It was about 10pm on a slow Friday night, nothing much on TV except the usual trash; Friends re-runs, over the top game shows and reality TV – which isn’t so much reality as you would think, but more the rejected storylines, for being too stupid from most soap operas. Then suddenly out of the blue, like a present from God himself. I just happened to stumble upon a film called How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, which I was immediately drawn too, as I knew It was a play on the title of Dale Carnegie very successful book, How To Win Friends and in Influence People. So I was expecting something extremely funny and entertaining, and as I had read the Carnegie book, I would be able to pick up on all the inside jokes, then upon pressing the I button on the sky remote, I then realized that Simon Pegg, was also playing the lead – known for the kick-ass film Shaun of the Dead, and coupled that with my amazingly prepared; Steak, salad and jacket potatoes, sitting on my lap calling my name – thanks mum!. I knew it was going to be a good night.
But 20 minutes in I realized the film sucked, and Megan Fox proves that we do truly live in superficial society and we are doomed as a human race. Because no way she could get as far as she has (actually not very far, but further then she deserves) in the movie-making business, based on pure talent alone – which is close to none. But that was not what stood out for me, not the terrible film, or the suckkyness of Megan Fox, but what actually stood out for me, was a scene, and more particularly a piece of dialogue between Simon and one of the up themselves film snobs. So here is what happened. When Simon asks the snob what the greatest film of all time was, at first the guy didn’t have an answer, but with enough badgering by Pegg, he eventually said La Doce Vita, a masterpiece of a film by Federico Fellini – rightly so. But then Simon says – which was the inspiration for this entire blog. He says, wrong! And that the actual answer was, in fact, Con Air, “you’ve got Malkovich for the acting chops, you got Nicky cage for your action, Steve Buscemi for your comedy, John Cusack for the gays, Right?” so with that said, I feel that I agree with all the statements, except for last one, because I’m a straight guy, who loves a bit of the Cus, just remembering him with the boom box held over his head outside the widow of Diane Court (Ione Skye) in Say Anything, still brings tears to my eyes. Cough* manly tears! Very, manly tears. But then the more I pondered such a notion, it dawned on me. Maybe it’s true, maybe Con Air is truly the greatest film of all time? Is there even the one greatest film? Maybe not, but all I can say for certain is, Con Air is defiantly one of the greatest films of all time, and here is why, it’s all down to the casting, the premise and the action, that is the reason for its greatness.
First of all the film is as a story about, a once war hero(Nicholas Cage), who was placed in jail for the better part of 8 years, leaving behind a daughter who wasn’t even born when he was sent down, and a wife. Who was the main reason he was sent to jail, because being a good man, he protected his pregnant wife from another man during a bar brawl, but in doing so, he accidentally kills the guy. Skip 8 years later, and he is soon to be a free man after being released, but after missing his original flight he is then forced too aboard a flight transporting ten of the most dangerous criminals in America to a new top of the range security facility. Criminals being the likes Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich), is a serial killer and diabolical mastermind, that is the reason for hijacking of the plane to help them escape to freedom, that let’s just say it makes the journey for a bumpy ride for our hero, with the help of such fiends as Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames), Johnny 23 (Daniel Trejo). After a lot of flying bullets, a lot of screaming and shouting, a lot of explosions and one dead body flying through the air, the rest of the film is a hair-raising roller coaster of thrills.
The premise is pretty cool, right? Okay, it’s no inceptions and isn’t exactly the most intelligent and sophisticated of storylines, but who wants to be sophisticated all the time, it gets boring, and as for the intelligent part, it makes your head hurt. So what, a five-year-old could have come up with the idea in its sleep, but that’s what makes it so good, its simplicity. Some of the most beautiful things in life are often the most simple, like a 4 year old getting hit in the face by a beach ball, or your best friend passing out on your couch, giving you the perfect opportunity to get him back for showing a group of girls you meet in a club, that made you pretty sure you were getting laid, but all chance where ruined when he should them your baby picture – it still find it weird that he even had them in the first place. But all that matter is, I got him back. But sure it was cheesy and simple, but it did the job, and that’s what Con air does so well. Gets the job done, which is to entertain. And don’t forget it was written by Jerry Bruckheimer the guy who directed all the Pirates of the Caribbean, and who has grossed more than $800 million worldwide and has amassed 41 Academy Award nominations (six wins), eight Grammy Award nominations (five wins), 23 Golden Globe nominations (four wins), 77 Emmy Award nominations (nine wins) – so you knew as the audience you where in safe hands.
