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  • Nate Lemann


Updated: Jul 16

Revisiting this '90s action spectacular that feels very much a product of the Jerry Bruckheimer hit machine...and mounds of cocaine.

by Nate Lemann

John Malkovich as Cyrus the Virus in "Con Air"
John Malkovich as Cyrus the Virus in "Con Air"

We don’t put enough credit on the great Jerry Bruckheimer’s name. This film should not work. It is a mess of ideas, characters, plot holes, and big (capital B-I-G) personalities. Yet…this maybe one of the most entertaining action films of all time. It is that propulsive and fun throughout that it never loses steam from the moment the convicts enter the plane. While Simon West does an admirable job corralling this movie, we know (we just know) this was shepherded by Bruckheimer. His track record in Hollywood to get action epic after action epic made (all with scripts seemingly written by the purest cocaine in Hollywood history) is nothing short of remarkable. This may be the most nonsensical of all his projects. Yet, it likeliest is his crowning achievement. 

He catches Cage in the goddamn pocket, John Cusack at an exciting and experimental phase of his career, and the showstopper of all actors in Malkovich to play the big heavy. Out of the three, Malkovich is the clear standout of the movie: he gets the best lines but also puts the right spin on every single one. He did not miss a note with this movie. Maybe his most impeccable performance and that is saying something. Just an iconic role (and look, too). 

It also has one of the great casts ever assembled in an action movie (Ving, Williamson, Buscemi, Trejo, Gainy, Potter, Chappell, Chinlund, Meaney, and Waingro himself, Kevin Gage!). We need more mid-budget action movies filled to the gills with movie stars. We just do. Buscemi is likely the other major standout here. His scene with Cage after he kills Billy is magic for a movie like this: it is so unique for an action star from this era, to wrestle with the consequences of killing a bad guy but also happens to be doing this…with the literal devil! They spend the perfect amount of time with it too, enough that it doesn’t take you out of the rest of this bonkers movie. Utter brilliance!

I would also watch Cusack doing the prisoner perp walk commentary on a loop for the rest of my life and be happy. It is maybe one of my favorite exposition scene of all-time in a movie. Sets the stage beautifully.

Does plenty of this movie not age well? 100%. Are there plot holes galore in this? More than one can count on your hands. Does it still work in a primal way? Hells to the yes!


I’ll leave it off with some of the all-time lines from this movie:

“Tie a ribbon around the oak tree because this boy is coming home.” - Cameron Poe

“The last Mohican is burning, man!” - Pinball

“The next wings you see will be the flies buzzing over your corpse.” - Cyrus the Virus (best villain name ever?)

“Can you fly? You keep that in mind because if your dick jumps out of your pants, you jump out of this plane” - Cyrus the Virus

“You have the prettiest eyes I’ve seen in about 5-10.” - Pinball

“I said, put the bunny back in the box…” - Cameron Poe

“It’s not difficult to surmise how Nathan here feels about killing guards and my own proclivities are a well-known and often lamented facts of penal lore. What I am wondering is why you have any opinion at all?” - Cyrus the Virus (PERSONAL FAVORITE)

“I’m sorry, boss…there are only two men I trust: one of them is me, the other isn’t you.” - Cameron Poe

“Cy”! “…Anara” - Cyrus the Virus

“On any other day that might seem strange.” - Cameron Poe

“Make a move and the bunny gets it!” - Cyrus the Virus

“I’m going to show you God does exist.” - Cameron Poe (this line was clearly a line that came from a producer who asked the following: “How do we appeal to good, religious moviegoers when we’re making a movie about the vilest men on God’s green earth? Do we have the hero be the literal proof of God?”)

“Before I kill you, I just want you to know the last thing Cassie Poe will smell will be my stinking breath!” - Cyrus the Virus


FINAL RATING: 4/5 (Must-Watch Action Spectacular)

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About Me


Hi! I'm Nate and I love to talk all things movies. I'll be posting new reviews, recent rewatches, and much more on this site. So come on and let's talk movies! 

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