Con Air - Put the Bunny Back in the Box


Con Air (1997)
Directed by: Simon West
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Nicolas Cage's Hair, John Cusack, John Malkovich
Release date: June 6, 1997
Running time: 115 minutes
Number of people who should have put the bunny back in the box: 1

This review is spoiler filled so if you haven’t seen it yet…

Watch this movie if: You want to see Nicolas Cage put as much work into a southern accent as he put into The Wicker Man while John Malkovich and his band of merry b-listers take over a plane. 

In the first minute and a half of this timeless piece of cinema we are greeted with Nicolas Cage as Cameron Poe in a rundown bar in Bumfuck, Alabama talking to his pregnant wife's stomach in the worst fake southern accent ever committed to film while “How Do I Live Without You” plays in the background. In 90 seconds this movie puts its dick on the table and dares you to make a move. You may not make a move but some generic drunk southern asshole does, and he makes that move on Poes wife. Unfortunately, drunk southern asshole is too busy making said move to notice Poe inexplicably wearing his full Army Ranger uniform, medals and all. This oversight leads to him trying to jump Poe outside of the bar and getting his nose dishonorably discharged into his brain. If there's a better way to die than having Nic Cage use excessive force on your face then I haven't found it. 

Poe Nic Cage is sentenced to federal pound me in the ass prison because his military skills make him a deadly weapon. I'm pretty sure that isn't a real thing, but something Steven Seagal told the director about his Aikido training while filming Marked for Death. He’s sentenced to 7 to 10 years instead of 4 because his military training and ability to respond with deadly force means he’s not subject to the same rules as us normal city folk. That’s what you get for serving your country, asshole. 

nic cage con air

He passes the time in prison by befriending his diabetic cell mate Mike "Baby-O” O'Dell (Bubba from Forrest Gump), writing letters to his wife and daughter, and growing a sweet ass mullet. Why did I bother mentioning that Baby-O is diabetic? Could such an insignificant character trait really matter in the grand scheme of things in a movie where convicts take over a plane? 

It’s hard to catch on that insulin is the Rosebud of this movie because Cage his narrates his letters to his family. Not only does he narrate them, but I swear he begins the first one with "Dearest Trisha." Hearing those two words come out of his pseudo-hayseed mouth is more jarring and unsettling than anything that ever happened in Twin Peaks. (The real) Nicolas Cage claims he traveled to Alabama to perfect his accent. It seems unnecessary to fly all the way out to Alabama just to watch History Channel documentaries about the Civil War. Every letter to his daughter sounds like he’s warning her about the scourge of dysyntery. 

Cage is released on parole 8 years into his sentence and wouldn't you know it he's scheduled to be flown back to Bumfuck, Alabama on the same day as his daughter's seventh birthday. He even got her a stuffed bunny as a birthday present. It's not explicitly mentioned the blowjob-to-bunny exchange rate but it rates somewhere between a hand jibber cafeteria and a white knuckler. The conveniences don’t stop there, because he’ll be flying on the “Jailbird” with Baby-O, who isn’t getting released but is still flying on the exact same plane on the exact same day. 

Pictured: The bunny back in the box
At absolutely no point in the film is it made clear what Baby-O is in prison for. Poe is supposed to be a noble man in the wrong place at the wrong time so the audience can trust him and his character, and he seems very close to Baby-O. But for all we know he could have been the most grisly rapist this side of the Mighty Mississippi. Was he imprisoned wrongfully. Taking the fall for a friend? Firebomb a daycare? It doesn’t matter he has diabetes and a nickname and that’s all you need to know. 

Who is on the flight with these two seemingly harmless convicts? The absolute 'worst of the worst' criminals being transferred to a state of the art prison. Among these criminals are 'supposed to be generic gruff-sounding tough guy but ends up sounds like Harvey Fierstein' William “Billy Bedlam” Bedford.  “Johnny 23” (a really young Danny Trejo), who's central purpose in the movie is to repeatedly attempt to rape the only female guard on board. Why 23? The 23 stands for the number of rapes he was convicted of. "They'd call me Johnny 600 if they knew the truth." Hahaha that's our crazy Uncle Machete for ya. 

Also on board are petty criminal “Pinball Parker” (Dave Chappelle [Seriously]), violent black militant Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones (Ving Rhames), "the poster child for the criminally insane" Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich), and a bunch of other people who aren’t given names and will probably survive the entire flight. It’s at this moment where I realized that the two central characters are Nicolas Cage portraying Robert E. Lee and John Malkovich playing John Malkovich. 

