Frenetically edited and paced like a bulldozer descending a mountain, The Rock felt like an upping of the ante for Hollywood action films the summer of its release, and time has only confirmed that notion. While its ability to induce headaches is just one of the film's flaws, it also points to what sets The Rock and successive Jerry Bruckheimer action films apart: it may not have substance, but it does have a philosophy. Dispensing with the standard setup/payoff formula of action filmmaking, Bruckheimer's stable of video-trained directors make every shot look like a payoff, as if they're all taken from the climax of the film. Of course, this also means that after a while -- for all but the most attention span-deprived viewers -- no shot works as a payoff. The film is thrilling for the few minutes it takes to become numbing. Of course, the general vapidity of Bruckheimer's films doesn't help and, in this, The Rock proves no exception. Sean Connery seems bored in most scenes, while Nicolas Cage's familiar histrionics do little to ground the already out-of-control proceedings. Only Ed Harris, as a reluctant villain, lends any gravity. Historically significant without being all that interesting in itself, The Rock's financial success insured that its dubious influence would be felt for years to come.
by Keith Phipps review