A DVD REVIEW: CON AIR (Touchstone) [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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07-16-2005, 02:12 AM
"Can you fly, Johnny? Good....well you remember that, because if your dick jumps out of your pants, you jump out of this plane........"
-John Malkovitch, Con Air

There are three names associated with creating the "ultimate summer popcorn action leave-your-brain-at-the-door blockbuster" and they are Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich; if Bruckheimer's name is attached to anything --- INCLUDING Pirates of the Caribbean --- you can be guaranteed of non stop explosions, gunfights and slow motion camera shots of our "heroes" coming out winning in the end......of course, there wont be much on plot, but these Bruckheimer-produced action flicks sure as **** entertain.....and they just play back SO well on a home theater; its almost as if they're made for home theater......simple, brainless, listen-for-the-surround-effects entertainment. We're not talking Academy Award winning caliber stuff here, folks.

Yet attached to the director's chair of the Bruckheimer produced Con Air is not the aforementioned Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich; instead, its Simon West, who takes a pretty good concept and just adds some cheesy, ridiculous acting and tries to cover up the shallowness and inplausibility of this plot by adding a massive cast, including Nick Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovitch, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, and even Danny Trejo.....but in the end, you just gotta love this film for what it is: senseless, brainless HOME THEATER ENTERTAINMENT, served Bruckheimer-style.....

Like I said, the concept for the film is pretty cool --- but the lines and special effects/action just get so downright out of control at times, like most of these summer shoot-em-up blockbusters, that we lose sight of "what could have been".......Con Air opens in the typical Bruckheimer-insisting way, with some Patriotic saluting to our armed forces and someone babbling in the background about these armed forces (along the lines of Bruckheimer's Crimson Tide)......we find Nicholas Cage as an Army Ranger who goes on leave and wants to return home to his beautiful wife and daughter, who he has never seen; when he gets into an altercation with some bad asses from a bar that his wife works at, and kills one of the men in self defense, he is sentenced to seven years in prison because he is considered more of a menace than an ordinary person because of his special Army training. As the film's opening credits roll, we get some really boring dialogue-only rambling between Cage and his daughter reading letters back and forth to each other between prison and home; "Daddy, when are you coming home?" and then Cage pathetically answering in the "verbal" letter "Dear Casey.....Im comin home soon....." and this patheticness goes on for a good twenty minutes.

Cage is eventually parolled, and is put (for some stupid reason which would never happen in real life) on an air transport unit run by the US Marshall Service that's loaded with "every creep and freak" in the world --- the baddest of the bad; Ving Rhames plays "Diamond Dog," a millitant Black Panther soldier, Danny Trejo plays "Johnny 23," a serial rapist with 23 counts of the crime under his belt, John Malkovitch, in a rather odd role for him here (it just seemed like a waste of talent for someone like Malkovitch who was SO good in stuff like The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc or In the Line of Fire) as the man who has done it all, Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom --- a real, as Cusack's character puts it, "poster boy for the criminally insane." And speaking of Cusack, he plays the Marshall Service agent in charge of the plane and the mission, which is to transport these creeps to a maximum security prison with a stopoff in Carson City, Nevada. Also turning in a creepy role is Steve Buscemi (a Bruckheimer favorite) as "Garlin Green," a stone-cold mass murderer who is transferred on the plane at a later time.

Why they put Cage on this plane when he is only a parolee "hitching a ride home" is beyond me, but I guess then you'd have no Con Air; also on this plane is an undercover DEA agent armed with a gun, even though he is instructed by Cusack not to bring one. His mission is to find out information on a certain criminal thats going to be onboard specifically for the DEA, but things go horribly wrong. It seems Malkovitch, along with Rhames and this guy the DEA is after, have already pre-hatched a plot to take over this plane with the help of some of this DEA-targeted prisoner's friends who are waiting at Lerner Air Field with another jet to meet them and take them to another country, where, as Ving Rhames puts it, "sandy beaches, umbrella drinks and dirty naked freaks" are waiting for them. Somehow, as is not explained to us, Malkovitch and Rhames --- along with Dave Chapelle (another criminal arsonist on the plane with them and in on the plan, too) --- manage to sneak sewing pins in their palms to pick their handcuffs off (while Chapelle throws lighter fluid he was hiding in his mouth on the prisoner sitting next to him, setting him on fire as a diversion) and before you know it, the prisoners are out of their cages on the plane, the co-pilot is dead, and Malkovitch is running the whole show in complete control of "Con Air."