Next, let’s look at the cast; the lead is played by Nicholas Cage, the very definition of your modern day action hero, the love child of Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Wills. Excuse me one second as I take a shot of vodka, to get the image of the two having sex out o my mind. But that’s the thing, Cage was perfect for the part, plus he’s a massive movie star, just look at the fact that he is the 29th highest grossing film actor of all time making close to 2.2 billion dollars so far, a lot more than so-called three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis. Then we have John Malkovich as Cyrus Grissom providing the performance. Malkovich is so good even had a film named after him, which went on to be nominated for three Oscars, as well as being an Emmy award-winning actor, who also has been nominated for a golden globe, an Oscar and BAFTA for his role in ‘In the Line of Fire’. Amongst other numerous Emmy nominations for his TV exploits. So rightly so he is relied upon for the performance.
We then have Dave Chappell who was completely underrated for his role as pinball. The bumbling fool who gets his body is lodged in the landing gear as the aircraft takes off. Chappell is a comedy genius, at one time before he fell off the face of the earth, ironically the same fate given to his character pinball. He was he was the highest paid working comic in a America, he’s stand up DVD release as of 2005, was the best-selling TV series set of all time, beating out other popular shows such as The Simpsons (the first season of which held the record beforehand), American Dad!, Family Guy, Friends, and Seinfeld. Chappell was also ranked as the forty-third in Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. So the guy brings the laughs. And those are just some of the stand out casts; I didn’t even include the like of Cusack, Buscemi and Rhames, who all bring something different to the film, but that’s the thing there is so many it will be impossible to write down why they all are awesome, there is simply not enough paper in the world.
Then we have the action. There are tones of it! It’s a wet dream of about every teenage boy – well teenage boys post Baywatch days, and particularly post Pamela Anderson in a red bikini days. Once of these so called thrilling action scenes occurs half way through the film, when the plane has to land in Lerner Airfield they over shoot the runway, causing the plane to ground its self on sand, near a tank of propane. Taking this opportunity good cop, john Cusack with the help of the National Guard is able to catch up with before they are able to get air born again. With the criminals fighting for their freedom and the National Guard acting as the long arm of the law, a titanic shoot out ensues, but the action is so well coordinated and written, it soon becomes a beautifully assembled orchestra of violence, coupled with short snappy dialogue that acts like poetry amongst the dying bodies and exploding tanks . The scene is a work of art, and I would find it difficult to understand if anyone would see it any differently – and that’s just the starter, the main course occurs near the end, so after Poe (Cage) is successful in disabling the engine, making it impossible for the convicts to reach sanctum, so they are then forced to land on the Vegas strip, most are killed but a few survive and escape; Cyrus, diamond dog and swamp. Poe seeking revenge and justice gives chase eventually leading to the three deaths of the convicts Jones being hit by a motorbike, Swamp Thing hurtling through the windshield and being run over, and Cyrus crushed by a pounder in a construction site – bad ass right!
As your probably thinking right now that the film was awesome, which you would be right for thinking, but it’s one of those things that get better with age. Whilst now it would be considered a cult juggernaut, but on the other hand on its release in cinema it wasn’t so well appreciated as you would have thought. On a modest budget of $75 million, it went on to gross $225 million worldwide, spread almost 50/50 between North America and the rest of the world, grossing $101 million domestically and 124 internationally. So as the finance goes it was a pretty good return, not necessarily a resounding block buster as the cast and high octane premise would suggest, but it still made a profit, but not enough to warrant a sequel. And it didn’t fear to well against the critics, It dived most down the centre, explaining it 55% approval rating on Rotten tomatoes. Some saying it does what it supposed to do, to entertain, while other would say its mindless drivel. Showing you that it is a film, some would see for its greatness whilst other will see it for its flaws, a statement epitomised completely during the awards season when “How Do I Live” was nominated for both the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Razzie Award Worst Original Song, but won neither. Which I would guess is something that rarely happens.
So my final verdict would be, for its one of the greatest because It’s like having your wildest dreams as a child, come true putting together a verity of different actors you all love to see all in one film, but deep down you thought it would never happen, as what film would possible need both a john cusak/malkoivc and the king of action. Looking back, Con Air is what I’ve come to expect of a standard Hollywood action flick, nothing more, nothing less. It’s got plenty of action, big explosions, one-liners and pure entertainment value. The plot is pretty good, somewhat original, and fairly fast-paced, but another part of me would agree with the critics saying it’s So over the top, at time bordering on ridiculous, not enough time to get involved with the characters, and not much emotional pay off as everyone is completely one dimensional . Okay so shoot me, Con Air is not perfect, but nothing in life really is, you just have to praise it on its good points, and learn to love despite its flaws. Con Air we salute you.