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Why the The Rock is an Awesome Movie

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Why the The Rock is an Awesome Movie

If you look on the right hand side of this blog, I attempt to impart some artistic excellence on y'all, from recommended books, to websites, to music and movies. Of this last group, which includes some indisputable classics (Casablanca, East of Eden), some quintessential American films (Rocky), and a lot noir/dark, twisted flicks, from the old school and hidden (Detour) to irrefutable newer, popular gems (Memento, American History X, Fight Club), these are movies everyone should like (and, seriously, if you don't like Spinal Tap you're wrong).  Even if there are some films included on this list that you don't like, you are still forced to recognize a certain prevailing, underlying pattern and theme, a championing of the disenfranchised, a visceral grittiness, core-cutting attempts to extract the human condition from the mundane or wretched, all told from the perspective of cool or irreverent, or at least with a kick-ass soundtrack, all of which adds up to respectability, if nothing else. Then there's The Rock.

Which is sort of like this old Sesame Street clip

(And I'm not going to accuse Sesame Street of racism, but I would like to point out they have the only non-person of color hanging upside down.)

I know The Rock isn't, technically, a great movie.  Or even a passably good one. OK, on virtually every front it's bad.  At least in terms of the usual barometers one might use to grade films.  For starters, it's directed by Michael Bay, who probably will never find his way into a sentence with the words "critically acclaimed" or "not a total douche" in them.  The dialogue is ham-handed, clunky, some lines downright painfully laughable.  There are major, gaping plot holes (like, how exactly does Sean Connery lead the FBI on a high-speed chase up, down, and over San Francisco's hills, shit blowing up by the block, and no one dies?).  And some of the worst exposition you'll find ("He was a top operative...")  Still, one criterion I use for including movies on my pantheon of awesome is the TBS Factor.  Meaning, when I am wasting a lazy Sunday (, flicking through stations, and I stumble on TBS movies, which ones am I physically incapable of turning off? There are two.  Goodfellas.  And The Rock.

The Rock is a perfect storm of awesomely bad.  You've got Nick Cage at his over-acting best, Sean Connery playing, well, Sean Connery, the underrated Ed Harris pulling off bald like no one's business (and supplying the only bona fide acting chops in the entire movie).  You've got the tailor-made hero's journey, the grizzled mentor figure, the protagonist with the highly specialized area of expertise, a fish out of water story, man goes on a journey and stranger comes to town, and the villains--misguided though-trying-to-find justice American patriot, the shifty, evil FBI guy, the mean mercenaries who only want money, no glory, no America.  And it's got this:

If you are a fan of the Wandering Jews and have a copy our seminal (very) underground classic, Clean Living, you might recognize this clip as the sample that plays before the shortest "Rocket Man" on record (I am making that up).

In short, The Rock manages a Mike Ness song on celluloid, able to cram and construct an entire film composed almost entirely of cliches.

I've always been a sucker for the carefully timed cliche.  I mean, cliches are like stereotypes; they wouldn't be in existence if there wasn't at least a kernel of truth in them (although I take offense that you have to be crazy or tortured to be an artist; that gym rats are shallow and only concerned with appearances; and that guys who play fantasy football are wannabe be jocks who sucked at sports in high school.  I made the freshman football team!  "So did everyone, Joe...").

Plus, The Rock is set in San Francisco.  And every time Sean Connery says "Womack," it makes me smile.

All of which adds up to...

OK.  I can't defend it.  I tried.  I failed.  It's a giant clumsy ball of cheese (and I have to get going to the gym, because I practice this afternoon.  Holy shit.  I am cliche).  Everyone's got their guilty pleasures.  Justine has every single goddamn reality TV show ever made.  I have The Rock.  Liking The Jersey Shore and those fat Italian tarts is stupid.  Liking The Rock, that's different.  It's...ironical, right?  Like self-aware hip-hop references from white people

Maybe I am as guilty as everyone else when it comes to my likes and dislikes, and I no better than the jackasses who watch "Dancing with the Fat Housewives" or whatever the fuck people are watching these days.  But I'd like to believe I simply have a finer appreciation for excellence, awesomely bad or otherwise.

Plus, how can you argue with a movie that has this line?

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At September 15, 2011 at 11:52 AM , Blogger Sean Craven said...

Good taste is overrated. The end result of applying relentless good-taste in this culture would inevitably be a cross-state killing spree.

My taste is bad. Exquisitely refined, but bad. I just saw a clip of a guy in a bear suit belting some girl, and hey! I am going to watch The Wicker Man. And I will probably love it.

That's what I love about Nick Cage. If you can catch diseases by saying 'yes' to scripts? He's got them all.

At September 15, 2011 at 6:53 PM , Blogger Joe Clifford said...

It's like the Zack Galifiniakis's Between Two Ferns with Bruce Willis: "You know some people actually turn down movie roles?"


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