All this time, Cage must keep secret from the other prisoners that he's a parolee because he needs to stay onboard the plane to help a diabetic friend that is going into shock; once Malkovitch and the other prisoners like Rhames have control of the plane, they tell the others their plot: they are going to stop at Carson City, as planned, to do the prisoner exchange and drop off, but they are going to pose as guards so the guards in Carson City dont get suspicious and know ANYTHING is wrong. In the meantime, once in Carson City, they pick up a character named "Swamp Thing" who, once the pilot is dead, flies the plane for Malkovitch and his crew, as well as Garlin Green (the psycho killer Buscemi plays). The cops at Carson City dont know what is going on until Cage manages to sneak a tape recorder taken off the (now dead) DEA agent onboard into the pant leg of one of the injured guards being offloaded from the plane disguised as a prisoner with a bag over his head. By the time they figure out that these "guards" outside the plane were really convicts escaping, the plane is already taking off, without the "transponder" which tracks the plane for the FCC and Marhall Service. Chapelle takes the transponder out of the convict plane and sticks it under the seats of some scenic tour plane in a hangar in Carson City to elude the authorities on where the plane is exactly.

So the plane takes off for their secret meeting place at Lerner Air Field, while the DEA and Marshall Service thinks the plane is headed toward Arizona because they are following the transponder in the scenic tour plane. All the while, Cage still must make the other criminals onboard believe he is a convict serving time too, but one of the criminals onboard, "Billy Bedlam", finds Cage's parole letter with his personal stuff in the belly of the plane and realizes he is a free man and stayed onboard just to somehow help the authorities on the ground (the ways in which he does this are remarkable, such as writing a letter to Cusack's character on the T-shirt of the dead Dave Chapelle telling Cusack where they are going, Lerner Air Field, and then dropping his body from the plane to fall right on a car in Fresno, California) --- what ensues is a hand to hand fight between "Billy Bedlam" and Cage, which, of course, Cage wins, killing old Billy. By the time the plane lands at Lerner Air Field, Cusack gets the message through the dead body that fell from the plane, and he is already onroute to Lerner with the authorities to stop the criminals before they take off on that secret waiting jet to take them to another country. It is here, on the ground at Lerner, that more of the plot begins to develop.....while the DEA are chasing the wrong plane, Cusack meets Cage face to face at Lerner Air Field, where the two men agree to help bring these criminals down somehow. But Malkovitch and the prisoners have been double-crossed by this guy that was supposed to have the meeting plane waiting to transfer them (the guy the DEA was after); it seems the guy was planning on escaping with some buddies waiting at Lerner WITHOUT Malkovitch or the others; after this new plane fails to take off and crashes, thanks to Cusack's character who drops a crane on top of the tail of the plane, Malkovitch burns to death the prisoner that double crossed him.

They are now on the run again, and so "Con Air" takes off once again with now the DEA and Marshall Service in hot persuit in attack helicopters; at this point, Malkovitch has also discovered that Cage has been playing them all along, too, and that he was the one that killed Billy Bedlam in the belly of the plane (inbetween there are sub plots of Danny Trejo's character trying to rape a female guard on the plane who is tied up, and Buscemi's character who manages to wander around Lerner Air Field and find a little girl to sing "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" with). Just in the nick of time, the DEA helicopters arrive to shoot down the convict-loaded plane, but Cusack begs the head DEA agent not to shoot the plane down because Cage's character is still onboard and just wants to get home to see his wife and kid; once Cage busts into the cockpit and demands that the criminal flying the plane land right away --- and they are now over The Strip in downtown Las Vegas --- the plane is pretty badly crippled from the damage it received from the helicopters attacking it, and they have to crash land right on the Las Vegas Strip in the film's most exciting final scene.

While eventually crashing into the Sands Hotel and Casino and coming to a violent hault, "Con Air"'s three main suspects --- the guy flying the plane, Malkovitch and Rhames --- manage to survive the crash and escape from the plane, attempting to get away on a runaway fire truck......but Cusack and Cage spot them and persue them on stolen police motorcycles, and the film really concludes with some fireworks-like action sequences that were top notch from the Jerry Bruckheimer labs as Cage and Cusack try desperately to stop these three violent criminals trying to escape on a speeding fire truck. The mayhem and destruction --- Bruckheimer staples --- of the Las Vegas Strip and then the chase that ensues after the men on the fire truck are all pretty wild in Con Air and although completely impossible in real life, all make for an awesome action picture. And thats all Bruckheimer and West were interested in making. Nothing more.

Cage is eventually reunited with his wife and daughter at the end, of course, with Malkovitch, Rhames and everyone else either dead or captured by the Marshall Service and DEA......and a nice twist at the very end for the last scene comes when we see Buscemi's character rolling dice at a Vegas casino --- which really would make no sense because if he is a famous mass murderer, how can he just be standing in a casino with thousands of people around, playing craps? But --- you CANNOT analyze Bruckheimer-produced films (believe me, I have tried, and I never come out the winner in the end....all it results in is a headache), you need to just "go with them."

Malkovitch turns in, as I said, what seems to be a "wasted" role for his talents here, but his sarcastic demented criminal character is played just so well by him.....and Ving Rhames plays the ultimate "black bad ass revolutionary" perfectly.....the rest? Well, Cage's forced Alabama country hick accent gets SO ANNOYING in this film after awhile, you are gonna either want to kill him or kill yourself, along with his Michael Bolton-like long hair, Cusack's acting doesnt really say much here, and Buscemi plays a rather quiet type for a psycho who killed dozens of people up and down the Eastern Seaboard......but he turns in a very funny role, once again, as while the plane is crashing on the Las Vegas Strip, he is singing "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" while holding a Ken doll the little girl at the trailer park at Lerner Air Field gave him. Its pretty demented. Danny Trejo turns in a creepy role as a serial rapist, but in the end, these guys just dont really "scare" us too much; to see Malkovitch as a sarcastic psycho, Buscemi as a serial killer and Cage as a pumped-up ex-Army hick....I dont know....something didnt come together right here ---- BUT ---- Con Air is GREAT for what it is: and thats, again, mindless action flick entertainment the way only Jerry Bruckheimer can do it.

And, befitting the usual crappy DVD presentations of most of their titles, Disney/Buena Vista has released Con Air in a simple keepcase box with little extras, and again, NO Anamorphic Enhancement for this widescreen presentation......just like their releases of Gone in 60 Seconds, Crimson Tide and The Rock, all of which are beginning to look and sound the same as well.......


Of course, of course.....this is "The Mouse" we're talking about (Disney/Buena Vista), so did you expect a STELLAR DVD presentation? Just dont. Besides needing to zoom this image up because there was no anamorphic enhancement for widescreen sets, lets just say this isnt the prettiest print you'll ever lay eyes on.....not nearly as bad as Crimson Tide or the HORRIBLY transferred disc I am going to review next, The Hitcher (HBO), this transfer is grainy in many spots and just doesnt look all that great; I dont know if this is due to the lack of anamorphic enhancement which takes advantage of the resolution lines better on a 16X9 set or what, but in general, this can use a remastering. It's not HORRIBLE to look at --- The Hitcher was, but I'll cover that --- but there is something about this transfer that's off. It seems like this possibly COULD have been ported over from a Laser Disc master because it doesnt look all that smooth as compared to releases of the current time.

Like ALL Buena Vista DVDs, the disc automatically defaults to a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, with the options of a French language track and Spanish subtitles, and, like most all other Buena Vista DVDs, this mix just.....well.....sounds absolutely.....average. I dont know what it is about Buena Vista's Dolby Digital mixes on their DVDs but EVERY one of them --- including Crimson Tide and Gone in 60 Seconds --- just seem like some kind of "blanket" needs to be taken off of them; as if the audio isnt "breathing" enough --- and you get the same sensation with Con Air. While lively and active when the action starts heating up, this Dolby mix isnt that "pumped up", requiring more-than-usual volume for an action DVD. Believe this or not, most of the action remains in the front soundfield, and although there IS surround activity on the mix --- helicopters, bullets, explosions, score --- it doesnt sound all that DISCRETE, to be honest; I think, to sum it up, this soundtrack suffers from what I like to call the "Bruckheimer Curse" which plagues all his action-riddled films......after awhile, after all the explosions, screaming, bullets, hyping score come together at once, nothing sounds discrete after awhile --- as if effects are simply thrown into different speakers simply to get the mix done and "candy coated"; there is a lack of "discreetness" about the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks on these Buena Vista DVD releases of action films --- other DVD reviewers I know have confirmed this as well, as films like Armageddon and the aforementioned Gone in 60 Seconds all seem to come with this "Bruckheimer Curse" where the audio begins to just get "messy" and not all that discrete and "fresh-sounding" as the newer Dolby Digital mixes of very recent times.