The white devil's day is over

This transfer is overseen by U.S. Marshall Vince Larkin, played by John Cusack in the beige-est, most ill-fitting suit you’ve ever seen. He's the typical 'smartest guy in the room,' which of course means he talks like a high schooler trying to stretch out his paper. Nobody ever describes anyone as "garolous in the company of thieves" unless they've already stretched the margins to 1.25 and they're still a page short. 

 Larkin is working with DEA agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meaney - he was on one of the Stark Trek series wasn’t the original or The Next Generation so who cares) who is putting undercover Agent Sims (looks like Gomez from the Addams Family movies) on board to gain intelligence from some prisoner for some mission that doesn't matter. Larkin insists Sims boards the flight unarmed in hopes of preventing some kind of crazy scenario where one of the dozens of the absolute dregs of society gets a hold of the gun and leads the other prisoners in an uprising where they seize control of the plane. Malloy agrees but during the boarding pat-down he sneaks a gun into Sims’ sock and now we have a movie. 

The Jailbird’s first stop is Carson City where they will offload six prisoners and take on a couple more. After that refueling and exchange everyone else will be transferred to a brand new supermax facility designed specifically for the absolute worst of the worst. When you’re dealing with people this dangerous the best course of action is to put all of them in a single small, confined space where they outnumber the guards 10 to 1 and there’s no threat of reinforcements. 

Right before the plane departs, Baby-O makes a big scene to the guards about not getting his insulin. He’s insured that he’ll get it after they take off and I take a moment to come to terms with the fact that this exchange would never be put into the movie unless something was going to go wrong. A critical plot point is going to hang on this man not getting an injection. A sense of dread begins to overwhelm me that instead of watching Nic Cage fight against John Malkovich pretending to be a violent psychopath I’ll be watching fuckin "shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo searching high and low for a needle. But then Cage says “Aw shucks” and I’m immediately won back over. 

Shortly after the flight takes off, Pinball improvs a bunch of racist Indian jokes to the gigantic Native American prisoner sitting next to him. Sensing that hurting T. Hawk’s feelings won’t be enough to get the guards’ attention, he lights him on fire. 

Artist's interpretation
Pinball takes advantage of the commotion that usually follows a man spontaneously combusting and breaks Cyrus and Dog out of their cells. How did this plan come together? How did all of these inmates who are no doubt scattered all over different prisons collaborate to plan this escape? Who cares Ving Rhames stabbed a guard in the neck with a pair of handcuffs. 

With the plane now in the prisoners' control, Cyrus immediately assumes the role of leader and announces “Welcome to Con Air,” and a single tear falls down Nicolas Cage’s face. I’m dead serious. 

nic cage con air
Bet you though I was joking, huh
Not so fast, mother fuckers. Agent Sims has seen just about enough of this bullshit and draws his gun and takes Pinball hostage, as if any of these murders and rapists would care if he killed the guy from Half-Baked. Cage, being the kind-hearted gentle Lennie from Of Mice and Men hero that he is, tries to talk Sims out of threatening The leader of a group of violent criminals. Unfortunately, Sims gets ambushed by one of the other 30 fucking prisoners on board he apparently forgot about and Cyrus brandishes a gun stolen from one of the pilots and kills him. 

Cyrus prepares the prisoners for their scheduled landing in Carson City. Six prisoners are scheduled to depart so six prisoners they’re gonna get. The problem is, three of the six died in the plane takeover. Cage, Baby-O, and an old white guy volunteer to be the 3. Cage is about to be a free man anyways so why not get the fuck off that plane and never look back. Baby-O however, that's a different story. In all the madness of the takeover, the syringe of insulin was destroyed, and Baby-O needs to get out of Dodge and find a needle. Too bad for poor Baby-O because they're expecting six white guys, so he's a no go. 

Dog and Cyrus find a sixth and prepare them for the transfer by taping their mouths shut so they can't alert any of the guards. Cage realizes he won't be able to get anyone's help before the plane is already back off the ground and tells them he's changed his mind and wants to stay on board. He lies about his sentence, telling them he still has 15 years left to serve and he got cold feet being so close to freedom. Why does it matter how if he’s serving another 15 years or he’s a free man at the end of the day? It doesn’t. 

