As relentlessly dumb and implausible as the Die Hard movies but even more entertaining, this loud and violent action film profits greatly from the galvanizing presence of Connery, who could give even a Merchant-Ivory film some backbone.
The film's flimsy premise revolves around the stalwart Harris, who plays a disgruntled Marine general, a Vietnam and Gulf wars hero. He recruits a platoon of ex-Marines to steal missiles carrying poison gas so he can set up shop on Alcatraz, aim the missiles at San Francisco and extort money from the government to pay back underappreciated clandestine Marine commandos.
The plausibility level isn't boosted by Connery's character. Scruffy, longhaired and looking like a latter-day Howard Hughes in the movie's early scenes, Connery is supposed to be a former British secret agent who has become an escape expert while being held without trial for 30 years for stealing J. Edgar Hoover's secret files. He's recruited because he once escaped from Alcatraz and knows a secret way in. (Cage plays a quirky FBI chemical weapons expert.) As the plot focus bounces between Connery and Harris, things get loonier and loonier, bloodier and bloodier.
The action sequences inside the rotting hulk of the old prison are dimly lit and tough to follow, and the dialogue is saturated with clichés. Characters frequently pause in mid-crisis to philosophize about the nature of justice. The Rock would have had a hard time cracking anyone's list of Top 10 films made about Alcatraz were it not for Connery, who always manages to preserve a film's dignity as well as his own. (R)