CON AIR: An Action Film Masterpiece
CON AIR. For me, it’s one of the greatest action films ever made. Nicolas Cage stars as Cameron Poe, a U.S. Army Ranger that is thrown in prison because he defended himself in a fight and accidentally killed one of the guys that was attacking him. Poe is clearly an honorable man with morals and a code of honor and whose only fault was that he had the upper hand due to combat training.
The story picks up several years later when Poe is going to get out of prison and return home to his wife (Monica Potter) and young daughter who he has never met since she wasn’t born when he went inside the big house. Poe’s best pal in the clink is Baby O (Mykelti Williamson) who is being transferred with him on “The Jailbird”, a special prison air transport. What makes this trip particularly special is that it will be holding a group of infamous and very dangerous inmates including master criminal Cyrus Grissom aka Cyrus The Virus (John Malkovich), a Black Panther style terrorist “Diamond Dog” (Ving Rhames), a mass rapist, Johnny 23 (Danny Trejo) and Billy Bedlam (Nick Chinlund), a brutal killer. The icing on this cake is Garland Green (Steve Buscemi) a cannibalistic psychopath that even the hardcore convicts are freaked out by. Steve Buscemi plays him with a calm, ironic wit that’s just hilarious.
Meanwhile, on the ground, FBI Agent Vince Larkin (John Cusack) and his inner circle of suits are overseeing the transport, but little do they know that Cyrus The Virus has designed a grand scheme to take over the plane and make a rendezvous with an associate leading all his fellow crazies to freedom. Of course our Southern gent super hero with a heart of gold Cameron Poe won’t let that happen so easy once he finds out. This is when the real fun begins as Poe uses all his wits and charm to try to alert the authorities of Cyrus’ plan and get himself and Baby O out of the situation alive.
Now you’ve seen lots of action movies I’m sure. We know all the cliches and plot points that have been redone again and again. Con Air is able to fill this movie, which is sort of Die Hard on a plane, with a constant state of entertainment. Every one of the bad guys in this movie is interesting in a repulsive way. What’s especially cool about the movie is how it takes these killers and humanizes them, well, to a point anyway. Some of these guys are just plain evil, but how could John Malkovich be totally unlikable as Cyrus? He’s really not. The movie also has one of the best screenplays ever by Scott Rosenberg. It’s crammed with great dialogue, witty jokes, one liners aplenty. You get a nice cameo by comedian Dave Chappelle as a wisecracking Cyrus follower named “Pinball” that just adds even more laughs. Con Air really set itself apart from the Simpson/Bruckheimer/Michael Bay era crap that I don’t like. Simon West, Scott Rosenberg & Co. should be very proud of this movie because it’s just a blast that holds up really well. We give it our Furious Cinema Gold Star!