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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Solid 'Rock,' Just Don't Ask Silly Questions

One of Hollywood's big-time, big-budget, bomb's-away 1996 summer movies, "The Rock," is finally landing on Moscow's Dome Theater. And although the building itself comes off unscathed from its collision with this multizillion-dollar chunk of granite, the viewer could walk out with a severe case of whiplash after racheting through the action-packed twists and turns of the film.


For this is high-speed, high-octane (and hi, sailor) entertainment from the one-time masters of great big loud movies for real guy-type guys, Jerry Bruckheimer and the late Don Simpson. Soaring from the box office heights of "Top Gun" to the Marianas Trench of "Days of Thunder" (known cruelly in some quarters as "Spurts of Drizzle"), the two producer-guys developed a talent for -- or at least the habit of -- dropping big stars who can actually act into rigidly formulaic plots that can barely grunt, much less convey the complexities of human experience. The result, sometimes, is interesting.


And "The Rock" would have to be a mighty thick slab indeed not to be interesting with three stars like Sean Connery, Nicolas Cage and Ed Harris trodding the boards. Connery brings his grizzled authority and sardonic wit to the role of Patrick Mason, quite possibly the greatest British spy in the world (what a stretch for the old Bondsman); Cage employs his usual comic loopiness to portray Stanley Goodspeed, an FBI scientist nerd turned reluctant he-man; and Ed Harris unleashes his usual bald intensity as General Francis X. Hummel, a renegade general with a unique approach to lobbying Washington for increased military benefits.


Here's the set-up (take a deep breath): Hummel is mad because the families of the men killed on the countless covert missions he has led during America's various dirty wars cannot get benefits from a government which denies the existence of said missions, so he and a band of faithful Marines take over the abandoned prison island of Alcatraz, snatch 81 tourists there as hostages and threaten to lob poison gas missiles at nearby San Francisco unless the feds cough up $100 million in widow's weeds from a secret slush fund built up from illegal arms sales. (Exhale.) So the president decides to send in a team of elite Navy SEALS led by Mason, whom the government has kept imprisoned without trial for 33 years because he once stole all of J. Edgar Hoover's files (must have had a big van) and knows who killed John F. Kennedy and who also happens to be the only man who ever escaped (temporarily) from Alcatraz so he's the only one who knows how to get back in. (Darn, I know I saw those blueprints here the other day; cleaning lady must have thrown 'em out, I guess. Better get Mason in on this.) Goodspeed is along not because he has a funny name but in order to defuse the poison firecrackers.


Naturally, time is of the essence; Hummel has given the government 48 hours to honor the noble sacrifices of his patriotic men or else he will nobly and honorably sacrifice the lives of thousands of the patriotic citizens those same men fought and died for. (Well, no, it doesn't make much sense, but then again a lot of things don't, now do they? Like Moscow's hot-water system, for example. Or the fact that men have nipples. You could just make yourself crazy trying to figure these things out.) Naturally, there are tension-building glitches that steal precious time -- the fact that Mason keeps escaping his handlers and running amok in chase scenes on the cable cars and roller-coaster hills of San Francisco. (Bet you never saw that before, either.)


Finally we get to the techno-heavy action sequences in an elaborate labyrinth beneath the prison. There are floods, fires, bullets and grimacing. Lots of people die, the heroes get really wet (but then, mysteriously, become instantaneously dry; perhaps they're wearing terry-cloth lingerie), and San Francisco either gets saved or not -- you certainly won't find out here!


And that's our movie, and a well-done piece of work it is, too, with more wit than you normally see in this kind of thing (although, admittedly, the bar is pretty low for that competition), plenty of action, good actors going at it with gusto, and so forth and so on. What do you want? It's an action movie. You like? You'll like this one.





"The Rock" opens Friday with shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at the Dome Theater in the Renaissance Hotel at 18/1 Olimpiisky Prospekt. Tickets are the ruble equivalent of $8.50. Tel. 931-9873. Nearest metro: Prospekt Mira.