Con Air

"Excellent"

Con Air Review


It wasn't necessarily obvious (or even possible to know) at the time of its 1997 release, but Jerry Bruckheimer's Con Air would represent his finest hour. Bruckheimer isn't the director, of course, but rather the rare movie producer who would claim possessive credit on almost any of his projects. Bruckheimer branches into cheesy thrillers, cheesy inspirational dramas, cheesy inspirational sports dramas, and cheesy television procedurals, but Con Air finds the super-producer munching on his bread and butter: a loaf of action movie, with melted cheese on top.

Not only that, but it's assembled using all of Bruckheimer's tried and tested techniques: Mix movie stars and indie heroes into an eclectic, slumming cast and have them act in a ludicrously high-concept scenario. (Here it is: The worst criminals in the country team up to hijack their prison transport plane! And it's up to one man to stop them!) Then spend lots of money but indulge in a cynical jokiness, and hire a director who will shoot the whole thing like it's a music video or a commercial (preferably for itself).

In the case of Con Air, the director is Simon West. He's not as successful, stylish, or instantly recognizable as Michael Bay, and that may be why the film works so well; it turns out that no Michael Bay knockoff can screw it up quite like the real thing. If Bay and West are just two of many workers on the Bruckheimer assembly line, Bay is the showiest and West is the most efficient, and guess whose product works better?

So, yes, West's direction is full of gratuitous slow-mo and fast cuts, but just enough to goose Con Air's ridiculous premise and talented cast - not enough to work the movie into frenzied, atonal overdrive.

Even so, some might carp that a movie like this wastes nigh a dozen good actors on an expensive game of cops 'n' (mostly) crooks. But plenty of award-winning films have employed equally great ensembles to lesser effect than Con Air. First and foremost is Nicolas Cage as (of course) the wrongfully imprisoned hero just trying to get home to his wife and kid. Cage takes this '80s-style role someplace not so far removed from a Coen Brothers movie, a land of stone-faced cornpone camp. When a fellow prisoner menaces a stuffed toy intended for his daughter, and Cage warns him to "put the bunny back in the box," you believe he'll do something about it - not because the script demands it, but because Cage so convincingly flirts with nuttiness. It takes a planeload of miscreants to make him look like the all-American hero.

Bruckheimer deploys the rest of the cast with strategic obviousness: John Malkovich is the intelligently psychotic ringleader; John Cusack is the smart, fast-talking U.S. Marshal; Dave Chapelle is a wiseass; Steve Buscemi is a serial killer. Only Ving Rhames gets a slight short shrift; they should've thrown him a monologue or something.

The patented Bruckheimer casting works especially well because of Con Air's frankly antisocial sense of humor. Despite the heroics of Cage and Cusack, this variety pack of action-picture villains eventually comes across as weirdly lovable (Malkovich has to make some grimy threats to the safety of Cage's family toward the end, presumably to remind us that, oh yeah, these guys are dangerous). Buscemi's quiet celebrity murderer gets the most perversely respectful treatment, even including his extraneous scenes with a little girl that gleefully balance on an intersection of suspense, humor, and tastelessness.

The whole movie is like that, balancing spectacle and self-parody, unreasonably entertaining and surprisingly difficult to replicate. A more ambitious director might have toppled the whole thing; witness the consistency with which Bay's directorial preening renders his films useless. But with West's confidence competence, and Bruckheimer's reliable slickness, Con Air gets out of its own way and becomes a trash classic.

The new unrated, extended DVD is both, uh, unrated and extended.



Con Air

Facts and Figures

Run time: 115 mins

In Theaters: Friday 6th June 1997

Box Office Worldwide: $224M

Budget: $75M

Distributed by: Disney

Production compaines: Jerry Bruckheimer Films, Kouf/Bigelow Productions, Touchstone Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 28

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Cameron Poe, as Marshal Vince Larkin, as Cyrus Grissom, as Nathan Jones, as William Bedford, as Garland Greene, as Duncan Malloy, as Sally Bishop, as Joe Parker, as Mike O'Dell, as Johnny Beca, as Swamp Thing, as Guard Falzon, Renoly Santiago as Ramon Martinez, as Tricia Poe, as Casey Poe

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Trumbo Movie Review

Trumbo Movie Review

An entertaining film about sobering true events, this is the story of notorious screenwriter Dalton...

Goosebumps Movie Review

Goosebumps Movie Review

Mixing the action, comedy and horror from novelist R.L. Stein's books into a family-friendly package,...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

This film demonstrates that you don't need guns to make an exciting thriller. Based on...

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

Not the subtlest director working in Hollywood, Michael Bay brings his surging machismo to this...

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

There's nothing clever about this deliberately rude and vulgar comedy, but certain audiences will find...

The Big Short Movie Review

The Big Short Movie Review

Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...

Advertisement
The 5th Wave Movie Review

The 5th Wave Movie Review

Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels...

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for a sequel no one really asked for, following...

Room Movie Review

Room Movie Review

One of the most extraordinary films of the year, this drama cleverly weaves in events...

Creed Movie Review

Creed Movie Review

While this film is basically Rocky VII, it's also much more than that, and perhaps...

A Perfect Day Movie Review

A Perfect Day Movie Review

An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an...

Partisan Movie Review

Partisan Movie Review

With his feature debut, young Australian filmmaker Ariel Kleiman tells a creepy story about a...

The Revenant Movie Review

The Revenant Movie Review

A wrenching saga of survival and revenge, Alejandro G. Inarritu's new epic is just as...

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who simply can't be ignored, especially when he lobs a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.