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The Rock tells the story of USMC Brigadier-General Francis X. Hummel who, enraged at how his men have been treated by the country that they served, steals a truckload of Deadly Gas and holes up on Alcatraz Island (hence the title), threatening to kill San Francisco unless the government gives him a buttload of money to help out military widows and orphans.
The administration responds by sending in Stanley Goodspeed (Cage), a chemical warfare expert, and John Mason (Connery), a British secret agent turned Alcatraz fugitive turned full-time convict. Oh, and a SEAL team led by Michael Biehn, but they don't last long...
No relation to the wrestler turned actor, he is under Dwayne Johnson.
- Action Duo: Goodspeed and Mason.
- Action Survivor: Goodspeed starts like this before becoming a real Action Hero.
- The Alcatraz: The original, naturally. ("The Rock" being its nickname among the prisoners).
- Anti-Villain: Hummel (Type III -> Type I). He just wants compensation for the families of dead soldiers, and though he is using extreme methods, he very much regrets his men killing the SEALs, and in the end he was bluffing the entire time. Pity his men weren't.
Hummel: I'm not about to kill 80,000 innocent people! Do you think I'm out of my fucking mind? We bluffed, they called it. The mission is over.
- Badass Bookworm: Stanley Goodspeed. Also Mason, who presumably became one while in prison. At one point he laments that he'd have rather been a poet.
- Badass Grandpa: John Mason, Ex-SAS man and one of the few to escape the rock.
- Blast Out: When Hummel informs Captains Frye and Darrow plus Gunny Crisp that he plans to abort the mission, a Mexican standoff ensues, with Hummel's second-in-command Major Baxter being the only one not participating. When Frye tells him to pick a side, Baxter opens up on the mutinous officers.
- Blue Eyes: Hummel has these.
- Boxed Crook: John Mason
- Brick Joke: A morbidly hilarious one: Goodspeed is listening to the Elton John song Rocketman early in the film with his girlfriend. This leads to his Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
- Camp Gay: The hairstylist.
- Casual Danger Dialogue: Goodspeed, when he's working:
Stanley: Alright guys, good news. The bomb is fitted to a timer and there's enough C4 attached to level the building. Bad news is this gas is corrosive and it's eating through our [chemical] suits.
- Chase Scene: Uses just about every Trope on that list.
- Chekhov's Gun: The atropine and signal flares.
- The motion sensor one of the marines installs.
- Mason's "special operations gear": kerosene, washers and waterproof matches. The kerosene and matches he uses to set a marine on fire, and the washer is used to break out of an Alcatraz prison cell.
- Conservation of Ninjitsu: After the SEA Ls are gunned down, it's up to Goodspeed and Mason to take down the Marines. Doesn't work out so well for the Marines.
- Cool Car: Ferrari chases Hummer.
- Crazy Prepared: Mason defines this.
- Curb Stomp Battle: The battle between the SEALs and Hummel's forces.
- Curse Cut Short: See Killed Mid-Sentence below.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mason and Goodspeed.
- Deadly Dodging: The fist fight between Mason and a Mook near the end.
- Death Faked for You: Mason in the end, by Goodspeed.
- Deconstruction: Mason is a pretty cool James Bond Expy, isn't he? He's got everything! Played by Sean Connery? Check. Badass Deadpan Snarker? Check. Prone to one-night stands? Check. Skilled at escaping death through creative means? Check. Left embittered and cynical after being secretly held as a political prisoner for years because the consequences of international espionage finally caught up with him? Uh...
- Well, that does vaguely describe Die Another Day, which came after.
- The Dragon: David Morse's Major Baxter to Ed Harris' General Hummel. He eventually follows Hummel in his Heel Face Turn and gets killed along with him.
- Darrow is also Captain Frye's Dragon.
- Elites Are More Glamorous: Marine Corps Force Recon faces off against the Navy SEALs and a former member of the the British Special Air Service. And Goodspeed. Zig Zagged--the Recon slaughters the SEALS, but are killed by one SAS.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Hummel never shows any regret for what he did, but in the end he makes it clear it was all a bluff, and he's not about to launch neurotoxins on an unsuspecting city full of innocent people.
- Expy: John Mason, a character who is James Bond in all but name. Even shares his background and played by Sean Connery.
