If watching burly men die really horrible deaths for two hours is your idea of fun, boy, are you going to love "The Rock." This is one testosterone-fueled movie.
It's also overly long and relentless in its noise and carnage, and as a result, its interesting characters are too-often eclipsed.
The film was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson, whose action-heavy credits include a couple of "Beverly Hills Cop" movies, "Top Gun," "Days of Thunder" and "Crimson Tide."
Nicolas Cage stars as a chemical-weapons expert for the FBI, the elaborately named Stanley Goodspeed. He's called upon to join a team of commandos going after another team of commandos who have taken over Alcatraz and aimed rockets filled with skin-eating, brain-stopping green stuff at San Francisco.
Leading these disgruntled commandos is Ed Harris, as an honorable general and military hero fed up with the government's refusal to compensate and honor families of men who have died in covert operations.
There's a gung-ho sequence at the beginning of the film, accompanied by annoying martial music by Nick Glennie-Smith and Hans Zimmer, in which the general and his team raid a chemical-weapons facility to steal the goods, and one hapless commando gets his face melted off.
To understate it: Yuck.
They proceed to take a group of tourists hostage on Alcatraz and set up their base in the old prison while they make their demands.
But how do the good guys get into a prison no one has ever escaped from? They need the one person who did escape and was held secretly without trial for 30 years, a tough, mysterious old prisoner played by Sean Connery.
That's when Goodspeed, who has just defused a bomb in a routine day at the office, is dragged into the effort to stop the launch. Cage brings an everyman likability to the role, spiced with his usual quirky delivery. He's a nice, erudite Beatlemaniac and dad-to-be who lacks a killer instinct.
Still, he's a determined fellow, and he's the one who tracks Connery when the prisoner escapes from the FBI and wrecks half of San Francisco in a car chase. (There are lots of obligatory stunts involving a cable car and a Humvee and a Ferrari bouncing over hills.)
All of this stuff is preamble, and there's a lot of it.
The movie doesn't really start to click until the team begins its assault on Alcatraz, in a deadly cat-and-mouse game in the tunnels to disarm the rockets before the deadline is up.
Connery and Cage are a compelling team and redeem the film from ruin despite the mechanical plot, an excessive body count and a miraculous recovery (you'll know it when you see it).
Too often, profanity substitutes for wit in the script ( lots of names are on it, never a good sign), although there's an occasional good line. It's just that usually, the loudest voice belongs to the guns.
Starring Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery
Directed by Michael Bay
Released by Hollywood Pictures
Rated R (profanity, implied sex, extreme violence)
Sun score ** 1/2
Pub Date: 6/07/96