Con Air (15)

Directed by Simon West
Starring Nicholas Cage, John Malkovich, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi

If you've ever read any of my other reviews you may have heard my views on the plethora of action movies churned out by Hollywood these days. Action films are the b-movies, the pulp fiction if you like of cinema today. Take lots of men, a token female, big guns, explosions, sweat and grime, designer cuts and bruises, wisecracking criminals, usually one complete nutter and one sadistic thug. Keep the action going and have a happy ending.
Of course this doesn't mean that they are all bad, there have been many great action movies, but it does mean that a film has to be pretty special to be memorable. The hook with Con Air is the cast I believe. Take a look at the actors; Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Buscemi add Ving Rhames and Colm Meaney and these guys are no idiots.
The plot centres around Cameron Poe(Cage), an ex-marine who gets 8 years for manslaughter after a fight goes wrong. A pre-credits sequence races through 'the prison years'- which is a bit reminiscent of the opening to Raising Arizona also starring Cage but with the Coen brothers sense of irony. Anyway, Poe is to be released and boards a plane full of the most dangerous criminals in America on his way to freedom. However, unsurprisingly the criminals take over the plane and Poe must save his diabetic friend and an attractive black female warder, while thwarting the cleverest criminal aroud- Cyrus'the virus' Grissom(Malkovich.) Yes, it's that sort of film where the criminals all have ridiculous nicknames and spectacularly vicious crimes. Way OTT! Meanwhile, cop Cusack is trying to save the day while DEA man Colm Meaney gets to overact badly and swear a lot- a long way from DS9's Chief O'Brien.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer's first solo production since the death of partner Don Simpson is the expected Testosterone fuelled ride. Cage is a strange action hero. He has the muscles, but his hangdog facial expression doesn't seem quite right. Malkovich on the other hand is perfect as a master criminal, but can he play anything other than sinister and dangerous charm? Buscemi has very few lines and doesn't really convince as the biggest mass murderer of them all, despite an unusual entrance in a restraint suit more severe than Hannibal Lecter's. He looks like a nerd- as he always does, but not particulary menacing.
This is a slightly above average addition to this overworked genre, with qute good performances, reasonable SFX, but the usual corny script and contrived storyline. Soppy ending too. 6/10.

June 1997

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