"Put the Bunny back in the Box": 'Con Air' Review
Along with the rest of our writers, I fully expected this month to be a weird menagerie of screaming, camera mugging, and ridiculous accents, courtesy of the master himself, Nic Cage. So consider my shock when Con Air had most, not all, of those mainstay Cage problems replaced with an excellent supporting cast, intense action, and the most rocking mullet ever to grace the silver screen. It's a pure '90s action extravaganza with a heaping helping of Nic Cage thrown in for good measure.
The film follows Cage as Cameron Poe, a convicted Army Ranger who has spent the better part of ten years in prison for murdering a drunk in self-defense. On the day of his daughter's birthday, Poe is set to be paroled but only after being transferred on Con Air, the government's prisoner transport airplane. En route, all hell breaks loose due to Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom and his cronies hijacking the plane after freeing themselves. With help from US Marshall Vince Larkin, Poe must stop the terrorists and get home in time to give his daughter a stuffed bunny.
As mentioned above, Nic Cage isn't his usual hyperactive self in Con Air, but he does decide to go all Foghorn Leghorn on the role. His goofy Southern accent is shades of H.I. from Raising Arizona, but significantly less nuanced, emphasis on significantly. However, accent aside, his turn as Poe is one of his best. He is a sympathetic hero who treads the line to get the job done, even flinching when required to kill someone. It's refreshing to see Cage restrain himself; it wouldn't make sense when he's intended to be the sane one.
The rest of the cast is made up of some of Hollywood's best character actors including one of my favorites, John Cusack. He is his usual smarmy self as the smart alec Larkin, telling Colm Meany on multiple occasions to "stick it up [his] ass" with a smile. It's a little disappointing that Cusack and Cage don't get much screen time together, but when they do, it's a combination that immediately makes sense. John Malkovich doesn't chew the scenery; he downright devours it as the sadistic Grissom. He echoes Dennis Hopper in Speed with his level of calculated insanity but goes one step further with some memorable quips.
With Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Dave Chappelle, and Steve Buscemi rounding out the cast, there is nary a un-entertaining moment in the film. From Buscemi as a serial killer whose BDSM-esque shackles that would make Hannibal Lecter blush, to Trejo as a self-admitted serial rapist, it's the cast of bad guys that Suicide Squad could only begin to dream about.
Along with the cast, the action is terrific even if it feels like a spiritual successor to the aforementioned Speed. The best parts don't take place on the plane, however, but instead on several landings. The set piece at the Lerner Airfield is the real standout of the film and a genuinely impressive feat of technical filmmaking. That's not to say the in-air sequences aren't exciting, but, as with other vehicle-based movies, you can only do so much on a plane/boat/train/bus.
Action films like Con Air just aren't made anymore, especially with the number of practical effects and stunt work that they pull off. It's a shame because it's a perfect time for the long-desired sequel to Con Air. Cage's rocking mullet and a quippy Cusack are just what we need to help defuse all of that politically-charged tension that has our country in a bind. If not a sequel, then the original will suffice, and will continue to stand as a testament to the power of a restrained Cage and an entertaining cast of bad guys.