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conair logo
Starring Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich,
Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames and Colm Meaney
Screenplay by Scott Rosenberg
Directed by Simon West

IN SHORT: KABOOM! is the sound a bomb makes. Literally and figuratively.

Four years later, Ving Rhames, Danny Trejo and Jesse Borrega, stars (both lead and supporting) of a 1993 bomb called Bound By Honor, are reunited in Con Air. Who says history never repeats?

Paroled inmate Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) sums the story of Con Air up quite succinctly: "They somehow managed to get every creep and freak in the universe onto this one plane. And then somehow managed to let them take it over. And then somehow managed to stick us right smack in the middle." Everything else is secondary to the gas bombs and special effects shaking your seats.

Especially secondary is the convoluted thinking behind the plotting of this mess, which doesn't surprise Cranky since he detested writer Scott Rosenberg's Things To Do In Denver When You're Dead, a convoluted and talky waste of time. This time out, though, Rosenberg is teamed up with ace boom-meister Jerry Bruckheimer, whose The Rock left Cranky both exhausted and exhilarated, and not necessarily in that order. Because of the latter, Cranky eagerly waited to see the new pyrotechnics in Con Air. And once the lights went down, I found myself waiting and waiting and waiting.....

Simply, if you want to see the most excellent explosions, make time with the popcorn lady for the first 50 minutes of Con Air.

Cameron Poe is the kind of guy you should feel sympathetic towards. A strait laced military man, good to his wife and child; a Defender of their Way of Life who, when they are attacked, fights back with a killing fury. He gets a raw deal on a plea bargain and eight years later, rather than four, the Feds let him out of jail to return to the life he missed. In the extended prologue, Poe reads letters to the daughter he has never seen, for he is too proud to allow a jailhouse visit. As he packs his things, a cellmate we have never seen pops in to set up the reasoning for all that will follow. Poe and the roommate ride a convict transport plane, "Con Air" for short. On it is every creep and freak in the universe, yadda yadda yadda.

On the ground are the Feds: U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusak) and D.E.A. Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney). Larkin makes it clear how creepazoid the freaks on the plane are, as he reads the roll of crimes for each man in a blue prison suit. To save you time, these include Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich), and he does not intend to be taken alive. Also present are "Diamond Dog" (Ving Rhames) a black racist who says he has other plans (which never materialize), an evil rapist called Johnny 23 (Danny Trejo) for the number of crimes he's committed, and drug lord Francisco Cindino (Jesse Borrega) who is at the heart of a plan to hijack the plane. Poe's character is characterized, of course, as a "nobody." Plane gets hijacked, Feds react in stereotype (One's a loon. One's not. They dislike each other immediately.) Poe must save the day. And a stuffed bunny. And blow Las Vegas up real good. But not necessarily in that order.

Rosenberg's script tells us, rather than shows us, a major screenwriting error. It's the first thing they teach you in school, and the first thing you'll notice if you watch too many movies as I do. We're told Cage wants to see his daughter. We're told the bad guys are really bad. For the most underdeveloped reason, Cage doesn't get off the plane when he can. He doesn't try to rescue the people he wants to protect (when no one else is looking). He hangs tight and saves the day, almost as if Cage is prepping for his next role as Superman, due next summer.

OK, let's get to the rest of the good guys and put this thing to bed.

Here's the plus: Steve Buscemi is outstanding in a supporting appearance as Con Air's version of Silence of the Lamb's Hannibal Lecter. He is creepy, as is his totally rational explanation of why he is not insane. the resolution of his substory (and you've got to wait until the very, very end for this) had the audience cheering.

Plus number two: Vegas blows up real good. But it takes too long to get there and what you are offered in the meantime isn't enough. Bruckheimer's The Rock was pyrotechnic overkill. Con Air is still born.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Con Air, he would have paid...


Rent it and lean hard on the fast forward button.

Click to buy films by Simon West
Click to buy films starring Nicolas Cage
Click to buy films starring John Malkovich

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.