In a Newsweek story, Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of Con Air, said that, after reading an earlier version of the script, he insisted that the movie be more character driven. David Ansen, the Newsweek reviewer, said that he couldn’t detect the subtleties of the characters through all of the loud explosions.
This particular outing is about an escape. A group of America’s worst criminals are being flown to a new, state-of-the-art jail. Oh, and Cameron Poe is also on the flight. He’s being released to go home to his wife and daughter. Two of the cons manage to unlock their cuffs, free the rest of the prisoners, kill most of the guards, and hijack the plane. Cameron Poe decides to help bring the plane down and return the criminals to captivity which entails many fights, shooting and of course, explosions
One scene stood out as an interesting quirk. The entire movie takes place on or near this airplane. There is very little opportunity for car crashes. But one is worked into the script where a body is jettisoned from the plane and lands on a car. The movie didn’t require that we see the body land; in fact the scene is an interlude, isolated by the elevator music soundtrack; and just for kicks, three or four cars crash into the car onto which the body has fallen. You gotta admire the ability to include a car crash scene into a movie that doesn’t call for it.
John Malkovich was good as the evil leader of the escapees. I almost wonder if his talents are being wasted, but this seems to be the sort of role that he takes most often, so I suspect he likes it.
At the end of an action movie, the bad guy has to die, and he has to be doing something so awful and unrelentingly that he deserves it. Con Air makes a mistake at the end of the movie by making the villain’s death unnecessarily gruesome. We don’t really feel sorry for him, but by the time he was staring death in the face, he wasn’t fighting back anymore.
Producer Bruckheimer knows what he’s doing. He’s the man behind Top Gun, Crimson Tide, The Rock, and now Con Air. His formula is rather simple: testosterone, loud rock music, cool explosions, a little plot here and there, and voilá: a summer blockbuster.
One idea that Bruckheimer’s been toying with recently is including a dweebish, bookish young man in the mix and making his masculinity really show through. In The Rock, Nicolas Cage was more of a scientist than a mercenary, but he’s put in a tough circumstance where he has to become a mercenary to survive. In Con Air, that role is filled by John Cusack. Cusack is an upper-middle manager in the prison system, but he gets some hands-on experience with escaped convicts by the time the movie’s over.
I must admit that I had fun watching this movie, as I did watching all the other Bruckheimer movies, but it’s not a great movie. It may not even be a good movie, except that it’s fun.
Even so, there is something about Jerry Bruckheimer movies that leaves me feeling a little slimy. First, there is a certain macho, military point of view to all of his movies. Somehow male posturing is linked to patriotism in a Bruckheimer film and I have to disagree. There’s more to patriotism than blowing up enemies of society. And second, the problem in all Bruckheimer movies is a man (or men) with too much testosterone, and inevitably, the solution is more testosterone. I’m not saying a more feminine attitude would make a better action movie, but the idea that the solution to violence is more violence is disquieting.
But that’s what we can expect from Hollywood in these June scorchers, and given the genre, Con Air is okay.