Coming from a glorious era of time where Nicolas Cage re-invented himself as an action hero, Con Air slips seamlessly into his filmography. That manic energy he possesses, something that has dragged its way to the forefront of his last few years, was once a valuable asset, rather than a meme-oriented landslide. Con Air brings some high-flying energy, a plane packed with convicts taken over by a criminally insane opportunist and his hopeful gang, attempting to gain their escape. Biding their time is not on the agenda, director Simon West wastes no time at all in rifling through the thrills, spilling them over the cockpit and controls, in its wake a disaster of engaging, action-packed nonsense that should win over those looking for light-hearted relief.
Con Air is dumb. It has every right to be. A badge of honour for any late 20th century action flick is the ability to draw big names and put them in compromising positions. Cage seemed to be the master of this, The Rock and Face/Off from around this period envisage an ideal world where he would make nothing but these bizarre action titans. With the efforts of West guiding this leading man to pastures new, audiences will, hopefully, get that sense of cliché out of their way rather quickly. Action flicks are filled with these comfortable reminders of out-there action, and Con Air provides most of that through its setting and characters. Cage, alongside John Cusack and John Malkovich, make for a delightful trio of characters.
Best of the bunch, though, is Malkovich. He turns in a truly villainous performance, one of ultimate, unbridled perfection. That charming, soothing voice he has and that slow, calculating method of speech brings surprising life to his role. Cusack is left in the dust, though, his lack of presence on the plane enough to push him to the wayside as Cage and Malkovich do psychological battle alongside an ensemble of excellent supporting characters. Colm Meaney and Steve Buscemi provide ample talents elsewhere, Dave Chapelle too. There’s just not much to comment on regarding their actual presence. They are there to fill up one or two of the vaguer, not quite formed supporting roles necessary in an action film. Chapelle provides comic relief, Meaney plays the old-school copper playing by his own rules, all well performed, but lacking any real unique point of interest.
Filled with all the iconographic 90s themes, flash cars, sunglasses too small for the head and a heavy rock soundtrack that spurs on what should be boring scenes, churning them into something fascinatingly high-octane and energetic, Con Air is a marvellous bit of fun. Tongue-in-cheek, filled with great, energetic dialogue, it will exacerbate your fear of flying tenfold and double down on the idea that Danny Trejo could remove your spine just by looking at you menacingly enough. Great, competent action, tailor-made to the adrenalin junkies searching for a quick fix of explosive, good-natured fun.