The Rock - Two-disc special edition (15)

Review by Jack Foley

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director, producer, cast and crew; Analysis of the dive sequence; Movie Magic: Episode of the film's special effects; Out-takes; Production stills; World Premiere Event on Alcatraz; Theatrical trailer; Storyboards; Dos and Don'ts of Hollywood gun play; Interview with Jerry Bruckheimer; The Secrets of Alcatraz; Navy Seals on the Range.

NICOLAS Cage took on The Rock in 1996 off the back of an Oscar-winning performance in the ultra-dark Leaving Las Vegas and raised a few eyebrows among audiences who never viewed him as an action-lead. In truth, the teaming-up of Cage and former James Bond, Sean Connery, seemed like an unlikely pairing...

The result, however, was pure Box Office dynamite and The Rock was one of the most enjoyable action movies of its year, paving the way for Cage's action man turns in the likes of Con Air (1997), Face/Off ('97) and Gone In 60 Seconds (2000) - his latest, Windtalkers, opens later this year in cinemas (2002).

The premise is simple. The Rock in question is Alcatraz, former prison-turned-tourist site, which is taken over by Ed Harris's deocrated but pissed-off General in a bid to secure pensions for the widows of dead, 'deniable', Special Forces colleagues.

Armed with four VX-gas missiles and having taken 83 hostages, Harris threatens to blow up half of San Francisco if the demands aren't met; but hasn't counted on the partnership of Cage's Beatles-loving FBI chemicals boffin and Connery's incarcerated ex-SAS officer to save the day.

The spin being, of course, that rather than escaping from Alcatraz, the rescuing team of Navy SEALS must break back in and rid the island of its unwanted visitors.

Directed at breakneck, breathless speed by Michael Bay and produced by Mr Action himself, Jerry Bruckheimer (with the late Don Simpson), The Rock rises above its cliches to become an effortlessly enjoyable crowd-pleaser; the type of which features one of the more memorable car chases through the streets of San Francisco, some sparkling on-screen chemistry between Cage and Connery and some terrific shoot-'em-up scenarios.

Characterisation plays distinctly second-fiddle, however (there is a sub-plot involving Connery's long-awaited reunion with his daughter, plus Cage's pregnant girlfriend standing to be blown up to add to the tension), for this is largely about the action and boy does Bay deliver.

The director had already collaborated with Bruckheimer on the no-less enjoyable Bad Boys but here reaches his pinnacle - before losing his way, slightly, with the over-pumped Armageddon and, totally, with Pearl Harbor.

With The Rock, though, there was no real burden of expectation and as preposterous as the premise remains, the stars clearly seem to be getting into the spirit of the occasion, delivering quip after quip to counter the explosions. Harris may come across a little too earnest at times, but also adds some much-needed gravitas to some of the Bond-inspired proceedings, while Connery is simply delightful as the escapologist locked away by the FBI who must now become their ally.

The two-disc special edition DVD comes completes with commentaries from cast, crew and a former Navy SEAL, as well as special effects secrets, demonstrations on how to properly shoot a gun, out-takes (including a stressed-out Harris) and 'The Secrets of Alcatraz', which features a short history on the prison.

Action purists will, no doubt, lap it up. Now roll on the special edition releases of other Cage action classics...