[Screen It]


(1997) (Nicolas Cage, John Cusack) (R)

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Action/Adventure: A prisoner transport plane is taken hostage by convicts, and a recently paroled prisoner on board and a U.S. Marshall on the ground work to resolve the situation.
Cameron Poe (NICOLAS CAGE) is a distinguished military veteran who's just been paroled from prison. Having served his time for accidentally killing a man in a fight, Cameron can't wait to get home to see his wife and daughter whom he's never met. He's to be sent home on a prisoner transport plane that's under the careful watch of U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (JOHN CUSACK). Little does Cameron know that he's on the wrong plane at the wrong time, for the other criminals on board have masterminded an escape plan. Chief among them is Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom (JOHN MALKOVICH), the deadly, but well educated ringleader of the group. Accompanying him are other career criminals including Diamond Dog (VING RHAMES), Billy Bedlam (NICK CHINLUND), and rapist Johnny 23 (DANNY TREJO), so named for the number of his known victims. The prisoners take over the plane and then land in Carson City where they pick up more criminals such as Garland Greene (STEVE BUSCEMI), a serial killer so feared that even Diamond Dog is skittish around him, and "Swamp Thing," the criminal who's next set to fly their plane. Cameron has his hands full, as not only must he deal with Cyrus, but he must keep Johnny 23 from making guard Sally Bishop (RACHEL TICOTIN) number twenty-four, and he has to find insulin for his prison buddy, Baby-O (MYKELTI WILLIAMSON), whose time is running out. As Poe tries to gain control of the situation, Larkin must deal with Duncan Malloy (COLM MEANEY), a quick triggered DEA agent who wants to blow the plane from the sky.
Younger kids won't, but teenage males will surely flock to this film produced by half the team responsible for other testosterone laced films such as "The Rock," "Crimson Tide," and "Top Gun."
For strong violence and language.
  • NICOLAS CAGE plays a former military veteran who is imprisoned for accidentally killing a man during a fight. After serving his time without further incident, he attempts to stop the other prisoners while saving the guards and an ill convict friend.
  • JOHN MALKOVICH plays a serial killer who masterminds the escape plan and kills more people during it.
  • JOHN CUSACK plays a U.S. Marshall who does what he can to save his guards and Poe from the prisoners and from a short-tempered DEA agent.


    OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
    Loudly brought to you by just half the team responsible for action films such as "The Rock," "Days of Thunder," "Crimson Tide," and "Top Gun," this feature isn't hurting from producer Don Simpson's absence (he died in 1996). Filled with just as much bone crunching, high flying, testosterone filled mayhem as those films, lone producer Jerry Bruckheimer has made sure that this production doesn't stray far from his successful formula. While it's not as good as last summer's "The Rock," it's still rather entertaining and will easily fit the bill for male teenagers who will make up a great deal of its audience. As unlikely an action hero as Nicolas Cage would have been considered just a few years ago, he's now the hot commodity for such films. Adding to last years, "The Rock," this year's "Face Off," and next year's, "Superman" movie, he's suddenly the actor of choice for action films. Malkovich is as menacing as ever, but isn't as good as he was for "In the Line of Fire" simply because he isn't given as much with which to work. The actor who steals most of the show is Steve Buscemi, whose bugeyed appearance highlights the crazed character he plays. Given the best lines to deliver, he's the most fun character to watch. Of course all of the characters are only two-dimensional as there's no room for character development in a feature filled with muscles, guns and colorfully loud explosions. Indeed, this film must have employed a great many stunt people and pyro technicians. Yes, it's stupid and there are many inconsistencies and plot problems. But it's the epitome of the big, action-filled summer movie and it never acts -- nor does it want to -- like it's going to be anything else. Thus, there's tons of action, a loud rock and roll soundtrack, and very little room for women -- save Rachel Ticotin's minor role as a threatened, but tough guard -- because this is a film dealing with wall to wall sweaty men. Up until the ridiculous ending, one can pretty much accept what occurs, but the drawn out finale, which easily could have been left on the editing room floor, the film makers went way overboard. Not knowing when to quit, they rob the film of the fun -- albeit stupid -- mayhem that was presented for our enjoyment. That doesn't lower our rating that much, but it would have been nice had they stopped and shown some restraint. I know, that word isn't in the Simpson/Bruckheimer vocabulary, and it's doubtful that Jerry will add it anytime soon. Sure to be a big crowd pleaser this summer, we give "Con Air" a 6 out of 10.
    If you've seen one of these films, you've seen them all, and this one doesn't stray far from the formula. There's tons of action, a great deal of violence and many bloody deaths. Some of the villains are surprisingly likable (with their intelligent, witty lines, etc...) and may come across as attractive (not sexually) to more impressionable minds. Parents may be troubled by the fact that some violence is played for laughs, such as when a dead body is tossed from the plane and lands on top of a car (whose driver was just complaining about bird droppings), and may see that kids will get the wrong impression about those acts. Beyond the violence, blood and bad attitudes, the only other category that's extreme is profanity (no surprise there), while most of the others are rather tame. Still, the main ones have enough material to make this film questionable for younger audiences and we strongly suggest -- if for some reason you're entertaining the idea -- that you examine the content before allowing younger kids to see this film.

