Con Air
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Jarrod Baker (13th June 2006).
The Film

You've probably already seen Con Air. Let's face it - box office figures don't lie. If so, you'll probably be surprised to know that it was nominated for 2 Academy Awards in 1998. Surprised, because it's not exactly Oscar quality - at least until you find out that it was nominated for "Best Music, Original Song", and "Best Sound", neither of which it won.
All of which is a roundabout way of stating the obvious - Con Air is not a great film, and certainly not the best work of any of the many capable actors in its surprisingly high quality cast. However it is a fun film, at least in part to the fine performances of those actors (except for Nicolas Cage, who pretty much always plays the same guy - except in Face/Off (1997) where for some of the time he played that guy but EVIL).
From John Cusack as a US Marshall Vince Larkin in what is probably the ugliest outfit he has worn onscreen outside of a John Hughes film (a stylish linen suit), to John Malkovich as a murderous criminal mastermind, to Steve Buscemi as a serial killer who is strangely creepy despite being just about the ONLY character who doesn't commit an act of onscreen violence, the cast is just about perfect - probably more perfect than the film deserves. Which isn't much.
The plot is laughable. The CGI is terrible. The dialogue is worse (especially Cage's lines, for some reason). To be fair though, Con Air does have everything else you might want in a movie. Explosions, plane crashes (2), graphic violence (including shootings, broken bones, and at least one incident where someone's nose is pushed up into their brain), motorcycles chasing a fire engine, an electrocution, escaped prisoners trying to shoot an attack helicopter down with pistols (from the open cargo hatch of a plane) - who could honestly ask for more?
Actually there is one person who could have asked for more - Nicolas Cage could have asked for a couple of rewrites, because while many of the other characters actually have some lines that sound vaguely intelligent, he manages to come off retarded-all the time-even when he's doing smart things. At first you think it might just be the southern drawl, or the fact that many of the other characters refer to him as "hillbilly", or just that he's Nicolas Cage- and then you really examine the things he says, and find that they're just plain dumb. I guess they had to make sure that the intended audience for this film could relate to the main character-
But basically, the movie is the ultimate in high concept - a film whose plot you can sum up in a sentence. You know a classic Bruckheimer film. Basically, a planeload of convicts being transported from one prison to another TAKE OVER THE PLANE and hilarity ensues-the end, pretty much. Oh except for the bit where Cage's character was imprisoned for 7 years for manslaughter due to a miscarriage of justice (notably involving crappy advice from an attorney) and is now just trying to get home to see his daughter (who he has never met) on her birthday. Talk about pathos.
But for all its faults as a work of art, the film is pretty entertaining, as mentioned above. You're certainly not going to be bored watching it, and if you get a group of friends together even more fun can be generated from mocking it ceaselessly during your viewing.
Bad news on this "extended unrated edition" is that it's not noticeably adding all that much. I'd seen the 'original version' a couple of times before watching this one - including once fairly recently - and I struggled to see the difference. For the record, the additions include:
- Poe's attacker says something rude about Tricia (Monica Potter), and Poe getting arrested.
- 'Baby-O' (Mykelti Williamson) rescues Poe from a burning cell during a prison riot.
- There are some tweaks to 'Pinballís' (Dave Chappelle) dialogue, and a little extra back-story on how Poe once killed a prisoner called "The Giant".
- 'Johnny-23' (Danny Trejo) brags more about rape, conversation between U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin and Ginny (Angela Featherstone).
- DEA Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney) gets an extra moment to ruminate over the death of his DEA agent, Poe shares a few extra words with guard Sally Bishop (Rachel Ticotin).
- Garland 'The Marietta Mangler' Green kills a guard, and guard Sally Bishop shares a quick exchange with Swamp Thing (M.C. Gainey).
- Convicts start looting when they land at Lerner Field and additional scenes between Poe and 'Baby-O'.
- During the initial plane shoot-out: The guy shot in the chest has an extra scene of his head falling forward and blood drooling from his mouth.
- The 'bagged' guy shot in the head has an extra shot of the bullet hole in his head as his head slumps back.
- There is one extra shot of Cindino (Jesse Borrego) burning at the airfield.

Does all this add much to the film? Probably not. If you're a huge fan you might pick up on the changes. Otherwise you'd have to watch the two versions back to back to see any difference. Nevertheless I recommend this DVD to casual viewers and Con Air completists alike - like I said; you're certainly not going to get bored watching it.

Video

Presented in the filmís original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, this anamorphic transfer isnít going to win any awards but is far from bad. The previous R1 release was non-anamorphic, so already we have a reason to buy this new version. The image is generally sharp, however the colors arenít as vibrant as Iíd expect them to be, and I noticed some colors bleed a little, mainly orange lighting on faces. Some detail is lost however this is less than an occasional occurrence. Black levels are deep and bold and shadow detail is constantly good throughout. I could not spot any compression artefacts and for a film that does not have to share any room on the disc with extras youíd expect this to be the case. Overall itís a much improved transfer over the older disc.

Audio

This film includes only one audio track, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track and it was fantastic. Dialogue is infinitely clear, directional surrounds make effective use of the 5.1 space. Considering this is an action film the sound track is tremendously active, explosions, chases, gun fire, crashes and everything full on comes at you from every possible direction. I canít really imagine what else could be done to improve on this other than the inclusion of a full bit-rate DTS ES track. On second thought for a bare bones disc why on earth didnít Buena Vista include one? I guess only they have an answer to that.
Optional subtitles are also included in English only.

Extras

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has decided that this release of Con Air should be void of any extras, except for a collection of promotional bonus trailers that is. The trailers included on this otherwise barebones release are:
- "Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" which runs for 1 minute 46 seconds.
- "Grey's Anatomy: Season 1" promo spot that runs for 1 minute.
- "Glory Road" which runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.
- "Annapolis" which runs for 2 minutes 23 seconds.
- "Crimson Tide: Extended Edition" which runs for 2 minutes 37 seconds.
- "Enemy Of The State: Special Edition" which runs for 2 minutes 29 seconds.

All of the previews except for the Enemy Of The State are start-up trailers and play before the menu, to skip them press the Menu button on your remote.

Packaging

This new edition of Con Air is packaged in an amaray case housed in a shiny cardboard slip-cover.

Overall

The Film: C+ Video: B+ Audio: A+ Extras: F Overall: C-

 


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