johnlink ranks CON AIR (1997)
Nominated for 2 Academy Awards, CON AIR is the epitome of grace and nuance in the normally overblown world of prisoners hijacking a US Marshal flight. Kidding, kidding. Well, kidding about everything except the Academy Awards part. This really did get nominated for two Oscars (sound and best song). It is the poster child for overly-silly R-Rated 90s action. And it is fun as shit.
I watched CON AIR (1997) on 3.7.13. It was probably my fifteenth viewing of the film, but it is the fist time I’ve watched it in over ten years.
I watch this movie and can start to understand (not accept, but understand) why kids who grew up with TRANSFORMERS defend all of those films to the bone. I mean, really, CON AIR is not good. The plot breaks the logic scale the moment Nicholas Cage actually goes to prison for eight years for defending himself from three drunk attackers. It just gets bigger, sillier, and less coherent as the movie goes on. Nicholas Cage’s accent starts bad, goes away for a bit, comes back worse, and never convinces you he’d done anything but watch FORREST GUMP for hours on end to try and perfect a sound.
Yet, despite all that (and partly because of all that) this is such an outrageously fun movie. The cast kills it. In addition to Cage we have an assortment of bad guys which includes John Malkovich, Danny Trejo, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi (in a marvelously overblown role), and Dave Chappelle. On the good guys side are John Cusack, Monica Potter, and Mykelti Williamson. Nobody acts like they are in a bad movie, and that is part of what prevents this from BEING a bad movie.
The one-liners in this are historically bad (“Why couldn’t you put the bunny back in the box.” and “Cy!” “Onara!” are probably the two best examples). But with their horrendous delivery and silly conception the lines become funny again in a ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ kind of way. It would be tempting to just say that this entire movie is ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ , and you could probably get some traction in saying so. However, the action bits are legitimately good and the story moves at a pace which clearly was considered (no dead time in this whatsoever). So while the characters may be caricatures and the dialogue may be poorly realized, the movie works anyway. The only bad acting is from Cage, and there is something endearing in it. While nobody else is going to be nominated for any awards, there is at least an effort.
The film is the first produced by Jerry Bruckheimer without long-time partner Don Simpson. It still feels like a Simpson/Bruckheimer production though. The score sounds the same as TOP GUN before it and ARMAGEDDON after it. The camera moves in much of the same way as those movies. I mean, really, when we talk about the tropes of 90s action films we are usually talking about concepts bred, nurtured, and perfected by these guys. More amazing is the one very dissonant scene in CON AIR when Steve Buscemi (who, at one point, has the marvelous line “One girl, I drove through three states wearing her head as a hat.”) ends up sitting in a broken down and empty swimming pool with a little girl playing with her dolls. The scene is creepy, subversive, and odd. Ultimately, we learn that Buscemi spares her (though we never learn why), but the moment itself feels like it belongs in a different movie.
Anyway, CON AIR is fun. There is no denying it. I always want to say that this is a bad movie, but it is just not true. It’s fun. Make fun of me if you will, but I draw the line in the sand between stupid and enjoyable through some other movie, not this one. I watched this again thinking I would pick it apart. Instead, despite its obvious failures in logic and basic dialogue technique, it is a great way to spend a couple of hours.
FILM: 4; MOVIE: 10; ACTING: 5; WRITING: 4
FINAL SCORE: 5.75