Con Air or Cage aux Folles

Con Air

Ash Isaac

I am a contributor of questionable taste, origin and talent. My one claim to fame is that I was born in the same hospital as Cliff Richard. I am still in possession of my soul unlike Sir Cliff who sold his to Samael the Desolate in return for eternal youth and the friendship of Sue Barker.

Con Air

Has there ever been a greater ensemble cast than that put together for Con Air? Forget the Godfather, forget LOTR, don’t even think about a Muppet Christmas Carol; this white-knuckle, high octane, tailspinning thriller has all the big guns you could ever want or need. Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Rhames, Buscemi, Trejo, Chappelle; a finer collection of real-life oddballs, weirdos and cast-iron misfits you could not hope to assemble.

Nicolas Cage headlines as Cameron Poe, a US Army ranger sentenced to jail for having the temerity to defend his pregnant wife from a group of drunken thugs. Poe is essentially a cross between Forrest Gump and Jason Bourne and, handily for him, his diabetic cellmate turns out to be ‘Bubba’, (from Gump rather than Bourne obviously), enabling the two to form a solid friendship over their years of incarceration during which time Poe learns yoga, origami, calligraphy and all those other life-skills you pick up in prison.

After being sufficiently rehabilitated for snapping a man’s neck, Poe is granted parole and slated to fly home to his wife and child. The only obstacle left to negotiate is the journey back with a flight manifest containing the most notorious serial killers, rapists and other assorted vile miscreants. It’s a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of the American penal system. Celebrity Big Brother meets Jamie’s Prison Dinners, the majority of whom are either on death row or serving life without the possibility of parole.

It should come as no great surprise then, that the plane load of blood-thirsty killers with nothing to lose stage a riot that allows them to take control of the flying prison. Led by the thinking man’s mass murderer, Cyrus “the Virus” Grissom, (Malkovich), the convicts execute their escape plan with all the precision and ruthlessness you would expect from a large group of men who regularly shower together.

Soon enough they’re happily jigging away to Lynyrd Skynyrd and toasting their freedom as they fly to a non-extradition country or run out of fuel, whichever happens sooner. All of which does not sit well with recent parolee Poe or Bubba whose insulin has been spilt all over the aisles of the plane.

Faced with a future in Venezuela without his family and a hypoglycaemic best friend, Poe decides to take matters into his own hands. This involves clandestinely undermining Grissom’s well-laid plans whilst simultaneously pretending to be just another stand-up con, eager to take up the pursuit of happiness in a country where the pina coladas are cheap and the background checks are lax.

Meanwhile, on the ground, Agent Vince Larkin, (Cusack) is working out ways in which to resolve the hijacked plane situation without resorting to the most obvious and crowd-pleasing outcome of blowing the plane out of the sky. That’s right, he’s formulating possible solutions to save a bunch of Death Row inmates now, so that they can be executed at the state’s leisure later. Welcome to America, folks.

Thankfully, Larkin recognizes he has an onboard ally in Poe and when the plane makes a refueling and rearming stop at a deserted airfield, they bridge the law enforcement gap to try and take down Grissom’s motley crew. Despite all of this, Grissom is still able to escape again, which leads me to suspect that the plane in question is somehow related to the bus from Speed, such is its capacity to take punishment and still somehow function. And just like aforementioned four-wheeled marvel, the plane also meets a sticky end, crash landing in the suitably salubrious surroundings of Las Vegas, thereby setting up a wonderfully garish showdown between Poe and Grissom. As is usually the case in such films, Grissom meets an appropriately outlandish demise, crushed to death by an industrial pounder, (insert joke here). Obviously in real life, Grissom would be re-arrested and then re-housed in an open prison, but thank God for Hollywood and God bless industrial pounding.

After vanquishing a cell block’s worth of prisoners, Poe takes a well earned break and meets up with his family and, in one of the final scenes, Steve Buscemi’s Hannibal Lecter-inspired murderer is shown escaping into the bright lights and loud shrieks of Vegas. He’ll fit right in.