Color me confused. Here I was under the impression that The Rock was a film about rock ‘n’ roll, specifically the rock. The story of a rock-obsessed bureaucrat who must free a Scottish rock icon from prison in order to guide him to a reunion gig at the sight of his greatest triumph. Instead, the film is a non-stop shoot ‘em up thrill ride, long on action but short on music. This may be the most misleading film I’ve ever come across. It’s borderline criminal.
Director Michael Bay’s film prior to The Rock, Bad Boys, told the improbably violent story of Inner Circle, the group behind the well-known theme song to the show Cops. Before he was making big budget feature films, Bay was a director of music videos. His résumé included music videos for Aerosmith and Meat Loaf including his epic Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through, not to be confused with Rock ‘n’ Roll Dreams’ll Come Through by Barry Dworkin and the Gas Station Dogs.
The Rock constantly teases rock ‘n’ roll fun but never brings them to fruition. Between Michael Bay’s experience with music videos and starring a die-hard Elvis fan in Nicolas Cage, The Rock would seemingly be the greatest rock ‘n’ roll movie ever. Except it isn’t about music. At all.
Cage headlines the misleading cast of characters, having previously dressed up as Elvis in Honeymoon in Vegas and having sung Elvis songs in Wild at Heart. His character, Stanley Goodspeed, is a self-proclaimed Beatles-maniac. He purchases original pressings for hundreds of dollars, and plays a hollow-bodied Gretsch guitar following stressful day. When first encountering John Mason (Sean Connery), Goodspeed remarks that his hairstyle would be befitting a guitarist from Seattle. “It’s a grunge thing,” he casually remarks. Later in the film, Goodspeed kills a bad guy, but only after referencing Elton John’s Rocket Man. Yet they don’t actually play the song. All of these casual rock ‘n’ roll references prove that The Rock is nothing more than a sick prank.
When Connery’s John Mason is first introduced his hair is wild and flowing, looking like a metal legend. Except he isn’t a wrongfully convicted metal pioneer, he’s more like a rehashed James Bond. Even then, they don’t even have Mason be related to Dave Mason. Just another wasted opportunity. At one point, Mason leads Goodspeed on a high-speed chase through the streets of San Fransisco (and during some cutaways San Pedro). This chase feels like a reference to The Blues Brothers, but The Blues Brothers at least put a couple of musical numbers between chaotic car chases.
The film’s disgruntled military unit seeks to get their way through the threat of violence, a chemical warfare holocaust to be precise. It’s like they’ve never even considered the power of a protest song. If they practiced their instruments as frequently as they fire their guns, they’d be rock gods by now. Ed Harris as Gen. Hummel would make a pretty badass band leader. But they choose to stick with chemical warfare instead of covering the Dead Kennedy’s Chemical Warfare.
Other misleading actors and characters in the film are Todd Louiso as Marvin Isherwood. Louiso is best known for playing one of the record store clerks in High Fidelity, and though he briefly discusses the Beatles album that Goodspeed buys, his character has no discernable record knowledge. Another character actor that appears has such a purposefully misleading name that it’s impossible not deduce malicious intent by the filmmakers – David Bowe. If you’re not paying close enough attention, you may be mistaken into thinking David Bowie appears in this film. That is not the case. His name is David Bowe. B-O-W-E. He did appear in a film called UHF, starring a guy named Al Yankovic and directed Jay Levey who has yet to direct another feature film. I doubt that movie rocks.
Hard as tried, I couldn’t find myself enjoying The Rock. I sat through action scene after action scene, patiently awaiting the rock I was promised. And in order to satisfy the perverse fetishes of the filmmakers, they continually mock and tease the audience with promises of rock that’ll never come. There’s action. It’s on a rock. However, at no point is there any actual rock.
Michael Bay has quit making music videos, but he’s never stopped misleading audiences. His film The Island has nothing to do with Island Records. This summer he’ll release his fourth Transformers movie. Despite what you may think, these films have nothing to do with Lou Reed’s legendary album. David Bowie produced the album Transformer, David Bowe appears in Transformers 2. Coincidence? I think not. It’s further evidence of Michael Bay’s complete contempt for a rock ‘n’ roll loving audience. Need further evidence? Here. I rest my case.