Con Air (1997)
Release Date: June 6th, 1997 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Simon West Actors: Nicolas Cage, Monica Potter, John Malkovich, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle, Colm Meaney, Rachel Ticotin, Danny Trejo, Landry Allbright
ratuitous violence, glorious explosions, and mind-boggling action sequences abound in Simon West’s maniacal thrill ride “Con Air.” While most of the stunts will have viewers questioning logic and where exactly gravity disappeared to, this high-flying actioner takes off faster than a jet plane and manages to stay afloat without any stops for refueling. Marked by an abundance of psychotically spot-on performances and hopelessly cheesy one-liners, “Con Air” certainly never lets up on the adrenaline-pumping action, even as it dabbles in themes of camaraderie, vigilantism, and familial drama.
On his return home, decorated U.S. Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicholas Cage) is tragically convicted of manslaughter after defending his wife from drunken assailants. After spending eight years in prison, Poe is finally paroled and, as luck would have it, his ride to freedom happens to be on board the “Jailbird,” an enormous plane transporting a horde of the most dangerous criminals alive. When the ruthless prisoners, led by the sadistic Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich), make a daring mutiny of the aircraft, Poe chooses to stay aboard to help a friend, save the innocent prison guards, and, of course, the day – all while meting out his own brand of unrelenting justice to the band of crazed cutthroats.
The neurotic character designs are quite possibly the only redeeming factors in this mindless blow-‘em-up flick. “Con Air” boasts deliciously delirious performances by John Malkovich as the sinister and highly intelligent leader of the hijacking; Dave Chappelle as the quirky Pinball Parker; Ving Rhames as Diamond Dog, a murderous militant; Danny Trejo as the twisted Johnny 23; and Steve Buscemi, who highlights the crowded cast of psychos as Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene, an offshoot of Hannibal Lecter, who claims to have worn a severed head as a hat across several state borders. Meanwhile, Cage sports a tangled getup of long hair and unlikely courage, and John Cusack comes out of nowhere as U.S. Marshal Larkin, who intuitively insists that Poe is working for the good guys. With such an impressive cast of colorful criminals, it’s guaranteed that untimely demises and cheer-inducing fatalities loom around every corner.
Some say it’s the best action film of the ‘90s, while others scoff at its over-the-top absurdity and glorification of violence. But “Con Air” arrives complete with irreversible mass destruction to all vehicles and locations involved and an astonishing body count of thugs who actually deserve to perish. While the fully sane viewer may never understand why particularly ludicrous scenes weren’t omitted, much of the overabundant thrills and immoderately conceived villains only help to round out this check-your-brain-at-the-door joyride of nonstop excitement. Remarkably, “Con Air” was nominated for two Oscars, though it more befittingly won a Razzie for “Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property.”
– The Massie Twins