Con Air is the first production of Jerry Bruckheimer’s without the late Don Simpson. Con Air also brings Nicolas Cage back to work with Bruckheimer again. Last summer’s The Rock was their last film working together. So how does Con Air hold up to The Rock?
Nicolas Cage plays Cameron Poe, a man whose life story seems to be about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. On his way home from the Army, Poe meets with his newly pregnant wife Tricia (Monica Potter) in a bar. They kiss and they dance, but their dance is cut short by a group of rowdy men in the bar. Poe and his wife leave the bar, running to their car in the rain, as they arrive at their car they meet those rowdy men again. In a fight with the men, trying to protect his wife, Poe kills one of the men. Poe is sent to jail for murder. After serving eight years of his sentence, he is now ready to go on parole. He is ready to meet his daughter for the first time.
Poe catches a ride home on an airplane full of convicted murders and rapists. He rides along with his cellmate who is being transferred and is badly in need of a needle to take his insulin. John Cusack, who is quickly becoming one of my most favourite actors, is US Marshal Vince Larkin, who is on ground overseeing the transfer of all these prisoners. As the plane takes off, Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich) and Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones (Ving Rhames), two really bad men, escape their cells and take over the flight, dubbing the flight Con Air. From this point on, we are supposed to suspend our disbelief and go along for the ride. For some movies it is easy to do this, especially since it is the summer movie season, but in Con Air it is difficult to swallow.
Con Air tries to go over the top, like last summer’s The Rock, but rookie director Simon West is unable to create the same excitement in the action sequences as Michael Bay did in The Rock. He is unable to reach the same level. And the end result is a movie that does not work for this exact reason. West is unable to create the action sequences that would have helped the audience to over come the implausibility of the film.
The ensemble cast gives a great performance except for a few. Colm Meaney gives more of an annoying performance as an angry DEA agent. Renoly, as Sally Can’t Dance, really has no place in the film more than comic relief. And to that extent, it is poorly executed. Steve Buscemi, as Carland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene, who is describe as worse than the whole Manson family together, is in the film, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why.
On the bright side the lead performers give solid performances. Nicolas Cage does well as Cameron Poe, though it takes a little time to adjust to his strange adopted accent in this film. “If you see muh waif, tell er ah love er,” he tells US Marshal Vince Larkin. John Malkovich is genuinely scary as Cyrus the Virus. He portrays Cyrus as a dangerous and insane, yet very intelligent man. Ving Rhames, although not as strong a performance as in Mission: Impossible and Pulp Fiction still pulls off a great performance. John Cusack is the guy that is right, but is always doubted, and as US Marshal Vince Larkin, he shows his frustration.
Con Air tries really hard to be a loud summer action movie filled with explosions and action, and to an extent it is successful. But it doesn’t try hard enough and it has many shortcomings, including the hard to swallow story and some weak supporting performances. If you really have two hours to burn, and those two hours happen to fall into a matinee show time, then catch Con Air. If not, save your money, Con Air crashes and burns before it even takes off. Maybe next time Jerry Bruckheimer.