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Con Air
1997 - R - 115 Mins.
Director: Simon West
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Written By: Scott Rosenberg
Starring: Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich, John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Rachel Ticotin
Review by: John Ulmer

Skins versus shirts. Malkovich loses.
As an aircraft full of murderers, rapists and criminals pulls away into the air, a rope attached to the tail of the beast catches on a convertible's front bumper, pulling the car upwards where it flies into the air, and sways back and forth, as the plane picks up altitude. "On any other day, that might look strange," Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) says as he stares out the back of the plane and watches with exasperation.

Cameron is having a strange day, indeed. The film begins eight years prior to the present. Cameron returns home from the Military to his pregnant wife, who is being harassed by a band of drunken idiots where she works at the town bar. Shrugging them off, Cameron and his wife are both assaulted by the men when they make a dash for their car in the rainfall outside the place. Defending his wife, Cameron kills the men and is sentenced to 7 - 10 years in prison. Because he is a trained government weapon, his murder charges are a bit different than those of other criminals. Because he knows how to kill more than most people, he is given a longer sentence. If the point of this is to make the audience wonder why in the world the justice system works like this, it has achieved its goal.

Flash forward eight years, and Cameron is finally getting parole. Hitching a ride back to his wife on a plane with a band of ruthless criminals, Cameron expects nothing less than a pleasant ride. But when "Sirus the Virus" (John Malkovich) takes over the plane with his buddy (Ving Rhames), everything goes wrong.

Cameron is suddenly an undercover hero. Back on land, a U.S. Marshal played by John Cusack thinks something is wrong. When he finds aircraft blueprints lodged in Sirus' old prison cell, he realizes that the plane could be in trouble. Cameron solidifies the marshal's suspicions when he alerts everyone on ground (in secret) that the plane has been taken over. He also tells them where it's going to be landing.

The movie's grand finale--in which the plane lands on a Las Vegas strip--is silly but fun. The film is a Jerry Bruckheimer production that rivals "The Rock." Very similar, it's an over-the-top action extravaganza with big explosions, a "Die Hard"-esque plot, and a surprisingly large human quotient in the mix. It's one of the best action films of the past decade; the type of film all the pale imitators always try to be, and few ever come so close to actually being.

Nicolas Cage, who in fact starred in "The Rock," is often picked on for bad acting. I like him. Here he provides a sort of gentle hero to the film, more realistic than Stallone would be, not quite as funny as Arnie, but somewhere in between both of them. He was absolutely fabulous in "Adaptation" (2002), and also in "Leaving Las Vegas," for which he won an Oscar. I'm one of his bigger fans. He doesn't disappoint here.

John Malkovich is great as the villain. Something about the man has always seemed strange, and he's good at playing oddball serial killers and baddies. Malkovich was creepy and effective in Clint Eastwood's thriller "In the Line of Fire," downright silly in "Johnny English," lovable in "Of Mice and Men," and here he's creepy again.

My favorite character in the film has to be that played by Steve Buscemi, though. "He makes the Manson family look like the Partridge family," someone tells Cameron. He went on a killing spree and murdered thirty people. He tells Cameron that one time he drove for three hours wearing a little girl's head as a hat. "Feel free not to share with me," Cameron tells him.

In other cases, Buscemi's character might seem totally evil. Here he's funny, though, because the film makes us think he's murdered again after the plane lands to re-fuel, and then we find out he hasn't when we see his potential victim waving at the plane as it takes off again. That makes him a "good guy." It's all contrivances in the script, but it works. Just like the film.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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