- Flashed Badge Hijack: Stanley does it to hijack a Ferrari. Which gets destroyed, of course.
- Foreshadowing: In the shower room scene, Hummel is unwilling to shoot the SEALs while in contrast Frye and Darrow are eager to do it and take enjoyment in doing so.
- Foreign Cuss Word: The Filipino chef cusses out Sean Connery as he barges through the hotel's kitchens.
- Four-Star Badass: Hummel.
- Genre Savvy: Hummel threatens to kill a hostage in exchange for the guidance chips that Mason and Goodspeed stole. When Goodspeed looks as though he might actually give them back, Mason snatches them and destroys the chips.
- Girlish Pigtails: Carla put them on once, since it seems Stanley has a thing for them.
- Hero Stole My Bike: Stanley
Guy: "Hey, man, you just fucked up your Ferrari!"
- Mason and the Humvee also qualify. When the vehicle's outraged owner calls the Humvee's phone, Mason responds "I'm only borrowing it".
- Historical In-Joke: One of the marines starts beating up Mason, calls him an "English prick". (the character's from Glasgow, but ID'd himself as SAS earlier) He takes a few more pokes at Mason, then goes "Did I mention my father was Irish?"
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Frye and Darrow, who were most eager to launch the missiles, are exposed to the lethal substance and launched on one of the rockets respectively.
- Honor Before Reason: Stanley courageously continuing the mission to stop Hummel alone in spite of having virtually none of the combat abilities of Mason, who has just abandoned him.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Hummel didn't realize that Frye and Darrow were amoral mercenaries until it was too late.
- Hypocritical Humor: Some between Hummel and Mason during their first conversation. Hummel accuses Mason of not knowing what it's like to see your government betray the memory of their soldiers. Mason, of course, spent half his life in prison (including the one they're standing in) because the British disavowed him.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Darrow who falls on a sharp fence post after he has been propelled through the window by the rocket fired by Goodspeed..
- Ironic Echo: "Welcome to the Rock."
- It Always Rains At Funerals: Kind of. There's no funeral, but it's pouring when Hummel goes to visit his wife's grave, just prior to his theft of the nerve gas. He's more or less apologizing to her for what he's going to do.
- Played straight with the Marine Honor Guard giving a volley of gunfire for....someone.
- Just Plane Wrong: The Air Force is sent to bomb Alcatraz to neutralize the nerve gas but they're flying F/A-18 Hornets, which are exclusively Navy (and Marine) fighter/ground attack jets. The Air Force would've been flying F-15E Strike Eagles for this role.
- Kill It with Fire: The Thermite Plasma, designed specifically to burn hot enough to render VX harmless.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Random marine: "I said shut the fu--" (Mason snaps his neck).
- Knight Templar: Averted as Hummel, although a very sympathetic villain, had never intended to launch the Missile.
- Large Ham: Nic Cage, unsurprisingly.
- Last Stand: We hear the radio chatter of Hummel's Marines fighting one over the opening credits. Help doesn't arrive.
- Malevolent Architecture: The way John Mason gets in/out of the cistern room (under the furnaces with belching fire and turning gears). Mason: "I memorized the timing. I just hope it hasn't been changed..."
- A Man Is Always Eager: Averted. After decades of imprisonment, Mason is eager for freedom in general, but he mentions nothing about getting a girlfriend. This is almost certainly due to his age.
- Meaningful Name: The etymology of Stanley Goodspeed's last name.
- Francis Hummel's surname. Hummel is the German term for Bumblebee, who are well-known to be by far less aggressive and dangerous compared to other types of bees (like asps), despite being quite big. Yet, it may still have been unintentional on the directors' part.
- Minecart Madness
- Monster Sob Story: Hummel's back story.
- My God, What Have I Done?: The general didn't realize until it was too late that some of his men were only in it for the money and not the cause. Oops.
- Hummel actually says this before dying.
- Neck Snap
- Never Found the Body: Of course they didn't. Mason wasn't anywhere near the explosion that allegedly vaporized him. Goodspeed just reported that so that Mason could escape.
- Never Hurt an Innocent: The general was bluffing. His men aren't.
- Non-Lethal Warfare: The Recon Marines neutralize the naval arsenal without killing any guards, not wanting to kill fellow Marines. Of course they were still brutally effective without bullets. The reinforcements brought to Alcatraz dont have any qualms like that.
