Jerry Bruckheimer is not liked by critics. They sneer at his films as being skewed to the lowest common denominator. Filled with big bangs, explosions, and special effects you certainly know what you are going to get with a Bruckheimer movie. He is probably the only producer who has turned his name into a genre of its own.
I have never understood the critic's attitude to be honest. After all, we are all movie fans, and have spent loads of money on our home cinema. Did we do that to watch death playing chess in black and white? Or did we do that to see things blown up? I don't know about you, but for me it was certainly the latter.
Which brings us very neatly to Con Air. Originally planned for release on Blu ray back in 2007, it has finally seen the light stateside after being released in the UK late last year. The big question is, was it worth the wait?
The plot, for those who have never seen the film, is an absolute humdinger. Cameron Poe (Nicholas Cage) is a former soldier who has recently been demobbed and has come back to his pregnant wife. When he steps in to protect her from the drunken advances of a local lout, the fight ends with the lout's death and Poe getting banged up. On his daughter's seventh birthday, Poe is released and is hitching a ride home on “Con Air”, a plane that is flying a group of hardcore criminals to a new facility. Of course, these prisoners (under the lead of Cyrus the Virus played by John Malkovich) highjack the plane, and it is down to Poe to work in secret on the inside to help foil the criminals.
What is immediately noticeable in this film is the absolutely superb cast that are involved in this endeavour. Nicholas Cage, John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi, and John Cusack amongst others all make noticeable appearances and add a certain gravitas to the proceedings, Even Colm Meaney (Miles O'Brien from Star trek) makes a notable (and sweary) contribution.
Together this ensemble manages to raise the film above the normal run-of-the-mill action flick onto another plane altogether. Admittedly, a lot of scene chewing takes place here (Malkovich, we are looking at you) but it is all done with a level of good nature that makes the film very hard to dislike.
The actor's task is helped considerably by a sharp and knowing script that is also a touch above what you might normally find in a film of this type. The scrip eschews sad one-line quips for a surprisingly intelligent and sparky dialogue. Each actor gets his chance to shine, but the film sparkles particularly when Cage and Malkovich are jousting with each other.
Yet this IS a Bruckheimer movie, so there is still plenty of blowing stuff up. There are some spectacular stunts here, featuring plane crashes, car crashes, explosions, helicopters, and all manner of crazy stuff. This all adds to the spectacular mix that is presented, but never actually overshadows the other aspects of the movie, the acting and the script. This sense of balance is perhaps more what raises this film above your average action offering.
The whole thing is shot beautifully by first-time Brit Director Simon West who never fulfilled the promise shown by this film. However, the angles he uses, and the shots he finds add immense atmosphere to the proceedings. The editing is beautifully done as well. The scene where Buscemi's Garland Green is having a picnic with a local little girl just drips menace and manages to suggest a whole amount of evil and unpleasantness without making anything explicit.
At the end of the day, to me Con Air is one of the greatest Bruckheimer pictures of the nineties. Great actors, a razor sharp script, clever plot, beautifully shot, and lots of stuff getting blown up. What else could you possibly want? Well, you could possibly want the Director's Cut that was released on SD, but unfortunately at this moment in time you are not going to get it. But for HD action movies, this is about the best you can get at the moment.
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