By: Jacob Bloodee Jacob Babcock
“Con Air” released in 1997 and starred Nicolas Cage (with the greatest hairstyle in all of cinema), John Malkovich, John Cusack with a sizable supporting cast in Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, Danny Trejo, M.C. Gainey, Dave Chappelle, Monica Potter and even Powers Boothe in an uncredited role.
It follows paroled former army ranger Cameron Poe who is heading back to his wife and young daughter on a prison transporter flight which just so happens to have some of the worst of the worst onboard led by Cyrus Grissom. Things of course go wrong and it’s up to Poe and U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin to thwart his plans.
There is not much I can say about this movie that hasn’t already been said. It’s something of a holy grail to action genre fans (at least those in their right mind) and to me it has every right to be. Not only is it Nic Cage’s best straight up foray into action but it is now one of my top 10 or 15 favorite action films of all time. Poe is a good protagonist and Cage made him a balanced almost believable bad ass, even coming up with some of the character traits himself.
Malkovich plays a fairly memorable villain that comes off as smart as he’s supposed to be and isn’t too over the top. Cusack makes for a good guy to have on the ground level though I sometimes think there’s a ceiling to his range of facial expressions, he played his part well whether he wants to call this movie bad, think he’s “above it” and say he just did it for the money years later or not. I also want to call attention to Buscemi’s character who is a notorious serial killer and child murderer. To a point he’s almost done too many comedic roles for me to take him fully seriously at times but he is subtly unsettling here and they somehow manage to make him possibly have a layer or two.
The action set pieces there are are very nice including the crew getting to ram the plane into an actual casino while a section of that area of the city was being demolished anyway. They used a lot of real aircrafts and it shows as the set never comes across like a cheap soundstage. It’s not the sort of action flick that’s based around fight scenes but the ones there are are done nicely, there’s a particular one where Cage rages out and goes through a few men and even a bullet doesn’t stop him. He did most of his own stunts even if some of them self admittedly made him nervous, he understood fans like to see the actors face in the shot. You could say some of the action is cliche but it fit at the time and effects wise still holds up for the most part.
Director Simon West went on to helm the first Tomb Raider movie, an episode of Human Target (which my brother was a big fan of), Jason Statham’s Mechanic and even Expendables 2. His brisk pace and editing style is evident in each of these movies.
Overall, Con Air is a terrific classic actioner with Nicolas Cage bringing humanity to what would otherwise be a hollow character, a good villain, entertaining action and amusing use of Sweet Home Alabama.