite a liking to what it did. But while I wasn't bored or annoyed by what was happening on screen, I wasn't terribly entertained either. It was the kind of movie you just watch while rarely caring about what you're seeing.

There were a few elements I liked. I'll get into the oddness of the plot in a bit, but I liked Ed Harris as the main antagonist. There was a righteousness and power to his performance that I didn't quite expect, and it lent some gravitas to some of the more dramatic scenes he was involved with. That stuff tended to work okay. Sean Connery is likable as good guy one, and while he's already in self-parody mode as early as 1996 here, Nicolas Cage is a tolerable good guy two. I didn't care that he was worrying about his pregnant girlfriend because she was a prop instead of a character, but he wasn't bad. And some of the shootouts and fights were okay. I'm really not a huge fan of the way Michael Bay films action; it's often too cluttered and jumpy to really understand and thus enjoy what's going on. Especially car chases, the one here was pretty much a mess of choppy editing and irritating wacky reactions from bystanders (that kind of stuff: basically never funny). But some of the stuff on the prison island itself was mildly enjoyable.

And the way they handled the main plot was just odd. The primary antagonist was more sympathetic than the guys the heroes were working for. Simply put, a decorated general is mad at his country for neglecting to honor and provide support to some of its soldiers, even that which they were lawfully obligated to. So instead of doing something productive about it, he recruits some men under his command, they steal a dangerous chemical weapon, and threaten to launch it on San Francisco from Alcatraz, where they've taken hostages, unless their monetary demands are met. But rather than even pay for the legally required monetary support to the families of fallen soldiers, let alone the further demands, the government decides to send in a SWAT team led by Cage's chemical weapons expert FBI agent and Connery's grizzled former spy who knows the prison from having escaped there. And by the way, Connery hates the government because they held him without trial for over thirty years. Also, after the evil plot falls apart, things still aren't over because the cavalry still doesn't know what's going on in a fairly ludicrous sequence. So basically, the bad guys in this movie are the military and the government. Great. This edge to the plot is handled with no subtlety and distracts from what's already a mediocre action movie. The government doesn't even try to justify itself in any way, we're just expected to be on their side because the citizens of San Francisco are at risk. It's pretty weak stuff. And that describes the movie in general. Again, I wasn't actively bothered by the movie. It was just incredibly dumb and did little to make up for it.

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