Con Air lands in the third spot of my five-part Un”Cage”d Christmas series. So far we’ve experienced crazy Cage and considerate Cage, but are you ready for country Cage? Coincidentally, today is the birthday of Cage’s Con Air costar, John Malkovich, so wish him a good one if you have the chance.
Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is an Army ranger and good ol’ Alabama boy who gets into a speck of trouble when he comes to visit his expectant wife, Tricia (Monica Potter). One involuntary manslaughter conviction and seven years later and Poe is finally reuniting with his hummingbird and their daughter. To get home, he has to hitch a ride on a prisoner transport plane filled with some of the scummiest scum in the penal system. Once in flight, three inmates, Billy Bedlam (Nick Chinlund), Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames) and Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom (John Malkovich), commandeer the plane, ruining Poe’s plans and endangering innocent people. While U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin (John Cusack) and DEA Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney) bicker over how best to capture the plane, what do you think Poe’s gonna do? He’s gonna save the fuckin’ day!
Let’s go ahead and address the elephants in the room, Cage’s ‘Bama accent and hair. I can’t speak to the correctness of Alabama-specific drawl, but it’s safe to say Monica Potter’s accent is commendable and Cage…has visited the South. As to the hair, I’m not sure what the hell’s going on with that stringy, greasy mess, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Cage’s jeans, wifebeater and scruffy look were the inspiration for Hamlet 2‘s sexy Jesus.
If you’re an action buff, you’ve seen Jerry Bruckheimer’s lightning-striking-the-roadside-tree shingle on many films, but Con Air is the first to feature it. Con Air also features a recognizable and talented cast giving it their all. In addition to the aforementioned, some others include Mykelti Washington, Steve Buscemi, Dave Chappelle, Rachel Ticotin, M. C. Gainey, and a de-stached Danny Fuckin’ Trejo. While that makes for a ton of familiar faces flying around onscreen, they each have their moment to help Con Air shine that much brighter.
Questionable accent and hair aside, Cage portrays the hell outta Poe. In the best shape of his career, he kicks ass while delivering killer dialogue. Malkovich chews up the scenery and gets an equal share of cool lines, including the coveted title drop of “Welcome to Con Air” around twenty-five minutes into the film. The great dialogue keeps you from fixating on the more ludicrous elements like Cyrus’ Last Supper cypher and that totally inappropriate soundtrack choice of How Do I Live. That song received both Oscar and Razzie nominations, but won neither, although it’s truly deserving of the latter.
I love action movies that follow the rule: go big, or go home. My one caveat to that rule: know your limits, i.e. don’t go too big. Blowing up an airplane graveyard in a firefight is fine; towing a sports car through the air is pushing it; crashing a plane onto the Vegas strip teeters on the edge, but having your genius villains steal a firetruck for their getaway vehicle is too fucking far.
Even so, Con Air is a super violent, action-filled feast for your senses. Its flaws make it that much better because everyone involved is going along with it whole heartedly. It would have easily been a four-heart film, but it just had to have that firetruck and that song.