Tag Archives: John Cusack

Con Air (1997)

15 Apr

The best round of “Nicolas Cage charades” I’ve ever seen was my friend Chris miming out ‘Con Air’. From his mime one might have guessed that ‘Con Air’ is a film about money-grubbing charlatans (Con) and wafty nymphettes (Air) set in a casino-cum-windmill (Con Air).  A sort of Nicolas Cage Moulin Rouge, perhaps. If one was also very literal minded one would also be of the impression that Con Air is totally silent. A hushed, quiet sort of affair.

This is why you should never trust charades. Con Air is the guy you’re sat next to on the plane who wears aviator shades and belches out the alphabet while playing electric guitar.  And you should thank your lucky stars that it’s a relatively short flight of 115 minutes because he is not the kind of guy who is going to simmer down after 20 minutes with an in-flight magazine. No, now he’s ripping off his seatbelt, joining the Mile High Club, singing the National Anthem, punching out the pilot, taking the controls. He stinks because he wears vodka as aftershave. Con Air is a film universally hated by Quakers the world over, which is why I, and not Jay, am reviewing it.

‘Con Air’ is the slang name affectionately given to the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System in America, which flies convicts between penitentiaries. Convicts are seated together, restrained, sometimes harnessed or gagged and members of rival gangs kept separate. Onto such a flight steps Cameron Poe (Cage). A decent sort of bloke who only did what he did (manslaughter) cause he was protecting his blonde-haired blue-eyed wife (Monica Potter). At the time of the offense she was pregnant, but now she has given birth to a doe-eyed lil’ bundle of aryan innocence (Landrey Allbright) who writes her daddy letters in crayola while he’s in the slammer. Cameron just wants to get home to see his little girl! He’s even bought her a stuffed bunny he’s going to give her when they meet for the first time! Too bad then that Cameron is strapped into a flight with some of the loathesomest, hardest-bitten crooks and perverts the wrong side of the Mississipi fault-line. The unlikely ringleader of these thugs is Cyrus “The Virus” Grisson (John Malkovich), a sort of fey and eloquent (by Con Air‘s standards) Charles Bronson, who hijacks the plane, potentially jeopardising Cameron’s family reunion. It’s up to Cameron in the air, and U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin (John Cusack) on the ground, to seize back the plane with maximum machismo and aplomb.

Con Air is not a thinking man’s film, made more for gawping at than for studying. As such, from hereon I’m going to do as the film does and keep the review mostly pictorial, cutting in with glib and sassy remarks along the way!

Here’s our golden lion, his hair blowing in the air with the sweet waft of freedom! The chest hair that so enamored Jay in her review of Honeymoon in Vegan, is on partial display here. Any grey around the stubble or temples testifies to a worldliness that has yet to become weariness, as evidenced by Nic’s blue-eyed gaze towards the sky. This jailbird is lookin’ to be a freebird.

An over-credits training montage shows Nic, like a steam-powered Mr. Motivator, tauten his body into perfect beefy right-angles. The lanky Nicolas Coppola of the 80s has died, to be resurrected by a taxidermist, who’s stuffed him as full as a three-piece-suite. If you squeezed those deltoids – say, in the affectionate embrace of love – they wouldn’t yield an inch. To quote Rumsey Taylor of the inimitable notcoming.com, “motherfucking shit is he ripped.”

But since this is Nic, you can be sure that the steak isn’t served without a side-dollop of sensitivity. Not only is Cameron Poe built like a brick shithouse made of vikings, he’s got the heart of a champion to match! Here we see him contemplating his own handiwork after time spent with the ‘Big Boy’s Book of Origami’.

Now I’m not going to criticise an 8-year-old for lack of effort, but it seems lil’ miss Poe was working to a word count. An ambivalence about the homecoming of her father suggested by the insincere platitudes (I can’t wait) and the cursory hearts will become only more apparent when we meet the little girl. However, for now, this is our primary narrative impetus and the reason for Nic to get rude with dudes and sort shit out.

This represents Poe’s secondary motivation, to look out from his fellow inmate and diabetes-sufferer Mike O’Dell (Mykelti Williamson). Considering that O’Dell suffers from diabetes, it might seem peculiar that the friendship between the pair has been built upon the exchange of sugar-rich coconut puffs, but then we don’t know whether O’Dell’s diabetes began before or after his incarceration. Some heavy product placement fees must have been paid to convince Jerry Bruckheimer that ‘snoballs’ and ‘snoballs’ alone can overcome man’s basic inhumanity to man.

Cage himself was paid in snoballs and it is remarkable that he could retain his olympian body shape while gorging himself silly upon the pink muck™.

Admiring a car with a gratuitous number plate in an obscenely wide-angled shot, is Vince Larkin, played by John Cusack, pasty-faced heart throb of sappy 80s romance movies. Larkin is the white-collar bureaucrat whose job it is to get the hijacked plane safely back to land while preserving his moderate left-wing ethos as far as possible. What he will learn over the course of the film is that to save the day and thus save oneself from emasculation (that terrible threat of Nic’s mid-to-late career that haunts his characters like the spectre of lanky Nicolas Coppola) is to be as much like Cameron Poe as possible. To this end he must learn to use a gun, steal a car – as pictured above – and get real mad. It will be a tough journey as immediately apparent from some comparitive screengrabs.

This is how Nic escapes from danger, like a hulking one-track terminator. Witness the squinty determination. His well-oiled body is a lean, mean, running machine. There is no doubt of his self-control and incomparable manliness.

Oh dear! Arms a-flailing, sensible hair ungainly tussled, shirt clean no longer, Cusack looks a sorry sight. We are less likely to think heroism, than we are office party gone awry.

Even when Nic vaults over a fuck-off metal pipe, he keeps his arms perfectly straight, forming a perfect 90 degree angle. His fingers are splayed perfectly apart and his whole body is taut. Not less than a fingernail is under complete subordination of the will. Where there isn’t meat and sweat, there is hair and denim. He’s grappling with the air itself.

This is Cusack tackling a very similar move. I would laugh if it were funny. The mouth gawks open into a moronic grin while his akimbo arms recall ‘I’m A Little Teapot’ performed in the heat of battle. Moreover, he’s clicking his heels together like some lucky charms leprechaun. His hair is also distinctly non-awesome when compared to Nic’s. The man is a shambles.

Nic can even get blown up and looks like he’s the one who’s fucking up the explosion, rather the explosion fucking up him. He makes it look easy to strike a Superman pose while being hurled through the air. Nic Cage surrounded by money with an explosion behind him looking like a mad blue-collar Superman is the American Dream.

Less a blue-eyed boy than a black-eyed beast. With hair sprouting from every crevice and his own and other men’s blood staining his bulging deltoids, Nic grimaces like the Incredible Hulk having his chest waxed. Whether or not you like Con Air, in shots like these it reaches some kind of monumental apex of the action film.

Cusack can but concede defeat, puffing his chin out like a diminished bullfrog. His left hand falls limp by his side, while his right hand is clamped in the rigorous clasp of the victorious Cage, who manages to do all this with a pink bunny rabbit stuffed under his arm.

I was going to write a great deal more on this rabbit, but someone got there quite magnificently before me, so I shall like Cusack graciously concede defeat and supply you with the link, leaving you with the image of Nic driving a tractor away from an explosion. Happy Easter!

For an analysis of the pink bunny motif and a picture of Poe’s lil’ daughter looking thoroughly troubled visit: http://www.hellonearth.com/movies/conairpix1.html