Con-Air is one of those movies that you love watching just for the sheer entertainment of it. It's action-packed and just a fun movie to watch based on the fact that it delivers plenty of explosions and includes a great cast. It's a B-movie over ten years old, which only makes it more enjoyable to watch, because you know you don't have to take it too seriously.
Con-Air's story is that of great potential. If directed by a well known director from that time that has a nack for violent prison action movies, this could have been an instant classic. Even though that didn't happen, I can take confort in the fact that it's still an enjoyable action movie, no matter what faults it may have-because it DOES have faults. However, I can't help but giving it a high score due to the fact that I actually loved every minute of it.
Simon West's(The General's Daughter, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider), Con-Air tells the story of Cameron Po(Nicholas Cage), a newly-released ex-con who was convicted of man-slaughter after killing a few drunken scums who were harassing his wife, Tricia(Monnica Potter). He soon finds himself between a rock and a hard place when the group of murderous prisoners on his transport plane take over, including Cyrus 'The Virus' Grissom(John Malcovitch), Nathan 'Diamond Dog' Jones(Ving Rhames), and Will 'Bill Bedlam' Bedford(Nick Chinlund). Po decides to stay on the plane when he could have gotten off, posing as a 15-year inmate rather than a newly released one, in order to protect fellow inmate Mike O'Dell(Mykelti Williamson) and Guard Sally Bishop(Rachel Ticotin).
Po manages to secretly keep in contact with U.S. Marshall Vince Larken(John Cusack) on the ground who is trying desperately to track the plane while hot-tempered DEA Agent Duncan Malloy(Colm Meaney) wants to just shoot it down and be done with it. What insues is an exciting journey that leads all the way to Las Vegas in a final action-packed stand-off.
Con-Air's major fault is its lack of seriousness. Sure, there's touching moments of sincerity between Po and his wife and daughter, but those seem too forced, as if West felt like he needed to inlude some form of a love story in this action filled story. However, the film manages to keep you interested and when moments of heart-warmth are introduced, while feeling some what awkward, they are quickly passed off by viewers who are too invested in the movie to care if there is a love story underneath it all. In other words, the movie's so damn entertaining, you don't care if Po and his wife share a passionate scene of tears with the song "How Do I Live" playing in the background.
The mentioned lack of seriousness comes from a clear disrepect for human life and public property, which it won a Razzie Award for. It's non-believable outcomes of destruction and mayhem cement its action movie reputation. SPOILER WARNING: In a spectacle of chaos, the "Con-Air" plane is crash landing and finally comes to a screeching halt only after devastating a Las Vegas strip. It's this blatant disrespect for human lives and city buildings that make the film very far-fetched...but oh so sweet. You can't help but like it, because it's clearly meant for entertainment purposes only. There's also some slo-mo running sequences that make you think "this is cheesy," but it does not matter in the end, for the film is over ten years old and manages to keep a certain feel throughout the whole movie, and that feel is "don't take it too seriously, just enjoy the amazing action sequences."
The over all story of prisoners taking over the plane is a great idea. It could have been presented better, but it's always fun to watch a group of murderous psychos steal the show, especially when played by such talent.
The acting in this movie, like other things, could have been better, but it does justice to the feel of the film and the performances deliver the goods to make it at least a fun movie. Since there's so many different characters in the film, I'll only focus on the ones I deem worth mentioning.
Nic Cage as Po is a decent performance. Nic is a great actor, but he seems a little stiff in this role...but then I got to thinking, and it seems he always seems that way. He plays many different kinds of roles, but his expression never seems to change. With this in mind, I've decided that his performance in this movie is quite good. He certainly plays the tough guy/action hero act fairly well.
John Cusack, the other hero of the movie, also delivers a great performance for his character. Cusack's a fine actor, and while this isn't his best, the script doesn't call for oscar performances, just a fair portrayal and let the explosions do the rest.
Now for the inmates, who all deliver fine performances and really steal the show. John Malcovitch as "The Virus," however, stands out the most. He's a no brainer for a role like this, and his sadistic performance keeps the story going. Steve Buscemi, always great, plays Garland 'The Marietta Mangler' Greene, the most feared of all the inmates, and when introduced, he is in chains and a "Hannibal Lecter" mask. That's certainly the feel when we first see him, but we soon discover that he's actually the most pleasant out of all the prisoners. Buscemi's performance, while short and serving no real advancement to the overall plot, delivers the goods, making Greene a disturbing and misunderstood character.
The rest of the supporting cast is also decent. Meaney's Duncan Malloy delivers most of the laughs with this film due to his hot-headed personality. I'd just like to take the time to honarably mention Dave Chappelle's Joe 'Pinball' Parker as long as I'm on funny, because his performance also delivers some laughs...right up until the end.
Simon West's directing isn't the greatest. He does a decent job, but the aforementioned slo-mo runs weren't necessarily needed and the far-fetched outcomes aren't shot too great, making it a B-movie. The action sequences are great, however, but his direction and carry through aren't. It's good, but not great. I think if a movie like this was made today with a great director, it would be a must see. It seems as thought he tries too hard to make it serious, but in the end, it's just an action movie...but a good one at that.
The visuals for its time are great. The explosions deliver and are actually believable, while the circumstances in which those explosions are taking place are not.
+ A fun and enjoyable ride from start to finish
+ Decent performances, especially from Malcovitch
- Far-fetched scenarios make me think "what if?"