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Con Air

(1997)

Directed by

Simon West

 Con Air Unset

Review by Todd Plucknett

 

Con Air is the Simon West action film about former US Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Oscar-winner Nicolas Cage) that gets thrown in prison. It is a great thrill ride, but it is not at all plausible. It is, however, better and more appealing than the run-of-the-mill action flick.

Poe was a highly decorated Ranger. One night, he got in a drunken fight protecting his pregnant wife, and he killed a man who threatened him with a knife. The courts ruled that he cannot be judged by the same rules as a normal person because his hands had been trained to kill. They threw him in prison for 7-10 years. All the time in prison, he was sent pictures and letters from his daughter who he had never met. This was really what kept him going in such harsh conditions.

On the day that he was supposed to be released, he was being transported across country on a flight with the notoriously worst criminals, who were being transported to a maximum security prison in Poe’s home state. While on the flight, the cons took over. These characters include the leader Cyrus “The Virus” Grisson (John Malkovich), Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones (Ving Rhames), Pinball Parker (Dave Chappelle), and Johnny 23 (Danny Trejo), a man with 23 tattoos, one for each count of rape. The cons make plans to flee the country after the hijacking. Poe, however, decides to try to save the day. He indirectly teams with US Marshall Vince Larkin (John Cusack) to try to prevent this; he sent a message on a dead body that was dropped from the plane and tried to get someone’s attention at the first stop to switch prisoners. Eventually, the two meet and try to prevent this plane these conflicts from running free.

The performances are decent. Cage’s accent is a bit bothersome at first, but you come to accept it. This was in the midst of his action phase, which also included Face-Off and The Rock. Cusack is very good, playing the same character he normally plays with the same ticks and habits. Malkovich plays an effective and convincing variation on his nominated role in In the Line of Fire. Rhames is good, playing his standard role. Steve Buscemi proves that he can do anything. Dave Chappelle plays himself. Colm Meaney was effective, Trejo was fine, Mykelti Williams was very good, and Monica Potter plays Poe’s wife very well.

The film is filled with explosions and over-the-top action, but at its center, it is almost a love story. It is a man who is doing everything possible to get back to his wife and kid. It actually creates some emotion at the end, something highly uncommon for a film like this. The nominated song “How Do I Live” fits the mood extremely well, and the film is always a load of fun. It is edited very well; no scene seems unnecessary or unfulfilling.

Con Air is a film that you will either love or hate. If you just don’t buy it, you will hate it. If you accept the ridiculous premise, then you can find a rewarding experience and certain elements of the picture that are very strong. There are certainly better action films out there, but this one is a slightly better written, acted, and smarter film than the typical action flick. It is actually quite appealing to wide audiences as well. There is something for everyone here. It is a great effort and an always exciting thrill ride.

Rating:

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