Tuesday, April 05, 2011

“Why couldn't you put the bunny back in the box?”

Right, so I was a bit harsh on Face/Off for being too dumb to take seriously and too serious to take dumbly. Clearly this calls for something extra ridiculous to fix things while still being a Nicolas Cage movie. Something like 1997’s Con Air.

Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is a former Army Ranger who went to prison for killing a drunken redneck outside of a bar. But that’s the backstory. Flash forward a few years and he’s done his time and just needs to get to a parole hearing for good behavior so he can get back to his wife (Monica Potter) and the seven year old daughter he hasn’t met yet. As such, he’s a passenger on a prisoner transport plane that also happens to be transporting some of the nastiest, meanest, most vicious criminals around. Let’s have U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusak) and DEA Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meany) introduce them: (WARNING: Potty Words)

Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich), Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones (Ving Rhames), William “Billy Bedlam” Bedford (Nick Chinlund), Joe “Pinball” Parker (Dave Chappelle), Johnny “Johnny-23” Baca (Danny Trejo) are the major players and this being an action movie, OF COURSE Grissom organizes a takeover of the plane. Also on the flight is Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene (Steve Buscemi) who’s an extra creepy child killer who just kind of keeps to himself except for when he says something disturbing in that way that only Buscemi can say. He creeps out the other convicts.

So when things go bad, it falls to Poe (and his mane of prison hair) and Larkin to figure out what’s going on and how to stop these violent criminals from escaping and causing even more chaos and destruction.

Somewhere along the way a Corvette gets towed through the air by a cargo plane and the finale involves Las Vegas and a fire truck. It’s THAT kind of movie.

Directed by Simon West, the movie doesn’t really do anything particularly outside-the-box when it comes to 90’s action movies. Still, it knows it’s a goofy action movie and aside from the action set pieces that litter it, there’s a fair number of self-aware goofy touches, like the famous “bunny scene” and the part where one of the convicts’ corpses falls out of a wheel well and lands on small-town America. It’s these kinds of absurd, black comedy touches that give the movie it’s identity.

Written by Scott Rosenberg, the script takes a premise which is essentially “Die Hard on a Plane” and runs with it. Dialogue is snappy and frequently witty and while there’s not a whole lot innovative here, it does its job of entertaining the audience quite well.

Original music by Mark Mancina and Trevor Rabin. Orchestral touches married to electric guitars mean that the soundtrack is anything but subtle. Fairly standard for 90’s action films. There’s also “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd (and Garland Greene readily points out the irony of it) and “How Do I Live” by Trisha Yearwood which is kind of the ending/love theme.

I’m not going to defend Con Air as high art. It’s not. It’s a goofy 90’s Nic Cage action vehicle and for what it is, it’s good cheesy fun, and that is something I CAN defend.

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