Cage is Poe Faced at the Inflight Entertainment
At its simplest "Con Air"is an entertaining action romp full of macho yet corny dialogue, explosions and semi violent action with a slight comedy flare. Not bad if all you want is no brainer entertainment but once you get over the plethora of big bangs and quite frankly cheesy dialogue there is very little else to the movie and nothing which really feels that original. "Con Air" is basically another movie where one guy is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is forced into action to save the day, herald in all the action and explosions. It's not terrible, in fact for what it is "Con Air" is surprisingly enjoyable but sometimes it would be nice for these sorts of movies to be more than how much bang you get for your buck.
Having served time for killing someone in self defence, decorated Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage - Leaving Las Vegas) is finally being released and can't wait to get home to see his wife and little girl. But he has to share a flight with a bunch of dangerous criminals being transported to a new high security prison who under the leadership of Cyrus 'The Virus' Grissom (John Malkovich - In the Line of Fire) manage to over power the guards and take control of the plane. Being the only good guy on the plane, Poe feels it's his job to stop Cyrus and the other criminals escaping rather than taking the opportunity to leave when it arises.
Whilst there is plenty of action, explosions and special effects one of the slightly nice things about "Con Air" is that it has quite a comic feel about it, as if the idea was to make an action romp with a touch of the Wile E. Coyote included. It works and makes the corny dialogue almost acceptable as well as the fact that the bad guys take a licking but keep on ticking, or when they do die it's usually in quite an outrageous way. But although the humorous side helps make "Con Air" work, it also cause issues especially when it comes to the completely absurd final action sequence which spirals into another reality with its complete detachment from the real world. Again on the simplest level it works but is so outrageous that it makes all the absurdity which goes before feel nearly realistic which is going some to achieve.
What is surprising is that despite being quite 2 dimensional "Con Air" is very much driven by its wide range of characters, which is again assisted by that slightly comic feel to the movie. Nicolas Cage who had just made an unlikely action hero in "The Rock" again puts on the action mantle as ex Army Ranger Cameron Poe, the poor good guy who thanks to being in the wrong place at the wrong time not only finds himself serving time for murder, but also stuck on the plane full of convicts. Poe is probably the only character in the "Con Air" which isn't completely 2 dimensional yet still feels surprisingly thin because other than being the sort of patriotic good guy trying to save the day there is little else to him. Saying that Cage does a good job, he makes him surprisingly interesting and leads the movie well with a few humorous moments, a vest which never seems to get grubby and a very memorable mullet.
But it's the bad guys which really make "Con Air" tick and John Malkovich as Cyrus 'The Virus' Grissom is a wonderful villain. There is something about Malkovich which is menacing and his sarcasm really makes for someone you wouldn't want to trust. The same can be said for the rest of the bad guys such as Ving Rhames as Nathan 'Diamond Dog' Jones, M.C. Gainey as Swamp Thing and Danny Trejo as rapist Johnny-23, the blend of menacing with a touch of humour works. But the best bad guy has to be Steve Buscemi who as Garland 'The Marietta Mangler' Greene is actually quite sinister especially in a scene where he befriends a little girl and that sense of impending doom starts to descend, it's a well worked scene. But it's also a comical character with Buscemi also delivering some quality moments of dead pan humour especially in unexpected scenes.
The casting is not all great and whilst John Cusack adds a little bit of quirky humour as U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin his character along with Colm Meaney as DEA Agent Duncan Malloy only seem to add a little padding so that all the action is not centred on the plane.
What this all boils down to is that if all you want is a no brainer action romp then "Con Air" will be right up your street. It's very much in the same manner of "The Rock" with the emphasis of the movie being on how much bang you can get for your buck blended with a slight humorous feel to make it both adrenalin packed and also amusing. But it is just another good guy in a bad place and if you want something which aspires to greatness with some clever twists, a touch of reality and an actual important storyline then "Con Air" will leave you numb.