Sunday, August 19, 2012

Con Air
Sometimes, terrible movies 
are the very best

Actually, that's not entirely fair. Con Air has great reviews and made a ton of money back in 1997, and for good reason. 

It's a fun, wild ride and a fantastic way to spend a couple of empty-headed hours.

William Bedford: You lost your mind? 
Cyrus Grissom: According to my last psych evaluation, yes. 

Con Air is also an aircraft-lovers flick, with some truly memorable and funny dialogue. You may have noticed that this film isn't posted under Film Cemetery or Truly Great Films...and that is because it belongs in neither.

Nicholas Cage plays Cameron Poe, a former Special Forces soldier that accidentally kills an attacker right after coming home from the Gulf War.

You handsome man, you

Director Simon West, who just made Expendables 2, pulls all the strings he can with the opening of Con Air. Cage's wife is pregnant, and has the baby while he's in prison. 

Cage reads and answers letters from his little daughter, bonds with other prisoners, and does his time peacefully. West pretty much shoves a drawling, good-guy act with Cage down our throats, but that's to be expected.

Some people have complained that Con Air is crass and has no tact. Okay...when have we ever seen Cage be subtle? Seriously, name one friggin' time.

Then the day of his release comes, which coincides with his daughter's birthday. Cage and a bunch of really bad prisoners are loaded up for transfer on the Jailbird - an aircraft with the U.S. Marshal's service.

Cyrus Grissom: Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I have the only gun on board. Welcome to Con Air. 

Look, everyone has seen this movie, so I really just want to talk about a few important points...

The Jailbird in this flick is represented by three C-123 Providers, which are Air Force transports from the Vietnam era. 

Taxi static model

The Provider has been my dream aircraft since the late 80s, ever since I saw one at a friend's place. Since then, I have absolutely loved that plane. 

They aren't very expensive to buy or operate, but they've never been officially released from the Air Force, so you can't do a lot with one unless you have special waivers from the military.

Static model on display at Wendover Airport

Like I was saying, though, three Providers were used for Con Air. One for the taxi scenes, one for the flying stunts, and another stripped shell for the crash into the Sands Casino.

Why am spending time with this? To honor the memory of the men that were killed in connection with these planes, that's why.

On August 29th, 1996, Phillip Swartz - a welder on the Con Air set - was crushed to death by one of the C-123s. A few years later the Provider used in the flying scenes went down in the Denali National Park in Alaska. All three crew were killed. Rest in peace, guys.

Back to the film...

My complaints about Con Air

Cyrus Grissom: Make a move and the bunny gets it. 

Well, nothing that really matters too much. The film is wonderfully cast, with John Malkovich as Cyrus the Virus, and the leader of the gang of prisoners that take over the Jailbird. Ving Rhames is his right hand man, along with Danny Trejo and M.C. Gainey. 

On the good guy side, we have have John Cusack and Colm Meaney as a U.S. Marshal and a DEA agent fighting to see who has the bigger dick, and to get the plane back from the bad guys. 

Meaney is Meaney as usual, but Cusack is in fine form...and does a pretty good job despite the material he's given.

But then producer Jerry Bruckheimer throws Dave Chappelle (whose funny lines are unscripted) and Steve Buscemi into the mix, and the cast becomes very top heavy. 

There are simply too many characters with too little to do. However, Buscemi plays Garland Green, a serial killer. He also delivers some of the best lines.

Garland Greene: One girl, I drove through three states wearing her head as a hat. 

The Stingray is going to meet a violent death - I just know it

Con Air falls apart about two-thirds the way through the film, as the bad guys have pulled just about every dumb trick they can - and the cops, of course, have fallen for these tricks. Does it really matter?

 Told you so

No, you're already invested, and the humor, terrific stunts and good pacing have already sucked you in. 

The firetruck chase in the end was totally unnecessary, and actually detracts from a movie we'd already seen an ending to.

Guess what? The Hard Rock guitar gets it

This is, at its heart, a ridiculous popcorn flick that only works if you don't stop to think about it. 

That's fine. It's escapism, like most Cage movies. 

If you're in the mood for mindless action, this isn't a bad place to wind up.


Anonymous said...

Phil Swartz (welder, husband, father of 4 - who died during filling of Con Air) is my older brother. We miss him. "In Memory of Phillip Swartz" Thanks for remembering Phil and the other three unfortunate men. R. Swartz

S. Daniel Shortwinter said...

I am truly sorry for your loss