  • People drink in a bar, including several men who drunkenly pick a fight with Cameron.
  • Cameron listens to a Spanish instructional tape that includes the line, "My wife and I will have margaritas on the yacht."
  • Cameron, referring to what life will be like if the escape plan works, says, "Don't you want to get high? Don't you want to get laid?"
  • A transvestite prisoner drinks what appears to be rum straight from the bottle.
  • Cameron's nose is bloody after a fight outside a bar.
  • Cyrus and others pull straight pins from the flesh of their palms, while another prisoner pulls string (or dental floss) out of his mouth, retrieving a bag (or balloon) from his throat/stomach.
  • A dead guard's neck is bloody as is a still living guard's nose.
  • Some blood squirts from people as they're shot, including a DEA agent who has blood run from his mouth.
  • A prisoner, who got stuck in the plane's landing gear, is seen with a deadly grimace on his face, and later his body is dropped from the plane where it then crashes into a car on the street below.
  • The bloody end of an object sticks from a prisoner's chest who was just impaled by it.
  • A dead, bloody man is found in an airport's control tower.
  • Baby-O is rather bloody after being shot.
  • Blood squirts out from Cameron's arm after she's shot.
  • Both Cameron and Bishop are a little bloody by the end.
  • A dead prisoner is removed from the plane, but the top part of his arm is seen still cuffed to the ceiling (showing that his arm came off).
  • A prisoner is stabbed through his leg that's somewhat bloody.
  • Obviously, nearly all of the prisoners have extreme cases of both, which is further exemplified by their current behavior.
  • A drunken man tries to pick up Cameron's wife at a bar, even though he knows she's married. He and his buddies then pick a fight with Cameron.
  • A guard calls a black prisoner "home boy," and a black prisoner calls an American Indian "Cochese" and asks if he's going to "scalp a nigger."
  • Malloy gives a gun back to one of his undercover agents after Larkin has explicitly said no guns on the plane. Overall, he has a big case of bad attitude as he has a short temper and won't listen to what Larkin has to say.
  • Johnny 23 proudly displays his tattoos, "one for every bitch" he's raped, and is intent on adding Bishop to his list.
  • Many scenes listed under "Violence" will be tense to some viewers.
  • Garland Greene, the psychotic and potentially cannibalistic prisoner, sits with a little girl, and we know full well what he's thinking about (while the little girl is oblivious to who and what he really is).
  • Handguns/Machine Guns: Used to threaten, wound or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • Switchblade: Used by a drunken man to threaten Cameron.
  • Stun Guns: Used by the guards on the prisoners during the initial escape.
  • Bomb: Used to kill three prison guards.
  • Helicopters: Used to fire upon the transport.
  • Beyond the other activity, here's what happens:
  • Phrases: "As they say in ebonics, we be f*cked," "Walking penis," "Wise ass," "Creep," "Numb nuts," "Nigger" (said by a black man), "Bastard," "Punk," "Bitch" and "Baby" (toward a woman), "Pissing," "Shut up," and "Piss off."
  • A prisoner spits on a guard.
  • An inmate uses a string (or dental floss) to pull a bag (or balloon) filled with a flammable liquid from his stomach.
  • A prisoner gives "the finger" to other prisoners on the plane.
  • Cyrus and the others open the valves on many small propane tanks, letting the gas permeate the air so that with a well-placed shot there is a tremendous explosion.
  • None.
  • There is a mild amount of suspenseful music with the rest falling into the action music category.
  • None.
  • 38 "f" words (1 with the prefix "mother"), 35 "s" words, 4 slang terms for male genitals (the "d" and 2 different "p" words), 1 slang term for female genitals (the "p" word), 11 hells, 6 damns, 4 "ass" words (1 using "hole"), 3 S.O.B.'s, 5 uses of "G-damn," 2 uses each of "Oh God," "Christ," and "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "Swear to God," "Jesus Christ," and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • A drunken man says that he'd do anything to "get half a piece of" Cameron's wife.
  • There's a brief mention of a man who killed his in-laws after finding his wife in bed with another man.
  • When asked what the in-flight movie will be, a guard relays the title, "I'll never make love to a woman on the beach again."
  • A prisoner, posing as a guard, tells a woman that he works for "The department of erect...corrections," not completing the word "erections."
  • Cameron, referring to what life will be like if the escape plan works, says, "Don't you want to get high? Don't you want to get laid?"
  • Cyrus takes another inmate's cigarette and lights a fuel spill with it.
  • Diamond Dog and other prisoners smoke cigarettes in one scene.
  • Cameron's wife and daughter (whom he's never met) must deal with him being in prison, and then the fact that he's stuck on the plane with the others.
  • While some of the prisoners are presented in a likeable way (they talk smart, have funny lines of dialogue, etc...), they're still criminals and shouldn't be glorified.
  • An inmate talks about what's more insane: Murdering people, or working a 9 to 5 job for thirty years and getting nothing for it.
  • One of the prisoners is a transvestite who finally finds a dress he can wear by the end of the story.
  • After being shot, Baby-O questions whether God really exists, but Cameron says he's going to prove to him that He does (by saving the day).
  • Some local guys at a bar pick a fight with Cameron. Initially they have the upper hand as they punch and repeatedly kick them. He quickly gains control and dispatches two of them, but the third guy receives a blow that kills him.
  • There's brief footage of a prison riot (no people are seen, but overturned bunks and other burning items are).
  • As we're introduced to the criminals on board the plane, we're told about the murders, rapes and other atrocities performed by these men (brief descriptions only).
  • Larkin and Malloy don't get along and Malloy says (about Larkin), "I'd still like to crush his larynx with my boot."
  • A guard strikes a prisoner for spitting on him and says about anyone crossing his path, "Your testicles become my personal property."
  • One prisoner sprays a flammable liquid on another inmate and sets him on fire to create a diversion.
  • During the initial escape, there's a great deal of fighting between the prisoners and the guards. Diamond Dog is repeatedly zapped with stun guns, several people are shot, and at least three people are killed.
  • Johnny 23 repeatedly threatens to rape a female guard and gets ready to until Cameron steps in and punches the man.
  • An undercover DEA agent holds his gun on a prisoner, while Cyrus holds his on Bishop. As another prisoner approaches, the DEA agent shoots him dead and Cyrus then shoots him.
  • A guard opens a box in Cyrus' old cell and a bomb inside explodes and kills him and two other guards.
  • A guard strikes men he believes to be hooded prisoners on his bus, but they're really gagged guards.
  • Cyrus shoots a man in the head, killing him.
  • Cameron is forced to drop a dead prisoner's body from the plane where it then crashes into a car on the street, causing other cars to crash.
  • Cameron and another inmate get into a fight in the plane's belly. Many punches and kicks (and a head butt) are exchanged and end when the prisoner is impaled on an object that sticks from his chest.
  • Diamond Dog holds a handgun to the heads to three guards and wants to kill them. Cameron stops him, but having to act like a hardened criminal, kicks the men (who are on their knees) to the ground.
  • Cameron and Larkin stop some drug men from escaping and one is shot in the leg while our two heroes beat up the others.
  • Cyrus takes another inmate's cigarette and lights a fuel spill with it. It catches two men on fire and then blows up a small plane and a building.
  • There is a huge battle near the end between Cyrus and his men and many soldiers. Tremendous amounts of gunfire is the result and many people are hit, and are injured or killed. In addition, there are many explosions.
  • Johnny 23 comes back to rape Bishop, the female guard. She hits and kicks him many times trying to ward him off, and he hits her in return. Cameron then shows up and repeatedly smashes Johnny's face against a cage.
  • Cyrus holds a gun to Bishop's head to find out who alerted the authorities. Baby-O steps forward to cover for Cameron, but Cyrus shoots him in the gut.
  • Once back in the air, military helicopters fire upon the transport, while the prisoners shoot back at them.
  • Cameron fights with many prisoners and is shot in the arm as he races toward another.
  • Cyrus tries to shoot his way to Cameron, who's in the cockpit, but after he runs out of ammunition, Bishop picks up the machine gun and knocks Cyrus unconscious.
  • The transport plane crashes on the famous Las Vegas "Strip" and does much damage to cars and buildings.
  • Cameron and Larkin battle the bad guys on a fire truck, with more punching occurring.
  • A prisoner is smashed through a glass walkway, lands on top of several powers lines (and is electrocuted) and then lands on a conveyor belt that stops him under a construction pile driver that slams down onto his face (not actually seen, but his body shaking from the impact is seen).

  • Reviewed June 3, 1997

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