Friday October 16, 1998
An overhead shot of a Norman Rockwell small-town Main Street opens "Reach the Rock." It is a hot summer night, and no one is in sight until a young man (Alessandro Nivola) appears, breaking off a flagpole in front of a hardware store. He uses the pole to smash a display window. When a policeman (Bruce Norris) arrives to arrest him, he's sitting on a lawn chair, an electric fan cooling him.
We don't know immediately why Nivola's 21-year-old Robin has committed this particular act of vandalism, but once he arrives at police headquarters it's crystal-clear that he and the sergeant in charge, Phil Quinn (William Sadler), have a decidedly negative history.
A small film that discloses its meanings gradually has been set in motion. It's one that requires patience in watching a bitter but seemingly mundane battle of wits, relieved by Robin's outrageous shenanigans until an unexpectedly jolting finish takes the film to another, more intense level.
All that has gone before is suddenly thrown into sharp relief, highlighting and connecting the immaturity not only of Robin and Norris' none-to-bright Ernie--whose attempt to rendezvous with Karen Sillas' lush, sultry Donna provides the film's running gag--but also of Quinn, who for years has held an unjustified grudge against the town's troubled bad kid.
Although directed by William Ryan in an encouraging debut, "Reach the Rock" bears the familiar mark of its writer/co-producer John Hughes. Indeed, its central situation, a young man held in detention, echoes one of Hughes' best pictures, "The Breakfast Club."
"Reach the Rock" is less ambitious in that it has fewer characters, and its scale seems better suited to the small screen. However, it has the same respect for young people who have reached a crucial turning point in their lives.
"Reach the Rock" has a nice look to it, and Ryan has a sure way with actors and in dealing with inherently theatrical material. Brooke Langton, as the rich girl Robin fell in love with when he was 17, appears only fleetingly until near the film's end. When she arrives, however, she galvanizes the entire film.
Reach the Rock, 1998. R, for language. A Gramercy Pictures presentation. Director William Ryan. Producers John Hughes, Ricardo Mestres. Executive producer Christopher Cronyn. Screenplay by Hughes. Cinematographer John Campbell. Editor Jerry Greenberg. Costumes Ellen Ryba. Music John McEntire. Production designer Jeffrey Townsend. Art director Caty Maxey. Set decorator. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes. William Sadler as Quinn. Alessandro Nivola as Robin. Bruce Norris as Ernie. Karen Sillas as Donna. Brooke Langton as Lise.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times