`The Rock' Is A Big, Goofy Movie We've Seen Before

------------ MOVIE REVIEW ------------

XX "The Rock," with Nicolas Cage, Sean Connery, Ed Harris. Directed by Michael Bay from a script by David Weisberg, Douglas S. Cook and Mark Rosner. Alderwood, Bella Bottega 7, Broadway Market, Chalet, Crossroads, Everett Mall, Factoria, Gateway, Issaquah 9, Kent 6, Lewis & Clark, Metro, Mountlake 9, Oak Tree, Puyallup 6, Valley drive-in. "R" - Restricted because of violence and language.

You might need to take Dramamine before entering a Michael Bay movie. The one-time music-video director has an annoying habit of finding the tightest shots, editing the heck out of them and scoring the works to loud music. He never met a moving camera he didn't like.

As with his debut "Bad Boys," Bay keeps this 131-minute action film moving right along. If you like exploding hardware, violent deaths, a cacophony of sound and Sean Connery trying to pull Schwarzenegger-like retorts as he dispatches the bad guys, has Bay got a movie for you.

This final film from the production team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson (who died in January) certainly has the energy and professional look of their best action films, "Top Gun" and last year's "Crimson Tide." Bay and the writing team of David Weisberg and Douglas S. Cook (whose only credit is the unwatchable "Holy Matrimony") have created an action film with a very low "ooh" and "ahh" factor. On the plausibility meter, it's far worse than any other Bruckheimer/Simpson action fare.

A highly decorated Brigadier General (Ed Harris) takes over Alcatraz Island with 80 hostages and threatens to fire rockets carrying lethal gas into San Francisco. He demands the government pay $100 million in benefits to families of soldiers who lost their lives in covert operations. Enter chemical expert Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage), a desk-job Fed who finds himself in the middle of a Navy SEAL unit attempting to break into the former prison.

Leading the way is top secret prisoner Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), who broke out of the famed prison years ago. Mason has his own private agenda with the FBI director (John Spencer) that leads to an escape and an unneeded car chase featuring more flying debris than "Twister."

"The Rock" is a big goofy movie that looks right when we see soldiers in action with their high-tech weapons. Yet the film has too many corny elements, including the car chase, an Indiana Jones-type railroad sequence and the reappearance of Cage's girl-friend (Vanessa Marcil). The same plot of hostages and toxic gas was executed more efficiently earlier this year in "Executive Decision."

Ed Harris does his usual professional job in a role that is far undercooked. Still an action draw in his mid-60s, Sean Connery (who also executive-produced) puts in an acceptable if ordinary performance despite an intriguing character. As some aging action stars are finding roles with more introspection (Clint Eastwood for one), Connery seems satisfied as the cool schoolmaster. There is some nice supporting work from William Forsythe as a Fed and David Morse as Harris' right-hand man.

Thank goodness for Nicolas Cage. "The Rock" is the furthest genre from his heartbreaking Oscar-winning role in "Leaving Las Vegas." Cage proves his versatility as the reluctant hero (designed by way of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan character), bringing his comic timing and droll face into perfect pitch. His first scene with Connery is giddy fun. He steals the entire picture.

One wonders when Bruckheimer and Simpson stopped caring about the banality of the situation. "Tide" was essentially made up of every submarine cliche, yet the film stood on its own. "The Rock" is a mindless, toneless exercise of the blow-'em-up school. There's no thrill in this thriller.