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Case Number 07400

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Six Against The Rock

Koch Vision // 1987 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 16th, 2005

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All Rise...

Dwayne Johnson has nothing to do with this film, says Judge David Johnson.

The Charge

They said it couldn't be done.

Opening Statement

An old-school escape saga set in the granddaddy of inescapable fortresses and fronted by a great cast, Six Against the Rock is as "rock solid" a TV movie as I've ever seen.

Facts of the Case

Six Against the Rock tells the story of a 1946 escape attempt from that most infamous of prisons, Alcatraz. A handful of prisoners led by Bernie Coy (David Carradine, Kill Bill) put into a motion a risky plan to take their guards hostage and escape the island on one of the few boats that come and go.

Aiding Bernie are his good friend Martin Hibbard (David Morse, who would later return to the Rock in The Rock), soft-spoken escape artist Buddy Thompson (Jan-Michael Vincent, Airwolf), unhinged psycho Dutch Cretzer (Howard Hesseman, Head of the Class) and the nonviolent on-the-fence young prisoner Dan Durando (Paul Sanchez).

The plan is solid, and the execution thereafter is perfect—until it hits a snag. Soon the criminals find themselves shut in their cell block, with the warden and a dozen soldiers on the outside, ready to bust in by any means possible—no matter the damage. The intense pressure will fray the prisoners' alliances, and their biggest enemy will prove to be within their own ranks…

The Evidence

Despite the fact that Six Against the Rock is of the television-movie ilk, its appearance and execution lend it more of a theatrical quality. The film sports an impressive lineup of recognizable faces, headlined by David Carradine. Carradine is great as the convict who is desperate for freedom but not totally bankrupt of scruples and decency. He's enacted a strict "no killing" policy for the escape attempt. However, the unhinged Dutch Cretzer, played very sleazily by Hesseman, doesn't subscribe to the edict.

The rift that forms between the two elements of the escape team—those who don't want to kill the guards and those who will gleefully take any lethal measures to accomplish their goals—eventually leads to the crack-up and is likewise the most compelling story in the film. This unsavory alliance was tenuous from the get-go, and it only took a hitch in the plan for it to deteriorate. That's when the sparks fly, and when the flick hits it stride. Up to this point, two-thirds of the way in, the focus of Six Against the Rock was the actual prison break. This portion of the film worked well, and the setup and execution of the plan were both tense and rewarding. The movie changes gears for the final third, with the aforementioned internal crack-up and the external assault by the warden and his crew of soldiers. Then the film becomes an assault picture complete with sniper fire, automatic weapons, wanton executions of unarmed men, grenade lobbing, and slow bleeding to death.

Normally, I would think that cramming these two different approaches together in one movie would have a negative effect, but it worked for Six Against the Rock. The meltdown and inevitable confrontation with the authorities was the logical, organic next step (more than logical, in fact, as the film was based on true events). The only element I would have liked to see more of was the national attention to this incident. The disc's synopsis plays up the fact that the mutiny "seized the attention of the country," but there was little evidence of that in this re-creation. Still, this is a solid little escape flick that looks more like a theatrical film than a television movie. I enjoyed it.

Don't expect much in terms of the technical effort, however. The original fullscreen aspect ratio is preserved. The quality is fair, but this certainly looks like the nearly two-decade-old release it is. The Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo mix is hollow, lacking any kind of LFE punch.

Closing Statement

A healthy dose of star power and a well-told story make Six Against the Rock worth a look.

The Verdict

The accused is paroled, but we're all keeping a very close eye on you.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 75
Audio: 70
Extras: 20
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile

Studio: Koch Vision
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1987
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Previews


• IMDb

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