And after a long deliberation...they say ok and let him go and put a random guard in his place. That was easy. "It don't make no nevermind" because he spots a recording device on Sims' corpse and ever so gracefully plants it on one of the guards being substituted for a dead prisoner in the transfer in the hopes that it will get the attention of one of the guards on the prison bus after the exchange. 

Why would he stay on the plane though? He's hours away from seeing his daughter in person for the first time in his life. He's spent his entire sentence writing her letters and watching her grow through pictures and he even got her that teddy bear as a birthday present. Why would he stay on board? Because Baby-O will die if he doesn't get insulin and one of the guards is a female and Johnny 23 has his eyes set right on her. Yep. Just in case you forgot Cage was wrongfully imprisoned (even though he killed someone with his bare hands) and is actually a really, really swell guy. 

They land in a heavy sandstorm to refuel and surprise, surprise the transfer goes off without a hitch because we're only 35 minutes into a 2 hour movie. Among the new prisoners are "Swamp Thing," who looks suspiciously like a villain from a silent movie and Francisco Cindino, who's in charge of the next phase of the plan and the man Agent Sims was supposed to get information out of. Why didn't I mention this earlier? Because who cares. 

Swamp Thing's serving 25 to life for tying that poor girl to train tracks
More important than those two (to me personally, he has absolutely zero impact on the actual plot) is the "Marietta Mangler," an infamous, cannibalistic serial killer brought onto the plane in full HannibaLecter gear. 

"Yeah we've seen Silence of the Lambs, why do you ask?"
Once the transfer is complete the guards on the bus notice the planted tape recorder and order the bus to stop. The plane has yet to take off and Cage stares at the parked bus in anticipation. The bus drives off anyways, but the guard calls for backup once they're moving again. It makes absolutely no fucking sense. Backup arrives too late to stop them and the plane takes off without Pinball. Once on the plane, The Marietta Mangler is unmasked, revealing

of COURSE it's Steve Buscemi
Coincidentally enough at the same time as the transfer Larkin discovers the plans for the Jailbird's takeover in Grissom's cell. And since that discovery isn't enough, a bomb goes off and kills a bunch of cops. I am literally dripping with excitement. 

After Larkin and Malloy discover what's happened on the plane, Larkin assumes Cage is on their side with no explanation. Malloy gives one sentence of ham-fisted backstory that's supposed to make us feel like his bond with Agent Sims was important (so important that aforementioned one sentence got cut out of the theatrical cut) and indignantly takes off to follow the plane's transponder. The problem is Pinball took the transponder out and hid it aboard a sightseeing plane during the transfer. It's like Inception there are so many levels. 

I've seen this movie at least 20 times and I still don't understand why he has such a tiny face on such a giant head
The plane is in the air and on the way to Lerner Airfield, smack dab in the middle of nowhere. There they will board a plane provided by Cindino and head to Mexico. They're concerned they're not going to meet their ETA because for some reason the plane is really dragging ass. Cage and Dog go into the hull to find the cause. Pinball was left behind when the plane took off but just barely missed making it aboard. And by barely missed, I mean he was lodged into the landing wheel and crushed to death. Cage sees an opportunity here and writes a message on Pinball's shirt addressed to Larkin with the name of the airfield they're landing at. Don't look at me I didn't write this shit. He pushes Pinball's corpse out of the plane and it lands in the middle of traffic. 

Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho
Larkin meets with Cage's stupid family to find some insight as to why Cage would choose to stay on the plane when suddenly a call comes in from Fresno police. That stupid fucking plan? It worked. Of course it did. Larkin learns that the plane is headed towards an abandoned airfield and immediately alerts Malloy. Malloy and his stupid dumb tiny face ignores the warning and continues to chase after a sightseeing plane, forcing Larkin to steal Malloy's sportscar and drive to the field and call in the National Guard for support. 

Back in the air, Billy Bedlam has begun to doubt Cage's story because it's convenient to the plot. If Cage was really serving fifteen years he would have been in the same block as Billy, but he's never seen him before. Billy sneaks into cargo and goes through Cage’s things and finds his parole letter as well as the bunny he bought for his daughter with deep south handy j’s. Cage warns him to 

nic cage put the bunny back in the box

but Billy is persistent and refuses to just put that bunny back in the fuckin box. This is one injustice Cage will not suffer, and he murders Billy by impaling him on a pipe, Commando-style. He looks at his remains and gives a beautiful eulogy of "why couldn't you put the bunny back in the box?"

