Con Air

Rating:

HAIR FORCE ONE

Main Cast: Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich

Director: Simon West

Things are starting to pick up at VickiTube, my new streaming service designed to improve the lives of everyday average Americans by letting a little old Hollywood glamor into their homes. We are up to a whole 17 subscribers which I feel isn’t bad for a new service that’s only been available for a few weeks. Our target is 150,000 by the end of the year so it isn’t that far to go; once word of mouth starts spreading, I know that the money will start rolling in. We don’t have the cash flow yet for separate corporate offices so I’m letting the staff occupy the spare bedroom, the library and the dining room at the moment. We’ve hung some green screen in the dining room allowing us to easily composite me into whatever background we need to for a refreshing visual change of pace. Currently, we’re inserting me into classic movie scenes. Last night I greatly improved Scarlett and her father overlooking Tara at sunset by doing a stunning little tap routine in black lame and a bowler hat just off to their right.

phone booths pixabay
Oh dear! Our booth order seems to have gone awry.

We’ve decided to entitle my morning chat show A View with Vicki and to make it a sort of round table where celebrated actresses weigh in on the top issues of the day. My three cohosts for the first episodes are Belle Poitrine, Vera Charles, and Eve Harrington – top names all and we are going to be discussing current politics, the aftermath of the election, and how the women of America need to respond to this unusual time in history. Our first taping is next week, and I am so looking forward to working with dear colleagues I haven’t been able to see for some time. We’re still working on our Covid-19 protocols. I did invite them all to bunk with me as a quarantine pod but there were arguments over closet space so we’re designing a set with Lucite booths with independent ventilation systems (I knew that extra dryer hose would come in handy) so we can be in each other’s presence without worrying about cross contamination.

After meeting with Leah from my consumer products division over sales of my fine branded merchandise (as I predicted the collector dolls are practically flying off the shelves), I was able to take a little time for myself. The orders were more than we had in stock, so we had to pick up some beanie babies at the thrift store, decapitate them, and glue my head on them. We then wrapped them up in some extra chiffon and sequins from Kim Dee and Mary Gee’s scrap bins to get them shipped in reasonable time. When I was finished, I wandered into the home theater where I looked through various choices of films and settled on what I assumed would be a lovely older film about the challenges of achieving the perfect blow-dried hair style, Con Air. As I have been having some difficulty with my toilette in quarantine, I decided it was just the thing and settled in for a gentle evening’s entertainment. Unfortunately, I was mistaken in my assessment and Con Air turned out to be an action film from 1997 starring Nicolas Cage. It did, however, have endless shots of Nicolas with glorious hair extensions billowing softly as he flew through the air or was caught in blast waves. I do hope his hair conditioner was given at least an associate producer credit.

Nicolas Cage stars as Cameron Poe, clean cut Army Ranger who returns home from the wars to his lovely wife Tricia (Monica Potter), pregnant with their first child. Unfortunately, on the night he returns, he gets into a bar fight with a man who insults his wife and accidentally kills him. This leads to a completely unbelievable court scene where he is sent to federal prison for seven years for involuntary manslaughter. There, to denote the passage of time, he grows out his lovely locks, becomes good friends with fellow inmate Mike (Mykelti Williamson), and we see a montage of letters and pictures from the daughter he has never met.

At last, his time is up, and he is paroled. In order to get back home, he is given a seat on a charter jet run by the US Marshal’s Service transferring hardened criminals to a new supermax prison (the titular Con Air). John Cusack represents the US Marshals on the ground in charge of the logistics of the flight and he is bullied by a DEA agent Molloy (Colm Meany) into letting an undercover agent (Jose Zuniga) on the flight to see if he can pump a drug lord for information. What none of them know is that arch criminal Cyrus (John Malkovich) plots to take over the plane midair and fly them all off to some country without extradition treaties. There is a battle, the criminals take over the plane, more criminals are transferred on board at a stop outside of Carson City NV, and soon a supporting cast including Steve Buscemi, Danny Trejo, Dave Chappelle, and M. C. Gainey are running riot looking like an episode of Oz in the air. John Cusack, meanwhile, figures out that Nicolas Cage is a good guy and working on his side to try and bring the plane down safely so that the bad guys can be caught, and he can be home for dinner. Mayhem ensues.

Nicolas Cage was in the action hero phase of his career, Con Air fitting in between The Rock and Face/Off. This was a decade or so before his career devolved into taking any piece of dreck that came along for a paycheck to help with his well-publicized financial issues. He’s inoffensive but any of a dozen other leading men of his generation could have played the part better and possibly brought something more interesting to the film. Keanu Reeves would have been more interesting to look at and Bruce Willis would have found some humor or something quirky in the character to grab our attention.

Cage brings nothing special to the proceedings, sleepwalking his way from action set piece to action set piece. This cedes Con Air to John Malkovich as the villain who is in full over the top mode. He just needs a large waxed mustache and a cape to twirl to make his portrayal complete. I was more or less rooting for him to get away and was somewhat disappointed when he met his inevitable demise. The secondary plot with the various federal agencies squabbling doesn’t engage. John Cusack radiates boredom with the whole affair and gives the impression he’d rather be in any other film. Colm Meany has much more fun with his ‘I am always right’ character who eventually gets at least some of a comeuppance.

Simon West, the director, was helming his first feature working from a script by Scott Rosenberg. Simon was best known for a Budweiser frogs commercial and a Rick Astley video (which eventually became a cultural meme) and has gone on to an undistinguished career of directing second and third string action and thriller pictures. There’s nothing especially wrong with his direction, it’s just uninspired and boy does he have a fixation on Nicolas Cage’s hair. At times the film looks like a clip reel sent to the Hairdresser’s Association of America in competition for their Golden Blow Dryer award. The script is paint by numbers. It has all the expected beats for a formula action film, and you can pretty much figure most of the plot points out fifteen minutes into the film once they’ve finished the basic exposition.

I can’t say Con Air is bad per se, but it sure isn’t good. Recommended for Nicolas Cage and John Cusack completists or for those who like John Malkovich in full ham mode. It’s also very much a boy movie. The few female characters function as plot devices not as human beings. It’s probably best enjoyed on the late late show when you’re having difficulty sleeping.

Stuffed rabbit. Convict flambe. Serial killer tea party. Gratuitous roast drug lord. Flying sports car. Las Vegas Strip crash landing. Hook and Ladder chase. Gratuitous insulin subplot. Sightseeing plane engagement.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

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