Okay, perhaps I am being very hasty with making that proclamation, since I'll admit I haven't seen any other Michael Bay film other than this one and ARMAGEDDON. Still, I cannot imagine that this much-maligned director has made a better action movie than this one. ARMAGEDDON was an ugly, bloated, flagrantly manipulative piece of action drivel. THE ROCK, on the other hand, may be just as manipulative, but I'll pick this very good pure action flick over ARMAGEDDON any day.
What's good about this particular action movie? Unlike ARMAGEDDON, THE ROCK doesn't attempt to be something more than good action entertainment. There are no synethetic emotions and all that nauseatingly insistent patriotism that seriously marred ARAMGEDDON, despite the fact that the antagonist of this movie is a former general who is looking for restitution for families of soldiers who died in combat under his command. THE ROCK is purely what it is, an action flick. As it turns out, it is a very skillful one at that, with convincing performances from all three leads (Sean Connery, Nicholas Cage, and Ed Harris) and exciting action scenes all around.
As for the plot, no, it is not particularly fresh (with elements borrowed from DIE HARD and even PULP FICTION), but the script adds some interesting elements to the equation, particularly with Ed Harris' General Hummel, who all throughout shows significant sympathetic human dimensions that make him stand out from the usual one-dimensional snarling villain. I liked those touches, as well as the twist at the end, in which the villains of the story seem to shift. It is with that twist that THE ROCK truly does stand apart from the action-movie crowd.
I always love a good action movie, and THE ROCK is definitely one of the good (if not absolutely great) ones. Recommended.