- Operation Game of Doom: Disarming the nerve gas rockets - the capsules are VERY fragile, one brush can mean one shattering and dropping.
- Outrun the Fireball: When the marines fireflush the drains.
- Pet the Dog: Before the attack, Hummel tries to convince a school tour group to get back on the ferryboats to San Francisco.
- Precision F-Strike: Goodspeed, who rarely curses in the movie ("Cut me some friggin' slack!") throws one out as he force-feeds a deadly poison capsule to Captain Frye.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner
Goodspeed: [handling VX gas] You know how this shit works?
- Also, Goodspeed force-feeding a mook with a VX gas ball: "Eat that, you fuck!"
- Prison Rape: Not a problem these days. Mason must be losing his sex appeal.
- Alluded to figuratively in the Alcatraz shower room: "We are so fucked!"
- "Possible penetration point in the shower room."
- Psycho for Hire: Hummel hired mercenaries. Doesn't work out for him in the end when they learn they're not getting paid.
- Redemption Equals Death: Hummel and his former friend Baxter get killed by the ruthless marines, once they decided to not fire the rockets on civilians..
- Redshirt Army: The SEAL team. A real SEAL Team no less. Dennis Chalker and Harry Humphries were two of half a dozen SEALS who advised and performed some of the scenes in the film, with Snake actually landing a part. They only really end up in this situation because they're outnumbered and pinned down in an inferior tactical situation...
- Right Man in the Wrong Place: Stanley Goodspeed.
- San Francisco: See Chase Scene above. Nearly every landmark is menaced by a missile or raced by in a Ferrari. Nearly every San Francisco stereotype is present too.
- Scary Black Man: The knife-wielding Captain Darrow (played by Tony Todd which makes him more frightening).
- Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Trope Namer.
- Semper Fi: Although being the bad guys, the Marines here take out a SEAL team.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Goodspeed and Mason.
- Shot to the Heart: Stanley does the self-administered version to counter the effects of poison gas.
- Signature Style: Bay's usual Dutch Angles are in full effect.
- Smug Snake: Womack", you piece of shit!"
- The Starscream: Captain Frye who becomes the real Big Bad after he and his accomplices killed Hummel and his longtime friend Baxter.
- Stuff Blowing Up: It's a Michael Bay movie.
- Television Geography: One of the nerve gas missiles is fired towards "a football game", apparently heading for the Oakland Coliseum. When the camera shows the missile seconds away from its target, the stadium shown is actually Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Wrong side of the Bay, Bay.
- The car chase is all over the place geographically.
- The FBI mobile command center is shown to be situated at a warehouse on Pier 39. In reality Pier 39 is a heavily developed shopping center and tourist trap in Fisherman's Wharf.
- Title Drop: "Welcome to the Rock!"
- "The Rock has become a tourist attraction?"
- "It looks like you're caught between The Rock and a hard case."
- Took a Level in Badass: Goodspeed started as a mild mannered lab rat who never swore. He ends the film by force-feeding the remaining merc VX gas, stabbing himself in the heart with the anti-VX agent, and manages to gather enough strength to avert the firebombing of Alcatraz.
- Tragic Villain: Hummel's not even a real villain, he's just seeking reparations for the men betrayed by their government after trying every official channel.
- Tranquillizer Dart: In the opening scene, the mercenaries use tranq darts on the soldiers guarding the chemical weapons depot. All of them fall unconscious immediately.
- Trapped in Containment: First to showcase the nasty effects of VX on a poor rebel, and the second that introduces us to Goodspeed's skills.
- Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: "All I need to know is Did you like your haircut?"
- Unperson: Mason. Even Goodspeed's FBI buddy has a hard time locating him in the Bureau of Prisons database. At the end of the movie John Mason effectively fakes his own death, putting him beyond the reach of just about everybody.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Hummel, driven to extremes to get compensation for the families of soldiers killed on secret missions.
- By virtue of his rank and the gravity of the threat posed by his scheme to San Francisco (even if he didn't mean to carry it out, his men certainly did), Hummel is also arguably a Ripper.
- Western Terrorists: All-American heroes, no less.
- Who Shot JFK?: Mason is in jail because he stole microfilm containing, among other things, this very secret.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Mason refused to give back the microfilm because he knew the government would "suicide" him.