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CON AIR
Unrated Extended Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, Mykelti Williamson, Rachel Ticotin
Director: Simon West
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Touchstone
Features: See Review
Length: 122 Minutes
Release Date: May 16, 2006

“Christ in a cartoon!”

“S**t, that’s Garland Greene.”

“The Marietta Mangler.”

“That skinny little man butchered 30-something people up and down the Eastern Seaboard. They say the way he killed those people makes the Manson Family look like the Partridge Family.”

“Well, he’s on the right flight.”

Film *** (On the Action Scale)

If there was ever a single movie to satisfy a guy’s night out to the movies, Con Air is definitely that movie. When the movie initially came out in theaters, I was a pure action movie junkie. I still kinda am to this day, but let’s just say that if one was to ask me nine years ago what the example of a great movie, I would’ve instantly responded with this title. It’s got everything a guy could ask for in terms of a great late night movie extravaganza.

Several years down the line, I came to accept that the movie wasn’t exactly a masterpiece that I claimed it was when I first gazed upon it. Truth be told, Con Air is the epitome of well executed cinematic trash. And watching the movie, you can see right away that it isn’t trying to be anything else but that. Think of the Patrick Swayze epic, Road House, add a slight dose of wit and intelligence, and the result is this action packed thrill rush.

And yet, the film does start off on a grim note. U.S. Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) has been relieved from his years of service and is returning home to his newly pregnant wife, Tricia (Monica Potter). But his sweet life is changed in a heartbeat when he gets into a brawl with a drunken thug, resulting in an act of involuntary manslaughter. Pleading guilty, Cameron is sentenced to 7-10 years in prison, losing the chance to see his daughter being born.

Seven years have passed, and Cameron is about to become a parolee. It just so happens that he is one of the many prisoners to be transported in the first airborne prisoner transport. The rest of the passenger list happens to include some of the most incredibly insane convicts to ever walk the planet Earth. Among the reputed convicts being transported are psychopathic killers Nathan Jones, aka “Diamond Dog” (Ving Rhames), and feared criminal mastermind Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich).

The purpose of this breakthrough in prisoner transport is to populate a maximum security prison in Louisiana. And poor old Cameron is about the only good-hearted convict on board. And to make matters worse, Cyrus has concocted a plan to take over the plane. The plan manages to work, scraping Cameron’s plans of making it home like he had intended.

On the ground below, U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) attempts to negotiate with Cyrus, who it turns out shot an undercover DEA agent who was on board to gather dirt on a drug lord scheduled to be picked up at a connecting destination. This same drug lord has hatched a plan with Cyrus. This puts Larkin at odds with not only the psychopathic Cyrus, but rival agent Malloy (Colm Meaney), who was partners with the slain undercover agent.

From the moment the cons take over the plain, Con Air takes off at full speed and never stops to take a single breath. The action scenes are truly on a jaw-dropping level. The plane makes a pit stop at a private air field, where an assault team attempts to take them out, only to be retaliated with heavier fire power. The plane takes off with a jaguar tied to the back, resulting in an ugly demise for the automobile. And there’s hardly been a ballsier action climax than in this film, which has the huge cargo plane crash landing on the Vegas strip, a scene that always garners an awe struck reaction from me.

Con Air also gets a boost of credit thanks to the phenomenal cast, most of which include actors that don’t normally appear in huge action fests. Nicolas Cage definitely pumped up for the role, in addition to adding a slightly over-the-top hillbilly accent for his role, but he’s still fun to watch and root for. John Cusack, as expected, brings his usual dose of intelligence to his role, and John Malkovich is at his villainous best in a role that may even surpass his bad guy role in In the Line of Fire in terms of pure craziness.

And as an added bonus, there’s a dynamite supporting cast including Ving Rhames, Monica Potter, Colm Meaney, Dave Chappelle and Mykelti Williamson. But the supporting player that really steals the show is Steve Buscemi as a Hannibal Lecter-like serial killer. The introduction of his character is perhaps the most show stopping point in the movie.

No other movie illustrates the ultimate guy movie, or late night movie, better than Con Air. With its dynamite cast, enormous scaled action numbers and an endless level of wit to back it up, this is an action extravaganza that’s always worth the ticket.

So check your brain at the entrance door, strap in, and enjoy!

Video ****

Touchstone’s new Unrated Extended Cut guaranteed one surefire element, a newly formatted anamorphic presentation. The movie was one of the studio’s first initial DVD releases back in the days when they excelled in non-anamorphic quality. Now, the picture quality is bigger, better, and truly in your face. Image is thoroughly clean and crisp, with no flaws of any sort. The detail is so tremendous; the countless fireballs will have you ducking for cover. Excellent job!

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix delivers the explosive goods in Earth-shaking form. The sound is relentless and never dies down from the beginning of the movie, and it only gets larger and louder with each progressing minute. Trevor Rabin’s intense score is definitely a bonus, and since there’s action in nearly every scene in the movie, the channels have a great deal of stuff to work with. Dialogue delivery is tremendously clear as well. Phenomenal in every sense!

Features ½*

Unlike the Extended Cut releases for Enemy of the State and Crimson Tide, this release was deprived of any new extras or features in general. The only extra are sneak peeks at additional Buena Vista titles.

Summary:

Con Air can be best defined as an action movie lover’s dream. It knows what kind of movie it is and who it was made for. So guys, if you need the perfect get-together movie to boost morale on a late Friday night, look no further than this. It will get the job done…and then some!

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