Worth noting was also a rather "un-natural" sounding dialogue channel; some of the dialogue came in rough and, at times, distorted --- although I dont really know if "distorted" is the right word to describe the nature of the dialogue track.....some voices get a bit "crackly" and I have played this disc COUNTLESS times already through my home theater since owning it and I get the same results each time, so it is not something suspect to my calibration levels or gear; there are moments when Malkovitch's voice --- particularly in a scene where he threatens the pilot of the plane with a gun to his head --- gets "raw" and "raspy" sounding, as if it were post-dubbed onto the dialogue stem; overall, there were no "real" dialogue problems, aside from my usual complaint that Dolby Digital's dialogue normalization scheme they use happens to make dialogue harder to understand as compared to being mixed in with action --- and lacks that "in-your-faceness" of dialogue character that, say, I found on the DTS track of Warner Brothers' excellent DVD release of Exorcist: The Beginning.

There are some moments of LFE that will rattle your walls, mainly during explosions, but I wouldnt call this a bass-heavy track by any means.

An Original Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer accompanied the disc, and that was it for extras. Gotta love Buena Vista. Although, I must say, the DID drop a **** load of extras on their Gone in 60 Seconds original DVD release, and now with this new "Director's Cut" they just released of the film.

But, Con Air, lets not beat around the bush here, belongs in ANYONE'S collection who appreciates all these outrageously unbelievable action flicks from guys like Bruckheimer, Bay and Emmerich --- something to simply pop in your home theater system and just get lost in a ridiculous plot for an hour and a half. I dont know; I think these action flicks, as stupid as they are, are just "guy things"..........

If you have any of the other aforementioned titles in your collection, such as Armageddon, The Rock, Crimson Tide, Bad Boys, Bad Boys II, or Gone in 60 Seconds, you must add Con Air to complete it.

07-16-2005, 01:18 PM
This movie just never ends. You think its over when the plane crashes on the strip... but then it goes on for like 20 more minutes.... Just like The Rock, although i think the rock was much better because it had sean connery the OG in it. Although i think malcovichs's head getting smashed by that rock pulverizer is pretty cool even though they dont show it.

07-16-2005, 02:26 PM
This movie just never ends. You think its over when the plane crashes on the strip... but then it goes on for like 20 more minutes.... Just like The Rock, although i think the rock was much better because it had sean connery the OG in it. Although i think malcovichs's head getting smashed by that rock pulverizer is pretty cool even though they dont show it.

Agreed, it was a film that just went on and on and didnt end, much like Bad Boys II --- once that film has the crew going into Cuba to go rescue Martin Lawrence's sister, its almost as if ANOTHER film is developing.....WAY too long some of these action films are; where are the editors to go "enough is enough here".....?

While the scene with Malkovitch's head was alright, I think it would have worked better by him just flying through that Horseshoe Hotel Casino glass overpass and electrocuting himself on the wires after.......

steamboy 2
07-17-2005, 04:02 PM
Another THX LD title in my collection it look & sound pretty good but it's a while since i have seen it. I did not think that the DVD was worth buying & pitching my LD for it so i suck with mine. a good weekend action film, another good review ( LEX )


07-17-2005, 09:26 PM
Another THX LD title in my collection it look & sound pretty good but it's a while since i have seen it. I did not think that the DVD was worth buying & pitching my LD for it so i suck with mine. a good weekend action film, another good review ( LEX )


And another appreciated nice comment about the reviews I do for you folks.......thank you again Mike......

Agreed ---- this is a good, weekend, leave-your-brain-at-the-door-and-pump-up-your-home-theater title, but the DVD doesnt look all that great --- its not terrible, but if you're happy with your Laser Disc version, then keep it I guess.....someone needs to start lobbying against Buena Vista and the Mouse for these God awful non anamorphic DVDs that are yet STILL on the market......