Hollywood Pictures // 1996 // 136 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // June 1st, 1999
Alcatraz. Only one man has ever broken out. Now five million lives depend on two men breaking in.
Nonstop action and one of the best car chases of recent memory serve the hunter/gatherer community, of which I am a proud member, very well. IF you are a guy, and you love guy movies, then The Rock is for you!
Being the new DVD kid on the block has its advantages. How, you might ask? Well, for one, I get to keep asking you all for feedback and delivering on promises I make. I'm never short of ideas, just the ability to execute them, for another. But, one of the things I like best is the ability to go back into the past to review one of the old "standards" of yesteryear. And I do mean yesteryear. As in last year, or the year before. This review is one of those opportunities. Today I get to review one of the earliest demo discs, the one that a lot of sales guys relied on for a while to sell electronic equipment and to demo new product at the nationwide shows. Best of all, I get to compare this old material to the new standards of today, with all the leaps and bounds we have made in production capabilities, and menu design and all the rest. So hold onto your seats. Here we go.
The Rock has what was one of the best pictures around when it was introduced in December 1997. People ooh'd and ahh'd over this one for quite a while. It holds up pretty well, all things considered. The folks at Disney actually did a pretty nice job here, considering this is not an anamorphically enhanced disc. The detail is pretty solid and the colors are very strong. This disc does not exhibit any of the trouble spots of other early production discs, such as shimmering or ringing or over-enhancement. For a letterbox picture, this is almost as good as it gets. I would still stack this disc up against Die Hard any day and say they are about equal in quality. However, this picture cannot compare to the best of today's best. Put this picture up against Blade or one of the better anamorphic pictures, and the difference is evident immediately. Close but not quite good enough.
The sound here is, in a word, awesome. This is the second reason this disc was favored as demo quality for a long time. With many, many booms and bangs and other explosions, this disc will keep you on the edge of your seat for the full 136 minutes. With plenty of directional effects and big bangs to test your equipment, is it any wonder this disc got so much play in retail establishments trying to sell John Q on the benefits of upgrading to Dolby Digital? I don't think so.
As far as knuckle-dragger fare goes, this disc is actually quite good. The acting and story are certainly better than the average "guy" flick. Whether you attribute this to Ed Harris' portrayal of General Hummel, or Sean Connery's Mason, or Nic Cage's Goodspeed, I don't care. The bottom line is that this film is actually well acted and written. There is just enough character development thrown in to satisfy most questions as we go along. As pissed as I am at our government, I can actually see some points to Hummel's motivations here. Frankly, it is a nice twist compared to the standard Russian/Middle Eastern/ Pakistani/ Colombian/Fill in the blank terrorist plot on American soil of so many guy films today. Maybe that is what caught me off guard the first time I saw the film. I don't know. All I know is I like it, compared to most others of the same genre.
The big weakness here, which is fairly typical of Disney, is the complete lack of extras included on the disc. All we get is a theatrical trailer. And the menus are nothing to speak of either, which is not such a bad thing considering when this disc was produced. Now, if Disney re-issued this film as a Special Edition with an anamorphic transfer, a commentary by director Michael Bay, Ed Harris, Sean Connery and Nic Cage, as well as some extensive behind the scenes work, I would be much happier. Frankly, Criterion should have given this film the SE treatment rather than the abominable Armageddon. Oh well, one can hope, right?
If you are into big bangs, car chases, poison gas rockets, Navy SEALs, Marine Force Recons, Nic Cage, Sean Connery or Ed Harris, you must have this disc. If you like chick flicks, go stand in the corner and say four Hail Marys. Maybe one day you'll see the light.
Acquitted on all counts but extras. Pay $500 fine, directly to Sean McGinnis, c/o DVD Verdict.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Hollywood Pictures
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
Running Time: 136 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailers