Con Air – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. Con Air is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Con Air (1997) – Rated R for strong violence and language.

“When the government puts all its rotten criminal eggs in one airborne basket, it is asking for trouble. Before you can say, “Pass the barf bag,” the crooks control the plane, led by creepy Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich). Watching his every move is the just-released Nicolas Cage, who would rather reunite with his family. The action climaxes with an incredible crash sequence in Las Vegas.”

“Make a move and the bunny gets it!”

“What if I told you insane was working fifty hours a week in some office for fifty years at the end of which they tell you to piss off; ending up in some retirement village hoping to die before suffering the indignity of trying to make it to the toilet on time? Wouldnt you consider that to be insane”

Okay recommending this movie I realize that I should have a category for Guilty Pleasure. For everything it gets right, it gets something wrong.

This is the first film directed by Simon West. None of his other films so far have been any good (Tomb Raider? The Generals Daughter?) and yet this one is chock full of great action and sort of great performances (more on that later).

We are not even five minutes into the movie when Cameron (Nicolas Cage) is attacked by three thugs who threaten his wife, deface his uniform, and beat him. Clearly they deserve the smackdown. Of course Cameron, a former Army Ranger, allows them to surround him in a rainy parking lot and begin beating him down without initially fighting back which seems quite odd.

The action is fun and pretty much non-stop. The acting is the real reason to watch this movie. They got a great cast and Simon West appears to have told each of them that they should go flat out with their acting. The actors do not seem to interact so much as they try to outdo each other.

Nicolas Cage overacts his heart out. His performance will leave you cringing at times but it does give him a certain charisma. They also take plenty of opportunities to show off his pecs and abs. Even his hair is given plenty of screen time and real estate.

Our other hero is a sandal-wearing U.S. Marshal, Vince Larkin. He is played by John Cusack who is clearly having a lot of fun here. He continually twits rival DEA agent Duncan Malloy played by Colm Meaney (Chief OBrien on Star Trek TNG/DS9 – his keychain has a Star Trek ornament on it).

We know that Malloy is not a hero because the first thing he does is arrive in a very expensive sports car and park in the handicap spot.

Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs was such a part of the cultural zeitgeist by this point that they base not one but two of the felons on his character (Cyrus and Garland).

Cyrus is our main villain and is overplayed to perfection by a scenery-chewing John Malkovich. He is riveting and stands out above the other overactors. His number two is Ving Rhames as Diamond Dog.

Even the minor villains are all chosen for their flamboyance. Comedian Dave Chappelle plays Pinball (humorously of course). The excellent character actor Danny Trejo plays rapist Johnny 23. M.C. Gainey plays white trash Swamp Thing.

Strangely the only actor in the whole movie who seems restrained (and that is only in comparison to the other actors) is Steve Buscemi who gives a delightful performance as Garland Greene.

The actresses are actually restrained (literally in one case). Rachel Ticotin plays a guard and Monica Potter is the love interest, patiently waiting for Cameron to come home. Neither is given much to do – perhaps because they did not overact?

The action is fabulous and almost as over-the-top as the acting. Almost every airplane trope is covered here – emergency takeoff, crash landing, fight in flight, body falling from airplane, landing gear stuck, etc.

I have to say a few words, but only a few, about the plot. The plot is utterly ridiculous – any description of it reveals plenty of plotholes. The dialogue is alternately wonderful and cringe-inducing. The film steals liberally from Flight of the Phoenix, Silence of the Lambs, and others but definitely has its own sense of identity.

I did like that almost the entire movie takes place on Bastille Day.

Con Air was actually nominated for two Academy Awards. Diane Warren was nominated for best song for “How Do I Live”. Con Air was also nominated for Best Sound. Unfortunately it ran into the juggernaut that was Titanic.

I cannot in good conscience call this a good film but I do recommend it because it is a huge amount of fun.

People watch: Powers Boothe does an initial voice-over showing love for the Rangers.

Cruising – Al Pacino week

This is Al Pacino week. Cruising is currently available on Netflix instant play.

Cruising

AVOID: Cruising (1980) – Rated R

“After a serial killer brutally murders several gay men in New York’s S&M and leather districts, cop Steve Burns (Al Pacino) goes undercover on the streets, where he must learn the complex rules of the underground gay subculture if he’s to catch the psycho. Karen Allen co-stars as Burns’s girlfriend in this gritty 1980 thriller, which sparked protests from gay rights groups at the time of its release but has since developed a minor cult status.”

“Hips or lips?”

Wow! The minor cult status mentioned at the end of the Netflix description must be the sort that is accorded Showgirls. The film begins with a caveat that it is not representative of homosexuality in general (Duh!). The notice detracts somewhat from the campy vibe this movie gives out.

It is hard to believe that William Friedkin wrote and directed this film. He won a Best Director Oscar for The French Connection in 1972 and was nominated again for The Exorcist in 1974. He specializes in and has an affinity for gritty material. That would seem to make this right up his alley.

It appears as though he wanted to direct an exploitation movie. Sadly it doesn’t revel in the exploitative portions of this topic – at least that could have been entertaining. Either William Friedkin showed a lot of restraint or the film was heavily trimmed to get its ‘R’ rating. The police portions of the movie are given short shrift as well. This has to be the most boring undercover movie ever.

There is no life in any of the performances. All the actors including Al Pacino appear to be on Ritalin. Even the victims as they are being killed seem somewhat bored. For a film that should have been about lust and passion, there sure isn’t any shown on the screen. Al Pacino’s undercover cop starts having problems at home and both parties react with ‘meh’.

Unfortunately I can’t recommend this even on a campy level. Once I realized that it was going to be awful, my hope was that it would be so awful that it was fun to watch. Sadly this was not the case.

Pacino’s movies are strangely polarizing. So far they seem to be either classics or total garbage. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s movie is one of the former.

People Watch: Look for Powers Boothe as, not kidding, ‘Hankie Salesman’. His very brief role is probably the highlight of the movie.