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ACMI Re/commends: Con Air

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Communications manager Imogen Craddock Kandell explores her love of 90s power ballads, Steve Buscemi, and Nicholas Cage walking away from explosions in Con Air.

Con Air is the film equivalent of a late ’90s high school locker bay: heavy on power ballads, questionable chivalry and dodging guys who want to beat you to a pulp.

Released in 1997, Con Air was the début feature from UK ad guy and music video director Simon West – you may know his work from Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’. West's big budget Nicholas Cage vehicle received two Oscar Nominations and is credited with jetting him into the action star big leagues. 

The set-up is simple: good yet overzealous Southern Gentleman protects pregnant wife from bad guys, ends up in jail, gets parole for good behavior, finds out his ride home is a plane full of the “worst of the worst”, action ensues.  

Thanks to dark sorcery and a masterful casting agent, Con Air brought together the ensemble cast of bad guys: John Malkovich as the unhinged evil genius, Steve Buscemi as Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames and Danny Trejo as the muscle, and for laughs Dave Chappelle. A very honorable mention goes to John Cusack who plays the smart yet nervy FBI agent on the ground.

Cage made like Tom Cruise and performed all his own stunts. It’s easy to lose count of how many times Cage is shown walking in slow motion away from an explosion, his face stern, his mission clear. The only thing missing was a flock of white doves rising from the ashes behind him.

If Con Air has too much of a Michael Bay aesthetic, try re-watching another Nick Cage classic. In the never ending flurry of questionable Cage content, one can forget the gems hidden in his back catalogue: Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, Kick-Ass. But if your heart is screaming out for a hero and a ’90s soundtrack, Con Air is the film for you. 


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