a critiQal film review Con Air (1997)

Plot: Just-paroled army ranger Cameron Poe (Cage) is headed back to his wife (Potter) and the daughter he's never seen, but must fly home aboard a prison transport flight dubbed "Jailbird" with some of the worst criminals alive. Along with Diamond Dog (Rhames), genius serial killer Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom (Malkovich) unleashes a violent escape plot in mid-flight. Secretly working with U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin (Cusack), Poe tries to foil Grissom's plan.

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When we were looking for a movie to watch for our Retro Review this Saturday, we stumbled across one we hadn’t seen in years: Con Air. With this big-budget actioneer celebrating it’s 20th anniversary this year, this seemed like just the thing for us.

But, would time have been harsh on this action flick (like it has on so many others)? Or would this star-studded pic be worth watching again, even 20 years later?

A lot has been said about Nic Cage’s accent in Con Air. It is a bit over-the-top, with his southern drawl almost making a mockery of southern accents. But, somehow it just doesn’t matter. Seeing a long-haired Nic Cage is a refreshing change from the norm (even today), and it’s that change to his familiar appearance that helps make the drawl a little less ridiculous.

Nic Cage is backed up by a powerhouse of stars in Con Air. While Cusack is fun as the US Marshal chasing them the whole way, and John Malkovich is just enough of an evil genius to make his character a bad guy worth hating, the star power doesn’t stop there. Ving Rhames (Mission: Impossible (1996)), Danny Trejo (Machete (2010)), Steve Buscemi (Reservoir Dogs (1992)) help add to the star power in this flick. Even Dave Chappelle pops up as a crackhead! Even the lesser knowns, like Mykelti Williamson and Rachel Ticotin (among many others) are recognizable by face, if not always by name.

With that kind of star-studded cast, viewers will expect great things from Con Air. Thankfully, it doesn’t disappoint. While the intro is obviously just a contrived way to get Nic Cage’s character on board the plane, once the plane takes off, the action is fast and furious. With Nic Cage trying to foil the bad guys plans without getting caught, he comes up with some decent tactics that actually make a kind of sense. Sure, the other characters seem a bit dumb that they don’t catch on immediately, but with that threat hanging over the hero’s head, it just keeps the viewer tuned in all the more. Will he get caught? How will he escape?

The special effects are still decent even after 20 years in Con Air. Even the biggest stuff, like trying to land the plane on a crowded street, is managed pretty well, with only one or two instances where the viewer might think “green screen”. While many of it’s fellow films of the era have gotten to look a bit aged, Con Air still manages to come off, if not completely fresh, than not too old to be enjoyed.

With it’s star-studded cast and intense action (not to mention a few points of genuine surprise), Con Air is still great fun to watch, even 20 years later. While it isn’t without it’s faults, it’s still a great popcorn flick to watch on a Friday night (or maybe even a Throwback Thursday). Even Nic Cage’s ridiculous southern drawl is overwhelmed by the solid blockbuster action pic feel of the film.

If you haven’t seen it recently, make sure to give Con Air another viewing. You’ll find yoourself enjoying it almost as much as you did back in ’97.

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