FILM OF THE WEEK: Stand back - this guy's packing irony

Con Air Today, 9pm FIVE

Near the beginning of Con Air, shortly before Nicolas Cage's ex- Army Ranger Cameron Poe beats the living trash out of some rednecks who have been harassing his wife (leaving one dead and our hero facing a seven- to-10 stretch), sweet Mrs Poe says to her man: "For a second there, I thought you were that guy again." If she meant the guy he was two years earlier, in sensitive, Oscar-winning form in Mike Figgis's Leaving Las Vegas, then she couldn't have been more wrong. This is Cage as he became, via Michael Bay's The Rock, pumped up, proud as punch and willing to kick any butt that gets in his way.

Con Air is, I would respectively submit (and with due nods to the Die Hard series) the best action film around. It takes the slightest of storylines - a plane-full of maximum-risk convicts plan an escape and are chased by the authorities - and pushes the genre stereotypes beyond their limits, as much playing with the form as it is conforming to its requirements. The first film made by high-concept king Jerry Bruckheimer after the death of his production partner Don Simpson, it has a humour lacking in the duo's previous outings that is born out of knowing exactly what it is and what it isn't. And it's helped along by a cast of fine actors - John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, and Ving Rhames - camping up their psycho personas to the nines, plus nice, cuddly John Cusack as a prison service agent packing a piece and rolling with the punches.

Where the story happens and how it came to be are of little consequence - this is an exercise in rhythm and one-liners. In the fastest-cutting sequences - a shoot-out at a desert airfield and in the film's Las Vegas denouement - I lost count of the edits and lost track of where the explosions, gunfire and screams were coming from. Director Simon West is Bruckheimer's creature, less auteur than animateur, and scriptwriter Scott Rosenberg has his tongue so firmly planted in his cheek that it's nearly sticking out of the opposite ear. "They're talking to Denzel for the movie," says someone of Rhames's murderous Diamond Dog, who has written prize-winning novels in jail. "Love your work," says Malkovich to Buscemi mid-flight.

And where else could you get to see a diminutive, Hispanic, transvestite psycho-killer sashaying her ass aboard the wreck of a flying prison to the strains of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama"? As Steve Buscemi so neatly puts it: "Define irony... A bunch of idiots dancing on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash."

So don't say it's not art just because its artfulness is to the fore. And don't say that it's less worthy just because it doesn't pay dues to the "feminine" side of our natures - I have a list as long as my arm of women who love this movie for its sheer relentless invention and wit. Remember, it's not meant to be real. It's a film.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea