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Laramie Movie Scope: Con Air

A wacky, amoral movie about the fun of killing

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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June 7, 1997 -- Watching "Con Air" is kind of like eating Chinese food. It seems filling enough when you are watching it, but right afterward you feel kind of empty.

Oh, it's got plenty of explosions, fights, treachery, shootings, lots of killings and dismemberments. It is real all-American entertainment. It will do even better in the European markets. It has some fine actors. It has jokes and great stunts. It just doesn't have a story.

It's about this special airplane loaded with some of the most dangerous convicts in the nation. They put guards on the plane, but they don't let them have guns! Actually, there are some guns on the plane. They are stored in a place where the convicts can get them in case they take over the plane and need to fight off the authorities.

When the authorities find out the convicts have hijacked the plane, the guy in charge of the operation says there's no contingency plan for that situation, but earlier, it is revealed that the guards on the plane all signed waivers saying they not only agreed to be unarmed, but also agreed to die as hostages if it came to that. They must offer pretty good benefits for those jobs.

In charge of this loony bin is US Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack), but he always seems to be one step behind the criminal mastermind, "Cyrus the Virus" Grissom (John Malkovich) who manages to take over the plane and throw off the authorities, except for Larkin.

The rest of the feds, headed up by DEA Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney) seem to be as bright as a box of rocks. They couldn't catch a cold in Antarctica. Meaney, who can act (he was in "The Committments") really chews up the scenery in this movie.

Strangest of all is Garland "The Marietta Mangler" Greene (Steve Buscemi) who plays an eloquent but wacky serial killer. Greene comes off as being a comic character, which is really scary when you think about it.

As I said, it has no plot and it is filled with glaring logical errors, but it does have a strange air of nonchalant wackiness about it that makes it hard not to like. It is hard not to like the way the hero, Cameron Poe(Nicolas Cage) strolls through gunfire and explosions, seemingly without a care in the world, as if he knows perfectly well he won't get hurt. There's no sense of real danger here, or even real evil, just a lot of posturing. The bad guys don't seem that bad and the good guys aren't all that good.

Maybe that's what this movie is all about. There seems to be no right and no wrong in the world of "Con Air," nor is there a point. Serial killers are funny, entertaining guys and DEA agents are boring stiffs who deserve to die. It is the way criminals see the world. They think people who work for a living are suckers, or as Greene puts it, madmen. It is much more fun to kill people.

This is a very slick film. The action sequences are well done. The stunt work and photography are first rate. Aside from the nutty screenplay, it is technically a good film and it is fun to watch. What is more interesting, however, is what this film says about Hollywood. How much money this film makes will say a lot about people in general. It rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 1997 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)