Awfully Good: Con Air

Before DC unleashes SUICIDE SQUAD on the public, let's look back at another time a group of bad guys got loose and stole the show…


Con Air (1997)


Director: Simon West
Stars: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich

The touching story of a convict with a heart of gold and his struggle to get his stuffed rabbit home to his daughter.

Now before everyone runs to the comments to scream, "But CON AIR isn't a bad movie!"—you're right. It's not just a good movie either. It's a GLORIOUS movie and it deserves to be celebrated.

The film is a masterpiece on all levels—the perfect cast, a script with just the right amount of sleaze and cheese, and an "IDGAF" attitude that marks it as one of the last action films of its era. It's a movie where Nicolas Cage can repeatedly say, "Put the bunny back in the box" with the utmost seriousness. A touching drama that makes you love Steve Buscemi because he DOESN'T eat a little girl. A testosterone overdose with a wailing electric guitar score that doesn't care how dumb its plot may be or how flimsy an excuse it needs to blow things up real good.

When you're having a great hair day and everyone knows it.

Few actors have had as amazing a run as Nicolas Cage did after winning an Oscar in the mid-90s with THE ROCK, FACE OFF and this movie. Cameron Poe is yet another great character in the Cage arsenal, what with his flowing, Pantene Pro-V hair and a thick southern drawl. (If you're taken aback by his first line—"Hummin' bird, how's my bay-beh?"—I'm afraid it doesn't get any better from there.) By the time "Directed by Simon West" rolls across the screen in the opening credits, Poe has graduated from special forces training in the military, reunited with his wife, killed a man in a bar fight, been sentenced to 7 years in prison, and served that entire length of time. That's how little CON AIR wastes in getting its hero to kicking ass at high altitude. And Cameron Poe's motivation is simple: the man just wants to get himself and his stuffed bunny back to his wife and kids. But even more than that, he also wants to make sure his best friend gets his insulin shot. Poe has multiple chances to escape the flight from Hell and join his family, but, I swear, he spends half of the movie fighting diabetes as much as he fights hardened escaped criminals.

Receiving cat baths from John Malkovich was only one of the perks on set.

The rest of the cast is a who's who of awesome. John Cusack plays a smartass U.S. Marshal that joins forces with Poe after receiving his dead body telegram. (And predictably, Cusack hates this movie and refuses to talk about it in interviews.) Ving Rhames is a black supremacist named Diamond Dog, who for some reason is super nice to all the white people around him. Steve Buscemi is deliciously creepy as Hannibal Lecter Jr., a serial killer who has completely innocent tea parties with young girls. Other convicts include a young Dave Chapelle, a rapey Danny Trejo, and SIDEWAYS sex symbol M.C. Gainey. However, the real bad guy MVP is John Malkovich's fun and menacing Cyrus the Virus. We know Malkovich can play psychotic, but it takes a truly gifted actor to convincingly deliver lines like, "For me, you're somewhere between a cockroach and that white stuff that accumulates at the corner of your mouth when you're really thirsty."

The Velveteen Rabbit had a very different ending in the Malkovich household.

However, the true star of the movie is the crass and confident script by Scott Rosenberg. In a film full of larger than life characters trying to compete with each other, Rosenberg manages to balance them fairly well and make sure each convict is memorable in their own right. He also has zero problem embracing the intentional stupidity of the concept and turning things up to 11 at all times. Seriously, there's not a subtle bone in CON AIR's body and director Simon West, dutifully aping Bruckheimer bro Michael Bay in the visual department, seems to be on the same page. The screenplay also offers a non-stop cavalcade of fist-pumping one liners and over-written exchanges like this one:

Cyrus: Well, I can understand Nathan's feeling about killings guards and my own proclivities are well known facts of penal lore. What I want to know is, why you have any opinion at all?

Poe: Hey, Cyrus. It's your barbecue, man, and it tastes good.


Nicolas Cage is confronted with the later years of his filmography.

In a film where sports cars can fly and U.S. Marshals can just casually call up attack helicopters to shoot down a plane full of hostages, you need a truly ridiculous finale and CON AIR's ending is a thing of beauty. John Cusack convinces his bosses not to shoot down the plane over the empty desert, instead allowing the aircraft to crash land on the Las Vegas strip, destroying casinos and clearly killing dozens of people. Despite surviving unscathed and being literally moments away from seeing his wife and daughter, Poe still has to run off and personally murder Cyrus—resulting in a motorcycle-fire truck chase through downtown Vegas that just brings more destruction and innocent casualties to the poor people of Sin City. (I'm pretty sure more people died in this final set piece than all those killed by the convicts combined.) And of course because CON AIR doesn't do anything half-assed, [SPOILER] Cyrus gets one of the most ridiculous and excessive death scenes ever thanks to a magically appearing construction site, a conveyer belt and a rock crusher that is still operating in the middle of the night.

You don't want to get indigestion in a Michael Bay movie.

And since this is ultimately the story of a man and his bunny, of course Cameron Poe manages to find the stuffed animal in the sewer, just in time for an awkward reunion with his wife and clearly uncomfortable daughter as Trisha Yearwood's Oscar-nominated song "How Do I Live Without You" plays in the background. Ironically, that's the same song I sing to this movie any time I find it on TV.

Every time I see a hair dryer I think of Nicolas Cage.

Countless memorable lines from Nic Cage, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi and many more.

Nic Cage hero moments, bunnies in boxes, and the final Vegas chase.

Who needs nudity when you can just bask in the glory of Nicolas Cage's hair?

Fly the friendly skies! Buy this movie here!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Something racist is said
  • Cameron Poe says, "Hummingbird"
  • The electric guitar kicks in during an action scene
  • Cameron Poe is right
  • Vince Larkin falls or gets knocked back
  • Cyrus makes a plane-related pun
  • Cameron Poe calls Baby-O "son"

Double shot if:

  • The bunny makes an appearance


Thanks to Ryan and Keith for suggesting this week's movie!


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.

Extra Tidbit: 1997 also saw the release of a movie with the exact opposite title: COP LAND.
Source: JoBlo.com



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