Director: Simon West
This action-packed movie is about Cameron Poe, a guy just paroled who gets on a plane filled with dangerous criminals. When they take over the control of the plane, he’s the only one who can stop them. The story is perfect for an action movie: it’s original enough, raw, inventive and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It reminded me of one of my all-time favorites, “Predator”. Like in that film, you’ve got a bunch of badass guys all trying to be more macho than each other. This makes for plenty of shots of sweaty muscles and bright blood, as well as lots of tough talk.
The “hero” is played by Nicolas Cage. I love his style: his character is a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Elvis! The leader of the convicts, Cyrus the Virus, is masterfully played by John Malkovich. I love when serious actors play bad guys in movies: they always make the whole thing more convincing. John Cusack is also in the film as a federal agent who spends the film running after the plane and speaking in cell phones. This is a thankless role unfitted for such an enjoyable actor but he still has a few good lines. Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo are also in the cast as, what else, convicts!
I liked the way the film is crafted. Simon West is no artist, but he’s got the Bruckheimer machine behind him making sure everything is fast, loud and flashy. For instance, Cameron Poe’s back-story is told very rapidly before the end of the opening credits – like in the Coen brothers’ “Raising Arizona”, which also starred Cage! The action scenes are surprisingly powerful. There is a lot of tension because the characters are killers and rapists, all around depraved people. Case in point: Steve Buscemi, who gives a riveting performance, as if he was in his own movie. While the rest of the cast mostly talk macho bullshit, Buscemi plays a psycho who never even hits anyone. Instead, he philosophizes. He has an unforgettable scene in which he “befriends” a little girl. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t terrified by the scene.
“Con Air” is no classic, but as an in-your-face summer ride, it does the job and then some.