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'Con Air': Fasten your seat belts ...

June 7, 1997
Web posted at: 6:23 p.m. EDT (2223 GMT)

Strip From Reviewer Carol Buckland

(CNN) -- "Con Air" is another testosterone-crazed offering from producer Jerry Bruckheimer. It's trash. Expensive, slickly made trash to be sure, but still trash.

At the center of the story is former Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage). Poe has been paroled after serving an eight-year stretch in San Quentin for accidentally killing a guy who was harassing his pretty and newly pregnant wife.

Eager to be reunited with his beloved and to see the young daughter he's never met, he hitches a ride home on a government plan that's being used to transport some of the country's worst criminals to a new maximum security prison.

Implausible, you scoff. Well, just wait. The script hasn't begun to strain the limits of your credulity.

Almost before you can say "fasten your (expletive deleted) seat belts," the bad guys seize control of the plane. What follows is a lot of bang-bang, boom-boom and macho bravado as Poe tries to foil the villains, protect a female guard (Rachel Ticotin) from rape, find a syringe so his diabetic prison buddy (Mykelti Williamson) can get a much-needed injection of insulin and, most important, make it home in time to deliver a pink stuffed birthday bunny to his darling daughter.

movie icon (1.2M/33 sec. "Clip: Strap in, Ladies"
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movie icon (5.4M/143 sec. Con Air full movie trailer
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Nicolas Cage deserves something -- although I'm not sure "credit" is what that something is -- for throwing himself into this role. Heaven knows, he's a much more innovative and interesting actor than most action stars. In playing Poe, he sports an extremely buffed-up bod and an on-off Elvis-style accent that's thick enough to pour over pancakes. Let's hope he keeps the physique but cans the drawl when he plays Superman.

John Malkovitch trots out a familiar assortment of tics and twitches as Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom, the psycho mastermind of the hijacking. He was more compelling dueling with Clint Eastwood in "In the Line of Fire."

Ving Rhames has been better in other films as well, but he contributes some interesting moments and a commanding physical presence as a murderous black military who has an escape agenda of his own.

Also on hand, independent film icon Steve Buscemi. He's given both the movie's sickest scene and its wittiest line. He handles them with unnerving aplomb.

The "good guys" on the ground are pretty much of a blur. While he manages a few flashes of character flair, John Cusack is basically wasted as the federal agent who forms an alliance with anti-hero Cameron Poe.

The script is over-the-top yet underdeveloped. Luckily, a lot of the pseudo-tough dialogue is overwhelmed by ka-booms and other sound effects. Simon West's direction is wretchedly excessive in most scenes. This marks his feature debut, by the way. His biggest previous credit (I kid you not) was a prize-winning Pepsi commercial.

"Con Air" probably will have a big box office take-off its first weekend, but I expect it will have a deservedly bumpy time after that. Oh, yeah -- don't figure on ever seeing this flick on a commercial airline flight.

"Con Air" runs one hour and 55 minutes but seems longer. It's exhausting rather than exhilarating. It's also rated R. That's for lots of profanity, much violence, many dead bodies, threatened sexual brutalization, and a very creepy kid-in-jeopardy sequence.

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