Summer of Nicolas Cage Movie #1: Con Air

1997 explosion movie!

Rating: 14/20 (Dylan [saw only the last half]: 4/20)

Plot: Former U.S. marine Cameron Poe had a bad night and killed a man in self-defense outside an Alabama bar. He's sent to the pen for seven years where he befriends a black man, misses his hot wife, and writes letters to the daughter he's never met. Finally, he's to be released, just in time for his daughter's birthday. He even has a crappy stuffed bunny to give her. In order to get back home, however, he's got to take a plane ride with some of the most dangerous criminals imaginable. And after those cons take control of the airplane, poor Poe knows he's in for a bumpy ride. Con air! Explosions!

Jen and I saw this in a theater, likely the Indiana Theater, when it came out, probably because I really liked John Malkovich and wanted to see him play a bad guy again like in In the Line of Fire. For thirteen or so years, I've not really thought much of this movie, but seeing it again, I can appreciate its genius a lot more. I don't think I realized it was a comedy the first time I saw it.

It gets off to a bad start--Nicolas Cage doesn't do anything badass for the first five minutes. But you know what happens if you call one of Nicolas Cage's characters a "pussy" or "Captain Dick"? You will unleash the badass! Cage is, this being the Summer of Nicolas Cage, the reason I saw this movie, and he doesn't disappoint. Here, we get calm-under-pressure action hero Cage, a Cage with a mullet and a southern accent that sounds like he's auditioning for a role as a Civil War plantation owner. The accent sort of fades in and out, but it's probably intentional because this is Nicolas Cage and he knows what he's doing. There are a few great Nicolas Cage moments in this including one of those trademarked moves where he transitions from calm to completely freakin' out with a giant "Ha-haaaa! I'm goin' home, son!" that he says to his friend with the same emotion he'd have used if his friend had set his character on fire.

Speaking of that, a character is set on fire in this movie. And unless I'm just confused, the character is just fine later in the movie. But I digress.

There's also a shot of Nicolas Cage leaving a bus, and the smile he gives to the camera should be enough for him to win a lifetime achievement award. He talks about black cherry Jello, threatens various people, says, "Put the bunny back in the box" likes it's the toughest thing a person can possibly say, and mentions his little hummingbird. See? With Nicolas Cage as a tough guy, you don't get all-tough-all-the-time. He's not Chuck Norris. No, you get to see the tender side of his tough guy character, too. Cage does have a weird thing he does with his lines in this one. He starts a lot of sentences with the interjection well followed by a lengthy pause. You know what that is, dear readers? It's called acting.

Despite how good Nicolas Cage is, he's not really the main attraction here. Look at this cast: the great John Malkovich, the generally worthless John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Dave Chappelle, Machete's Danny Trejo. It's like a Who's Who of Cool. Malkovich is as Malkovichian as he gets, and say what you want about the writing of Con Air, but his Cyrus the Virus gets some lines that are better than anything Shakespeare ever wrote. "Do you fly, Johnny? Cause if your dick leaves your pants, you jump off this plane." "If you say one word about this over the radio, the next wings you see will belong to the flies buzzing over your rotting corpse." "I don't like him. If he talks again, this conversation is terminated." Singing--"Oh, nothing makes me sadder than the agent lost his bladder in the airplane." "The next time you pick a human shield, you're better off not picking a two-bit negro crackhead." Great stuff. And I think that last line might be in a Shakespeare play, probably Othello. I also liked Steve Eastin, a guard who gets to call people "Nazi muffins" and say things like "your testicles will become mine."

This is the type of movie that gets more and more ridiculous as it goes. It's like the producers (of course, Jerry Bruckheimer) and director Simon West (this Lara Croft director's first movie) finally just said, "You know what? This is already pretty stupid. Implausibility galore! Let's pile on the stupid!" and just went nuts. You don't think this can get any more ridiculous? Well, boom shacka, how's about another gigantic explosion! How's about Nicolas Cage saying, "What do you think I'm gonna do? I'm gonna save the f-in' day!"? How about Buscemi's cannibalistic serial killer playing Barbie with a little girl who for some reason is hanging out in an abandoned and empty swimming pool next to an old air base? Boom shacka! You see all that fire on the poster up there? That's what the last 1/4 of this movie is. Fire! Forget the other classical elements. Fire is the only one this bad boy needs! Con Air is the type of movie you watch and instantly feel more like a guy. It's the type of movie that can put hair on your chest!

Wait a second. Is Nicolas Cage considered a classical element? Earth, water, air, fire, and Nicolas Cage?

Favorite line (possibly ever): "Make a move and the bunny gets it." So badass!


cory said...

That's a great review of a movie I hate (along with its emotional twin,"Armageddon"). I could see someone getting a campy kick out of it, sort of like a Christopher Guest-like mock action film, but I just can't do it. The filmmakers aren't in on a joke. They, and the audience who eats this crap up are the joke. How many hundreds of millions did these films make? That's why we get movies like "Batman and Robin" or these things get made instead of good films. A 5.

Shane said...

Blame 'Die Hard'...

And I'm not so sure the filmmakers aren't in on the joke...there's a lot of black humor in this one.

I used to own a copy of 'Armageddon'...for the record.

Barry said...

I can see enjoying Con-Air for being a bad movie. (Much more than the genuinely annoying Armageddon)

Die Hard was good though. Its nothing like Con-Air, except people have guns.

Lets see here.

I give Con-Air a 13.

Armageddon a 9 (Thats one more than Attack of the Clones)

Die Hard an 18.

Any other questions?

Shane said...

I blame 'Die Hard' for all the action hero movies that came after it. Whether or not that's fair...

It's a 14 for me.

'Armageddon'? Well, despite owning a VHS copy, I've never seen it. I'll trust you guys on that one and steer clear.