Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Con Air (1995)

Right, believe it or not but there was a time (the flashy 90's) when Producer Jerry Bruckheimer (and originally Don Simpson) was king of the box office action genre. Spread throughout the 90's we had to endure a string of style over substance action vehicles that were literally all about the visuals and not much else. Kicking off with 'Crimson Tide' then followed by 'Bad Boys', 'The Rock', 'Con Air', 'Armageddon', and finishing with 'Gone in Sixty Seconds' at the start of the millennium.

So let's get down to the brass tacks here, 'Con Air' is essentially a 90's version of The Fast and the Furious franchise, albeit the later movies in that franchise. In fact you could easily have a movie called 'Con Air vs Fast and Furious' and it would totally make sense. Except 'Con Air' was far more manly than that camp Vin Diesel shit. This movie was all about plosions, guns, muscles, and quips. It was pretty much a man's man movie, no girls allowed. All the blokes in the cinemas watching this were chompin' on Yorkie bars dagnabbit! Your muscles had to be a certain size to even get into the screenings for fecks sake! Yup, this movie was all about big male balls. Total man stuff, gruff sweaty man muscles, lookin' cool, soundin' cool, and not giving a feck about anything. If any of this offended you then you were shit outta luck.

But what's funny is the plot is actually kinda original and kinda cool. Unlike the repetitive superhero crap we constantly get now or the yawn-inducing farse that is the Fast and Furious franchise, 'Con Air' actually had a neat little concept. Yeah sure it was still cheesy as feck and made no sense but the basic idea was sound. A special airline for the transportation of criminals gets hijacked by the cons, simple yet effective. Who knew there was such a thing as convict air? Not me. That alone intrigued me to find out more. So yes the premise is a simple hijacking but it still gave you something a bit different.

But aside from guns, muscles, and sweat, this movie was also the perfect recipe for a stunning cast. You've got a plane full of convicts, who can we cast? I know, lets cast all the top characters actors we can muster. Sorted. Let's make no bones about it, this movies cast is highly impressive, even though at the time most were still relatively unknown. Yes tis true, believe it or not but at the time some of these top stars were small fry. Take Danny Trejo for instance, before 'Con Air' he was merely known as that guy who starred in a few Robert Rodriguez flicks as a baddie. Ving Rhames was solely known for 'Pulp Fiction'. Nick Chinlund was merely another background baddie guy. Rachel Ticotin was the chick from 'Total Recall'.  And then you had various actors who you probably recognised from various smaller things such as M.C. Gainey, Renoly Santiago, Jesse Borrego, and Steve Eastin.

Of course the movie is ludicrous, utterly flawed in many ways. But this is what has made it something of a cult. The hyperbolic performances are one thing but the plot gaffs, cliches, stereotypes, and decisions are another. For starters, at the start these guys at the bar seem to pick on Cameron Poe (Nic Cage) purely because he's with a pretty woman. They literally act like children and start bullying Poe seemingly because they are jealous. Then later on (after school?) they actually wait for Poe (in the pissing rain) in the carpark so they can beat him up? How long did they wait?? And really?

When Poe is convicted and sent to prison, the minute he walks into the cell block all the prisoners start jeering him...because prison cliches. Also Poe has a workout routine montage...because cliches. Also Poe doesn't seem to get his haircut whilst in prison, why? Yes its prison but I'm sure there are basic facilities for things like that. Not everyone walks around with hair down to their shoulders. You'd also think he'd get it cut before leaving to see his family again.

Then there are many little touches that just beg questions. Vince Larkin (John Cusack) keeps referring to the airliner with the convicts on as 'his plane'. Is it really his plane? Like does he own it or something? He is always worrying about the plane like it's his personal property. What the hell happened to Pinball (Dave Chappelle)? He gets left behind by mistake and whilst attempting to get back on he gets sucked up by the landing gear?? He's literally running by the side of the plane and we are meant to believe he somehow gets caught up in the wheels? Later on we are shown a terribly fake Pinball/Chappelle body in the bowels of the plane all in one piece, eh??

At one point more cons are transferred onto the plane during a sandstorm which allows Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich) and co to wear masks. But what if there hadn't been a sandstorm? What would they have done then? And how come no guards recognised Cyrus or his voice?? When Larkin discovers where the convict plane is heading he races off in DEA agent Malloy's flashy sports car (bit of obvious glitzy car porn). But where did he get the keys? Then later on in the desert the cops walk into the most obvious trap set by the cons. During the following shootout against the cops, Johnny 23 (Danny Trejo) seems to only be interested in raping guard Bishop (Rachel Ticotin). Maybe escape first, rape later? Then during one of the movies numerous big finales Swamp Thing (M.C. Gainey) must land the plane on the Las Vegas strip. How does this not cause mass chaos destruction and death?? 

And I guess I have to mention the bizarre death of Cyrus. In another one of the movies big finales, Cyrus and co escape from the downed plane in a fire truck, causing yet more chaos and destruction. Eventually they obviously crash said fire truck (into a construction site) which leads to Cyrus being, somehow, decapitated by some highly dangerous rock crushing machine. The oddity of this death is how Cyrus' body manages to get into this position of being decapitated in the first place; and why exactly a dangerous machine like this is still running at night with no one around supervising.

Then, of course, there is the total curveball of Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi) being touted and paraded around the entire movie as the most dangerous bad guy ever, only to do absolutely nothing. This guy is feared by the badass criminals because he is the killer of killers, but he does zip. Kudos for the setup but what actually is the deal with Greene? What was the point? At one point he clearly states how he once wore the head of one of his victims (a little girl) as a hat through three states. Then later on we see him getting all cozy with this little girl and we are meant to fear the worst. But he doesn't kill her, he doesn't do anything, and then we see him gambling in Vegas right at the end as if he's decided to change his life. But did he? Did he change? Or was this last scene just for laughs? (it totally was).

To be clear, this movie and all involved were aware of what the goal was here. I myself am also aware of what the aim was, what this movie was doing. And by that I mean (in case you haven't already guessed) its a nonstop thrill ride that isn't supposed to be taken seriously. Now whilst you could say that overrides all my points (which it kinda does), that doesn't mean you can't point them out and maybe mention that the movie could have been much much better had these issues been addressed. Take 'The Rock' for example, that's a very similar movie which is in my view the better movie because it's a tad more grounded, at times.

But overall, yeah, sit back, relax, grab some victuals and pop, and strap yourself in for a movie that utterly screams Michael Bay but isn't. High energy, high-octane, fast food, popcorn fodder. The movie doesn't give a rats ass and neither should you, but please take my review into consideration. The not politically correct equivalent to most modern action flicks, well anything with Vin Diesel or Dwayne Johnson in basically.


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