Larkin arrives at Lerner the same time as the Jailbird nears the runway and discovers the people in the control tower are dead. The plane overshoots the runway and grounds itself in the sand in an elaborate and unnecessary crash sequence. Don't worry though, the plane isn't damaged and none of the rapists and serial killers were hurt. There's no sign of the plane Cindino promised. Johnny 23 spots the National Guard heading their direction and with no other way out in sight Cyrus orders the prisoners to dig the Jailbird out of the sand. 

Cage sneaks off and explores the field in search of, not a way home, but a fucking needle for Baby-O's insulin. Amidst all of the shit that has, is currently, and will in the future hit the fan, the absolute top priority is making sure a criminal doesn't die of diabeetus. Welcome to Obama's America. 

Buscemi wanders off from the rest of the crew unnoticed and finds a girl sitting in a drained pool having a tea party with a doll in what appears to be an abandoned trailer park. He sits down and picks up one of the dolls and they sing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” I swear to God. 

This has no relevance to the story in any way but I’m including it here just to prove to myself that I actually saw it. 
I make peace with God and unpause the movie to find Larkin and Cage meeting up in a hangar with the plane that Cindino promised but there's another fuckin' twist: Cindino has double-crossed Cyrus and is trying to flee on his own. While the prisoners are off digging the crashed plane out of the dirt, Cindino boards his personal escape plane. Larkin boards a crane and uses it to chop the plane in half and, I'm sure you guessed it, there's a big ass crash. As you would expect, a plane getting cut in half and exploding catches the prisoners' attention. Cindino begs Cyrus to let him live, and what follows might be my absolute favorite line from any Nic Cage movie, which says a TON:

Cindino stumbles out of the wreckage and is face to face with Cyrus. He begins to beg for forgiveness but all he can get out is "Cy..." before he's cut off with "ONARA" as he flicks a cigarette into the oil, burning Cindino alive and blowing up the what's left of the plane. 

I cried.

The National Guard is closing in and at this exact moment Cyrus just so happens to discover Billy's bottom at the bottom of the plane as well as a small arsenal. I guess everyone forgot about Billy because nobody said a word when he went into the cargo but never came back out. This plane that supposedly had a single gun in it located safely in a lockbox in the cockpit just so happens to also have machine guns, shotguns, and grenade launchers. Just in case, I guess. So Cyrus does what anyone this situation would do and sets up an elaborate trap to ambush the Guard instead of just getting into the now unstuck plane and flying off. Are you wondering why every single plan is a god damned convoluted mess that makes absolutely no sense? 

No time for that shit because while the prisoners, loaded with enough firepower to "Platoon" an entire Vietnamese village, form a perimeter to ambush and slaughter the incoming Guard, Cage wanders around the empty town in search of a needle. For his friend's insulin. These innocent men in uniform are walking into certain death, but he'll be god damned if he lets Bubba Blue die on that plane.

Johnny 23 sees the impending massacre as a great distraction for him to get back on board the plane and try to rape Single Female Guard. Again. Because what this silly action movie needs is some

Don't worry though, Cage found a needle; and while innocent people are being brutally massacred and burned alive, he runs through the firefight and hurdles exploding cars to make it back to the plane and give Baby-O the insulin injection for his gluten allergy or whatever the fuck. I'm watching a movie with Steve Buscemi as Hannibal Lecter and Nicolas Cage talking like the fucking Looney Tunes rooster and every ten minutes I'm being reminded that this asshole only has 9 toes.  

Larkin steals a bulldozer uses it as a barricade to protect the cops as they advance and force the prisoners to fall back to the plane. As everyone is boarding Buscemi wanders back in holding one of the little dolls the girl was playing with. Yep. 

Malloy reminds us that he's still in the movie by arriving as the prisoners are boarding. He lands the helicopter and gets out - as the plane takes off. Thanks a shitload. The jailbird takes off before Cage could escape with Baby-O and Single Female Guard, whose entire role in the movie was essentially to exist so Cage could stop Danny Trejo from raping her with his elite hand to hand combat skills. It's not the most glamorous role but I guess that's better than being the hardened criminal about to die from eating too much sugar. 

