DVD Review
by Kevin Carr

    MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
    DVD EXPERIENCE: * (out of 5 stars)

    Nicolas Cage as CAMERON POE
    John Cusack as VINCE LARKIN
    John Malkovich as CYRUS “THE VIRUS” GRISSOM
    Steve Buscemi as GARLAND GREENE
    Ving Rhames as DIAMOND DOG JONES
    Colm Meaney as DUNCAN MALLOY
    Mykelti Williamson as BABY-O O’DELL
    Rachel Ticotin as SALLY BISHOP

    Not Rated
    Studio: Touchstone Pictures

    Directed by: Simon West
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Simon West was one of the directors that Jerry Bruckheimer first showed the spotlight. One of the consistent hits that crowned Bruckheimer the king of big budget action films was “Con Air,” a movie that helped solidify Nicholas Cage as an action star.

“Con Air” came along in that string of films that Cage made after being nominated for the Academy Award. He came out with three big films that year and became a superstar. “Con Air” gives you a chance to see Cage early in his career as an A-lister.

Touchstone has released the new “Unrated Extended Edition” of this film. Like many other so-called “unrated” DVDs out today, it really doesn’t contain anything beyond it’s original cut. There’s certainly nothing any more titillating in this film, just some extended scenes. So like “Gone in 60 Seconds,” “Coyote Ugly” and “Crimson Tide” before it, this version of “Con Air” is about what you got before. It also is completely void of special features, which works against it.

The movie tells the story of Cameron Poe (Nicholas Cage), an Army Ranger who has been sent to prison after he killed a man who was attacking his wife. After serving his sentence, Poe is up for parole. During his transport to the new facility, his plane is hijacked by the other inmates. Led by Cyrus “The Virus” (John Malkovich), the inmates set on a murderous rampage.

Poe feels a loyalty to his friend, who needs medical attention on the plane. He also wants to return safely home to see his daughter he has never met. He tries to upset the hijack from the inside and also help the a U.S. Marshall (John Cusack), who’s trying to stop the inmates from escaping.

“Con Air” helped redefine action films for the 1990s. Like “Gone in 60 Seconds,” it is the quintessential high-octane action flick. The characters are extreme and completely unrealistic, but that works fine in the structure of the film. As far as big budget action films go, “Con Air” delivers.

The cast is well assembled, with Ving Rhames and Steve Buscemi as memorable convicts. John Cusack slums with the big-budget films, taking a break from his innovative independent work. He’s an asset to the film for sure. And even though John Malkovich plays yet another version of Malkovich, he comes across well as the insane leader of the bad guys.

However, there were some things that did bother me about this film. I know it’s a bit stuffy to complain about the idolization of violence, but I did have a problem making Buscemi’s Garland Greene as such a sympathetic and funny character when he was a horrifying killer. He’s funny in his own right, but the child murderer as the comic relief is a bit unsettling.

There is quite a bit of willy-nilly violence that bothered me, especially in the climactic plane crash on the Las Vegas strip (which is geographically impossible as seen on film). I had a bit of a problem with how many innocent people get killed in this film, and that makes it a bit rough to watch.

“Con Air” was made in 1997, which was the height of Jerry Bruckheimer’s action push. Plenty of films came afterwards, but this was the quintessential modern action flick. But it’s not all that bad, really. At least it’s not directed by Michael Bay.

Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.

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