[pullquote cite=”” type=”left, right”][amazon text=Amazon&template=carousel&chan=That Film Guy&asin=B000PI3UEK][/pullquote] The late 1990s was an interesting time for the action film sub-genre. Mainstays of the genre were getting older and actors like Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis were trying their hand at different styles of film. The world needed someone new to fill their shoes and that person came in the unlikely guise of Nicolas Cage. Not your traditional muscle-bound hero, but more of a John MaClane-styled action man, Cage had a successful trilogy of action films released between 1996 and 1997. Starting with The Rock and ending with Face/Off, the middle film, Con Air is probably the weakest of the three, but still a fine action film in its own right.
Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage), a former army ranger, is sentenced to 12 years in a maximum security prison for use of excessive force when he killed a drunk who was assaulting his pregnant wife. After 8 years he is given parole for good behaviour and is set to be transferred home, however the ˜jailbird’ that he is flying on gets taken over by the other inmates, lead by Cyrus ˜The Virus’ (John Malkovich) and Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames). Meanwhile, US Marshall Vince Larkin (John Cusack) is trying to communicate with Poe despite the constant interference of gung-ho DEA agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney) and the two men must work together to ensure the criminals are recaptured and Poe can be reunited with his wife and son.
Con Air has a distinct Bayhem feel about it. Everything is shot at the perfect hour between sunset and night, the men are all of the alpha variety and the women are objectified. But ignoring this, Con Air is first and foremost an action film and does it deliver. The film skips along at pace jumping from one outrageous set-piece to the next, amping up the tension as things and people are killed, blown up and everything generally gets destroyed.
There is so much delight taken by everyone involved from Malkovich’s cerebral psychopath, to Steve Buschemi’s wonderfully unhinged ˜Marietta Mangler’ musing on the irony of all the prisoners dancing on the plane to Sweet Home Alabama, a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash. There’s quotable lines, and one of the most memorable ensemble cats in action film history. Even minor villains like Danny Trejo’s Johnny-23 get in on the act, making Con Air a rare thing. An action film where the villains are more interesting than the hero.
Con Air has everything an action junkie could want, and in Cage, it has a central, stoic influence that binds everything together. Normally known for his bizarre characters, Cage is somehow able to control himself while everything around him gets more and more outrageous.