Con Air (1997) Movie Review

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AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!! *inhales* AAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!! Lets talk about Con Air

Con Air isn’t just any old action film, it’s an action film that literally walks on top of a fence.  One 1 side of the fence is the action film that is taken seriously, and on the other is the action film that is so over the top, stupid and cartoony in execution, that the sole purpose of the film is to almost parody other action films.  What made Con Air unable to fall into either camp, is the fact that it was intended as a rather serious action film (especially in 1997) – but the acting, writing, characters, music, story and action scenes all cry out “Fun, and not just any fun, but stupid, brainless fun that’s too good to ignore”.  Look at it!  Just look at it!

So what’s the story?  Well, it stars Nicolas Cage (The man who will take any acting job and run with it) as Cameron Poe, an army ranger from Alabama who goes to a bar to meet up with his recently pregnant wife.  When he accidentally kills a 1-dimensional regular at his wife’s bar in a parking lot in self-defence (Yes, a man who wants to beat up a ranger and stab him, just because he was seeing his wife and she wasn’t serving them drinks), Poe is sentenced to a jail term.  Due to Poe’s combat experience and following his lawyer’s advice to admit to murder, he ends up going to jail for 7-10 years, after being told it would be 4 years if he owed up.  He serves his time, and then in order to go home, he becomes the passenger of a prison plane, which also contains 90% of our other main characters.  The plane is expertly taken over by 3 inmates, leading to the events of the film, and the line “Welcome to Con Air”.

Acting-wise, Con-Air is taken rather seriously, but sometimes the deliveries are so amusing it’s like hearing lines in The Simpsons (especially in the McBain movies), John Cusack is an example of this as he tells of Diamond Dog’s film possibly having Denzel Washington as the lead actor.  Also, in general, just take a look at this cast!  Yes, Nicolas Cage is in it, but you have John Malkovich as your main villain…John…fecking…Malkovich!  You can’t go wrong…also, this film is proof to his skills, as his lines were being changed on him every day during the shoot, and he hated working on it.  We’ll discuss his character in the next paragraph, so consider some other great choices; you have Steve Buscemi as “The Marrietta Mangler” Garland Greene, A mild-mannered serial killer who is presented like a Hannabil Lector-sort.  He’s absolutely brilliant in this!  You also have Colm Meaney (A perfect actor for Detective Ariel if I ever saw 1) as Duncan Malloy in the DEA (the guy who compliments John Cusack’s Vince Larkin), Danny Trejo as Johnny-23, Ving Rhames (Marcelus Wallace in Pulp Fiction) as Diamond Dog,  and Rachel Ticotin (the brunette in Total Recall) as Guard Sally Bishop.

Character-wise I’m guessing that Nicolas Cage is playing a sort of “every-man” since he’s not as big or characterised as Arnie or Sly.  But it’s possible that Cameron Poe is suppose to be the first Hillbilly action hero (He’s from Alabama and he has a mullet.  All you needed was for his wife and daughter to live in a mobile home and for him to have a NASCAR baseball cap to complete the picture).  Is it different?  Or is it designed to appeal to a certain demographic?  Personally, I don’t want to answer that.  John Malkovich as Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom is easily 1 of the most fun and awesome villains ever created with some of the most priceless scenes in cinema history (especially “The bunny” scene.  Take that Michael Corleone in a restaurant with a corrupt cop and drug lord!).  Dave Chappelle as Joe “Pinball” Parker did a good job as the stereotypical sneaky-prisoner who helps Cyrus The Virus and Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones.  Renoly as Ramon “Sally Can’t Dance” Martinez clearly embraced his prison bike role, but he doesn’t get much screen time.  Danny Trejo as Johnny-23 is another character that incorporates Danny’s wide range of tattoos into films (in this instance, the 23 hearts on his arms are used to represent his victims), his role is small but rather memorable.  Nick Chinlund as Billy Bedlam is basically a stereotypical bitter american con (hairy man who killed his wife’s family), M.C. Gainey as “Swamp Thing” the newest pilot for Con Air and clearly meant to be a large, mississippi muscle with an awesome mustache to go with his mullet, and of course, Cameron Poe’s friend in jail, Mike “Baby-O” O’Dell, whose soul purpose and 99% of his lines are to demand his insulin for his diabetes and be a side-mission for Cameron while the plane was on the ground when he doesn’t get any.

Music-wise there are only 4-5 songs and the rest is score by Trevor Rabin (primarily that theme goes DUUUUUUUN…DUN DUNNNNNNNNN), so you have Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd (an ironic choice), Steve Buscemi singing He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands (I really need that as a ring tone), and of course “How Do I Live” by Trisha Yearwood, which has “My Heart Will Go On” written all over it…because you know…it was 1997.  The year of that movie.

Cinematography-wise, Con Air is very strong, and its editing, though rather comical at times, works very well.  Excellent visual storytelling and some great angles.

Action Scene-wise, Con Air is like a slightly more subtle version of Sharknado 2, and with a much, much bigger budget (75 million dollars in 1997 is over 110 million today).  Most of it is bloody hilarious and great fun.

Would I recommend Con Air?  Absolutely!  But not for the way I think they intended on its initial release.  It’s 1 of the funniest action films I’ve ever seen that isn’t a parody of action films, but rather an attempt to be an proper, thrilling action film that would have people on the edge of their seats (like for example, The Matrix).  It’s full of colourful and fun characters, and is even funnier when you know who some of these actors are from other films.  With a few friends around to watch it, this film is perfect for a laugh.

Acting: ***1/2 (John Malkovich and Steve Buscemi get 5 stars)

Characters: ***1/2 (John Malkovich and Steve Buscemi get 5 stars)

Story: ***1/2 (basically Batman: Arkham Airplane, if Cyrus was The Joker and Bruce Wayne went to Jail…Hold on, I think I’m onto something…or Die Hard on a Plane…there’s your sequel right there)

Music: ***1/2 (Very corny and cartoony, while trying to be serious and trying to be touching when it comes to Cage’s character.  Good stuff)

Cinematography: ****1/2 (well done and well edited)

Action scenes: ***** (Over-the-top and stupid.  Can’t go wrong there.)

Intended humour: *** (attempts at humour that may not have worked, others were great)

Untended humour: ***** (Already a cartoon in execution of characters and dialogue.)

Overall Rating: ****

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