‘Your best? Losers always whine about their best. Winners go home and fuck the prom queen…’
I’ve gone on a bit of a 90s resurgence recently so it was only natural that I would eventually turn my attention to Nicolas Kim Coppola or Nic motherfuckin’ Cage as he is more commonly known. Cage was in a glorious trilogy of insane action films in the 90s, starting with The Rock in ‘96 before moving on to Con Air and Face/Off, both of which landed in ’97.
The Rock is perhaps the least lauded of the three but it is still incredibly entertaining. Michael Bay’s action extravaganza brings together Sean Connery and Nic Cage and allows them to be as outlandishly crazy as they seem fit. Cage is at his gurning, over the top best. There are hardly any lines that don’t contain one word randomly screamed at a different volume to the rest of the sentence. The plot is ridiculous, the science laughable and the characters cliched but the glorious lack of self-awareness inherent in 90s cinema means that all of the above just makes the film more compelling.
I’m all for equal rights but in a world of safe spaces and snowflakes it is quite refreshing to hark back to a time when Sean Connery is just making casual jokes about being gang raped by his fellow prisoners or rambling on about fucking prom queens. Michael Bay’s propensity to have every black actor in his movies play the character, ‘what a rich white man thinks a black guy is like’ is a little more troublesome but that comes with the territory when sitting through a Bay production.
Aside from all the kitsch value there is actually lots of genuinely good stuff going in The Rock. Connery and Cage share an electric chemistry that recalls Connery’s pairing with Harrison Ford in The Last Crusade. The action sequences are dizzying and loud but mostly effective and Ed Harris is a unique and conflicted villain which makes such a big difference in this genre. Comic book legend Jack Kirby once commented that to make a story successful, the antagonist must be a match for the hero and in The Rock, Ed Harris more than holds his own.
I’d be interested to see what someone in their teens or early twenties now would make of The Rock. When I first watched it, it didn’t seem that weird but looking back now it is a strange viewing experience. That being said, it is a shining example of what action films used to be. Big, brash and bold but most of all, fun.
They really don’t make em’ like this any more.
I will finish on this beautiful piece of trivia about the film straight from IMDB in all it’s unedited glory:
Much of Nicolas Cage’s dialogue was ad-libbed (including the “Zeus’ butthole” line, which Michael Bay wanted to cut, but Cage insisted on having).