Plot: After killing a man in self defense, Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) finds himself in prison, as the courts decided his U.S. Ranger past meant he needed to be judged by a different scale of conduct. He is about to be released on parole, but first he needs to take a flight to his destination and this no normal plane ride, instead it is a trek alongside some of the worst criminals in the system. The flight has intense security measures, but an intricate plot has been designed to hijack the plane and fly it to a location with no extradition policies. At the head of the plan is Cyrus Grissom (John Malkovich), a brutal killer with a colorful chain of crimes, who works with a wild band of crooks to create a distraction, then seize control of the flight. As he can’t stand by and watch the guards and his friend be killed by the lunatic prisoners, Poe passes up chances to escape and tries to formulate a plot to restore order on the plane. But with a passenger list packed with violent, horrific offenders, can even an elite, highly trained operative like Poe overcome the odds and save the day?
Entertainment Value: The action movies of the 90s brought us a lot of wild, over the top experiences, but few can even come close to the sheer gonzo, go for broke ridiculousness of Simon West’s Con Air. This is pure cinematic cheese on an epic, one of a kind scale that never fails to entertain. The entertainment is sometimes the explosive, large scale action set pieces, the remarkable collection of eclectic talent, or simply how terrible, yet hilarious so much of this movie can be. The movie is packed with memorable characters, even in the smallest of roles and a game cast that embraces the madness, especially Nicolas Cage as the hero and John Malkovich chewing scenes as the villain. The writing is outlandish from start to finish, with bizarre, awkward, and nonsensical lines around every corner, the kind of dialogue you can’t help but quote, even decades after Con Air was released. To say this has b movie charm would be a massive understatement, as it is chock full of “so bad, it’s good” elements, combined with big budget action set pieces that are beyond excessive. The casino destruction sequence is epic, but that is just one of the many over the top, outrageous action scenes here. Most action movies require some suspension of disbelief, but Con Air throws even minor logic and common sense out the window, so you just have to embrace the ludicrousness. If you like wild, dumb, and beyond colorful action movies drenched in ridiculous b movie elements, you can’t go wrong with Con Air.
As his glorious hair flows in the wind, Nicolas Cage delivers one of the best redneck action heroes ever as Cameron Poe. His accent alone would be enough to cement the character as cinematic gold, with one of the more inconsistent and strange Southern drawls ever filmed. The film’s trivia claims that Cage studied in Alabama to master the accent, but I have to think that was a prank, as he just wings it with humorous results that never fail to entertain. His dialogue is an absolute highlight in Con Air, with the “bunny in the box” sequence as an all time classic, but even his minor banter with others is always fun to watch. After all, it is Cyrus’ barbeque and it does taste good, as Poe so gently lets us know. Not to be left behind, John Malkovich devours his scenes as Cyrus the Virus and gives us such a wild villain, with a ham fisted performance and some of the best exchanges in the movie. Both Cage and Malkovich are clearly having fun with these campy roles, so it should be no surprise some of the best sequences unfold when they face off with each other. The cast also includes Dave Chappelle, M.C. Gainey, John Cusack, Danny Trejo, Steve Buscemi, and Ving Rhames, plus a massive, deep pool of supporting talent that shines in smaller roles.