Connect with us
Michael Bay's The Rock Movie 1996
Image: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Film

25 years later: The Rock was the Most Enjoyable Action Movie of the ’90s

Alcatraz. Only one man has ever broken out. Now five million lives depend on two men breaking in.

Revisiting Michael Bay’s The Rock

The formula of testosterone-inflected, high-concept action-adventure synonymous with producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer was executed to near-perfection in 1996 with The Rock, an action movie that did everything right. The film, which came out in June of 1996- 25 years ago this week – has been a cable TV staple ever since. 

It has a great concept and outstanding action. It put together a lead acting duo of Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery, which was totally counterintuitive but absolutely worked. It has a great villain (Ed Harris) who actually has a good point. It is also consistently funny, with a long list of memorable one-liners. Overall, The Rock was the most enjoyable, and the most rewatchable, action blockbuster of the 1990s. 

Bruckheimer and Simpson – the latter of whom died six months before the film’s release, making it his last – were all about the high concept, and The Rock certainly has one. 

Revisiting Michael Bay's The Rock
Image: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

Francis X. Hummel (Harris) is a decorated general, one upset that the government has failed to acknowledge or provide benefits to his men who died on covert missions. So he recruits a group of mercenaries, steals canisters of dangerous VX gas, and commandeers Alcatraz, threatening to gas the population of San Francisco unless his demands for $100 million are met. 

The government’s reaction is to send a team that includes Stanley Goodspeed (Cage), a nerdish chemical weapons expert who looks like he’s never shot a gun in his life. Also on the mission is John Mason (Connery), a British secret agent who stole all of the nation’s secrets and has been held in prison secretly for the past 30 years, but knows his way into Alcatraz because he once escaped. 

When everyone but the two of them is killed, Cage and Connery are left to bicker their way through a confrontation on the famous prison island with these tough military veterans. 

Revisiting Michael Bay's The Rock

The banter between Cage and Connery is consistently hilarious, with Connery, who was 66 at the time of the film’s release, getting in some light mockery of his 007 past. As for Cage, The Rock, which came the year after his Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, was near the beginning of his penchant for luxurious overacting. 

There’s also a deep supporting cast, including the late John Spencer as the FBI director, William Forsythe as an FBI agent, and David Morse, Tony Todd, and Bokeem Woodbine as members of the mercenary team. 

And those lines- “I’d take pleasure in guttin’ you, boy,” “winners go home and fuck the prom queen,” “How in the name of Zeus’s BUTT HOLE did you get out of your cell?” Every time I’ve been in San Francisco since 1996, I’ve quoted The Rock constantly. Who wrote those lines, and the script itself is a matter of some dispute;  David Weisberg and Douglas Cook wrote it originally, writers including Jonathan Hensleigh, Quentin Tarantino, and Aaron Sorkin worked on it, and after a long Writers Guild arbitration, Mark Rosner’s name was added to the list of credited writers. 

Revisiting Michael Bay's The Rock
The Rock (1996) Directed by Michael Bay Shown: Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage

The Rock even helped get us to war less than a decade later. In the run-up to the Iraq War, a British intelligence source described Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons programs in a way that seemed inspired by the appearance of the VX gas in The Rock instead of how they actually work in real life. What was good enough for Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, it would appear, was also good enough for George W. Bush and Tony Blair. 

 A lot of film critics, myself included, have a visceral dislike of the work of Michael Bay, and all that it represents. But many of us have to acknowledge that back at the beginning of his career, with The Rock, Bay made a nearly-perfect action movie. 

Now Streaming

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist and film critic based in the Philadelphia area. He is the co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle and a Rotten Tomatoes-listed critic since 2008, and his work has appeared in New York Press, Philly Voice, The Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Tablet, The Times of Israel, and RogerEbert.com. In 2009, he became the first American journalist to interview both a sitting FCC chairman and a sitting host of "Jeopardy" on the same day.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook

Trending

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches

Wrestling

Don West Don West

Remembering Wrestling Sports Broadcaster Don West

Culture

The Last of Us Infected The Last of Us Infected

The Last of Us Looks for Love in a Hopeless Place with “Infected”

TV

Hear Me Out Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out Never Finds Its Own Voice

Film

Kaleidoscope Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope (2023): How the Newest Hypnotic Netflix Toy Stumbles with its Unique Format

TV

Bill Nighy is a Living Marvel in This Kurosawa Remake

Culture

The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness The Last of Us When You're Lost in the Darkness

The Last of Us Begins with the Bleak, Familiar “When You’re Lost in the Darkness”

TV

Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time Greatest Royal Rumble Matches of All time

Top 5 WWE Wrestlers To Win The 2023 Royal Rumble

Wrestling

Sundance 2023: The Eight Must-See Films at the Festival

Culture

WWE Royal Rumble 1992 WWE Royal Rumble 1992

Why the 1992 WWE Royal Rumble Match is Still The Best

Culture

maxwell jacob friedman maxwell jacob friedman

MJF and Three Potential First-Time Feuds for 2023 

Culture

When It Melts movie review When It Melts movie review

When It Melts Continues an Important Conversation with Unflinching Pathos

Culture

Magazine Dreams Review Magazine Dreams Review

Magazine Dreams is a Volcanic Study of A Self-consuming Bodybuilder

Culture

Ranking The Chicago Bulls Dynasty Opponents In The ’90s

Culture

WWE sale - Vince McMahon WWE sale - Vince McMahon

The Available Options For A Potential Sale Of WWE

Culture

They’re All Alright: Ranking the Ten Best That ’70s Show Characters They’re All Alright: Ranking the Ten Best That ’70s Show Characters

They’re All Alright: Ranking the Best Characters fromThat ’70s Show

Culture

Connect