In a maelstrom of exploding vehicles, nothing is as affecting as Larkin manning an abandoned snowplow to protect his troops in a desert sandstorm that covers up the flaws in both script and production.

CON AIR

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Thank you for flying Con Air." That calm reassurance, following a flight of murder and mayhem, notifies us that this movie has a sense of humor. That alone earns it a medal for innovation in the ways of blockbuster bravado.

Like its action brethren, "Con Air" is thoroughly impossible on all levels. Like the others, it primes its own pump with excess. The violence is beyond imagination, except that of producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who knows no shame in this regard.

If "Con Air" is an outrage, why is it so much fun? Well, there's that sense of humor, and then there's the cast. This is a sensational mix of serious actors on an acting lark. They overplay with a great big collective wink that invites us into the game.

Nicolas Cage plays Cameron Poe, a military ranger who killed a man in justified defense of his wife and suffered a seven-year jail term. Finally paroled, Poe hitches a ride on a genuine flight from hell whose cargo is a gaggle of the nation's nastiest criminals being taken somewhere or other to be put into maximum plus security. Poor Poe wants only to go home to his wife and daughter.

Within moments of takeoff, Cyrus the Virus has pulled a lock pick from under the skin of his arm. It's John Malkovich again, at his reptilian best. Walking the plane wing with just the right scratch of his head and sporting the requisite '97 facial hair (a touch on the lip, a touch on the chin, joined) Malkovich is great fun as "the poster boy for the criminally insane."

Serial killer Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi) is an in-flight commentator who chills even the meanest passengers. Diamond Dog, Johnny 23, and Swamp Thing lead a spectacular group of villains, every one of them a fleshed-out, full-bore psycho.

On the ground, we are rooting for U.S. Marshal Larkin (John Cusack), who invents a new action hero: a brainy good guy propelled by a strong moral insight. Cusack lifts the movie by making Larkin the slightly awkward Mr. Everyman who rises to the occasion. In a maelstrom of exploding vehicles, nothing is as affecting as Larkin manning an abandoned snowplow to protect his troops in a desert sandstorm that covers up the flaws in both script and production.

It comes down to Cyrus vs. Larkin and Poe. By now we care greatly (the only possible measure for this kind of thing) about all three of them. When the movie finally self-destructs in an excess of gas-fueled fireballs, we want the gutsy plane guard (Rachel Ticotin) to make it because she's brave. We want Baby-O, Poe's diabetic buddy, to live because he's good. By the time Cage and Cusack hi-jack a pair of motorcycles to chase a fire truck through Las Vegas, we're right there in the sidecar. It's that simple. A great cast convinces us to come happily along for the ride.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : Touchstone Pictures
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h55m


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