Once in the air, Cyrus tells everyone on board that he finds it very suspicious that authorities were alerted in Carson City, there were men ready to ambush them at Lerner, and that Billy was murdered and hid in the bottom of the plane. He knows there's a traitor and intends to find out who it is by putting a gun to Single Female Guard's head and counting to three. Cage is about to give himself up when Baby-O tries to do the honorable thing to save his friend and take the blame. He's promptly shot and Cyrus unveils Cage's parole letter and the letter from his daughter. He died for no reason. We spent an hour and a fucking half watching Nic Cage search high and low for a cock sucking needle and when he finally gets it he gets shot for nothing. I just. You know. Fuck it. 

Malloy feels my internal struggle and finally catches up to their plane ninety minutes into the movie and opens fire. One of the engines is disabled and the plane starts losing fuel fast. The prisoners are too busy shooting back to notice Cage bumrushing the cockpit and demanding Larkin to cease fire. Larkin relays this to Malloy and reminds him that Cage is just a parolee. This somehow changes Malloy's mind and quenches his thirst for revenge and he orders the pilot to stop firing. The damage is done and the Jailbird is dropping fast so the only logical plan is to crash land on the Vegas strip. They crash land and they crash land hard.

Needless to say after the crash the plane is fucked, the Vegas Strip is fucked, the passengers are fucked; everything is absolutely fucked. Amongst the rubble all of the characters who have been given names (except Johnny) make it out alive, leaving a sea of mangled extras in their wake. Cage receives parting words of wisdom from Baby-O and Single Female Guard and heads after Cyrus, Dog, and Swamp Thing, who are escaping in, you guessed it, a fire truck. Because fuck it why not. Larkin and Cage meet up again and chase after the three of them on motorcycles. Because. Fuck it. Why. Not. 

So Mulleted Nic Cage and Say Anything are on motorcycles driving through the busy streets of Las Vegas in pursuit of John Malkovich, Ving Rhames, and Snidely Whiplash. I just wanted to put this into perspective for you. I don’t know why either of them are chasing these guys as neither of them are cops nor do they have anything personally at stake but it looks cool. During the chase two cops literally drop a donut mid-bite to give chase. Both cops are taken out by the water hose on the fire truck. Cage jumps onto the ladder on the back of the truck and his bike runs Ving Rhames the fuck over and explodes, because that's what bikes do when they hit giant black people. 

Larkin climbs aboard the truck as well and uses an axe to Here’s Johnny his way through the roof. Once the hole is wide enough (heh) he uses the fire hose to flood the cab with water, causing Swamp Thing to crash and fly out the windshield. 

That just leaves Cyrus. And he gets it so good. Cage handcuffs him to the ladder and bails, seeing as how the driver is now face down on the pavement somewhere. The crash sends him flying through a glass walkway and onto power lines, then through even more indiscriminate glass, then onto a construction site, where his head is crushed by a pounder.

Cage walks away from the destruction and sees the bunny he got for his daughter floating into the gutter. He grabs it and turns to see his wife and daughter and they finally have their begin reunion. Awwww. Why were they in Vegas in the first place? Doesn't matter, they all hug and cry.  

Right before credits roll we see a craps table at a Vegas casino and the croupier is asking someone off camera if he feels lucky. And it cuts to a close up of Steve Buscemi. Haha don't worry kids the horrific cannibalistic murder who claimed to have killed a girl and drove through three states wearing her head as a hat, escaped custody and is on the loose in a heavily populated area. Who gives a fuck, Nicolas Cage got to hug his daughter. Credits!

Had they lived very, very long lives, they could not have expected nor would they have wished to see as much of the mad and macabre as they were to see that day.
This really is the Godfather 2 of ridiculous Nic Cage movies. If you haven't seen this movie since the 90's you should absolutely go back and give it another watch. I'm not trying to say it's aged like fine wine and is a misunderstood masterpiece. I'm saying it's been so long you've probably forgotten everything that wasn't Nic Cage's hair and accent. And that's a shame, because there's so much other dumb shit to enjoy. You should watch this once a year to ensure you never forget the pathos of a dead Dave Chappelle being thrown from a plane, or an Indian man being set on fire for no reason, or John Malkovich in general. So get comfy, turn the lights off, and put the bunny back in the box. 

5 Cage Mullets out of 5

Nic Cage Series 
[ The Rock | Con Air | Face/Off

1 comment:

  1. Most people assume that the pilots that are flying their airliner have been properly trained, but they do not give it any more thought.  Jettly