The Rock (1996): The Michael Bay Effect [Joey’s Review]
It’s only fitting that Nicolas Cage worked with Michael Bay during the peak of both of their careers. Both men are quintessential parts to the 1990s action movie scene, and both have had their entire careers unfairly criticized. While I’m certainly going to make no excuse for some of Bay’s movies (just as I won’t make excuses for some of Cage’s movies), it’s as unfair to say all of Michael Bay’s movies are dumb and overlong as it is to say all of Cage’s movies are bad. Both statements simply aren’t true.
I haven’t seen every Michael Bay movie, and I don’t know that I ever will. But from what I’ve seen, there are four movies I love without reservation: BAD BOYS, BAD BOYS II, PAIN & GAIN, and THE ROCK. Each of these movies is a shining example of a perfection action movie, and each is awe-inspiring to watch. Criticize Michael Bay for any number of (possibly deserved) reasons, but you have to give the main credit in one regard: he knows how to film action sequences and make actors look awesome.
Before we get into The Rock, I have a confession to make: when I first watched this movie in 2011, I didn’t love it. I didn’t even particularly like it. (But at the time, during my wholly misguided “Nine Nights of Nic Cage“, I said a lot of stupid things I didn’t mean and look back and hang my head in shame. I’m sorry, Cage. I failed you back then.) I love Con Air and Face/Off (and have seen each far more recently), so I knew I’d love 2 of the “big 3.” But I wasn’t prepared for how fully I’d love The Rock.
Most of the reason I love The Rock is because Michael Bay just knows how to make an awesome movie. The Rock is one of the biggest action movies of the 90s, a decade known for its action movies. It features a wonderful mismatched duo of Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery — you know, the old-fashioned FBI scientist and wrongfully-imprisoned-for-3o-years convict — teaming up to take down the imminent threat to San Francisco that Ed Harris and his group of mercenaries pose.
The Rock is a great action movie because its main characters are all smart, competent, and believable. Sure, there are head-scratching moments where you say, “But wait, when did he…” or “But wait, why did he…” But that’s an action movie. With few exceptions, action movies generally aren’t the best examples of plot-hole-free storytelling. As Christian Larson (returning guest!) says on the podcast, “As soon as you start thinking about the logic of this movie, you’re lost.” Just sit back and enjoy.
The Michael Bay cinematic hallmarks you know and love are here: slow camera circles around heroes, slow-mo unsheathing of guns, etc. It’s all wonderful, and it’s all perfect. Michael Bay has officially kicked off Action Week here at #CageClub, and has done so in dominant fashion. We all know how great Con Air and Face/Off are, but how will they compare to The Rock within the scope of #CageClub? We’ll find out soon! But I have another question: Is The Rock the most realistic movie of these three?
It’s a far-fetched question to be sure, but it may be true. I don’t want to dive too far into what the next two movies are about, as we’ll have plenty of time to write and talk about those. So let’s look at this movie on its own. Could a team of mercenaries hijack a military weapons depot and steal toxic gas? Yes, if they’re as ruthlessly efficient as they are here. Could that same team overpower an unsuspecting tour guide at Alcatraz? You bet. Everything Ed Harris’s team of men does is believable.
The unbelievable parts of this movie almost all come from the FBI’s decisions. This Cage/Connery team-up is weird and unconventional, but it’s also delightful and perfect, so it gets a pass. Would the POTUS really okay an air strike that would kill 80 civilians, even if it was to possibly save tens of thousands of lives? I don’t know, maybe? In the end, though, it doesn’t matter. The Rock is a perfect example of 90s action, a showcase for Cage The Action Star, and one of Michael Bay’s best movies. I love it.
How can I watch it? You’ll have to pay a couple bucks to watch this one, but trust me: it’s worth it.
What’s up next? It’s time to take a trip on Con Air.