“Cyrus, this is your bar-b-que and it tastes good.”
Yes, that’s about the caliber of dialogue you can expect from “Con Air”; but when seeing a Jerry Bruckheimer movie that’s what we expect. Suspend your disbelief for a few hours and pretend that hardened criminals can actually be likeable, that Nicolas Cage can actually reproduce an Alabaman accent and that Dave Chappelle could actually be considered scary and you’ll be, well, entertained. “Con Air” was mainly Nicolas Cage’s follow up to “Leaving Las Vegas” for which he won a Best Actor Oscar and another re-teaming with Bruckheimer from 1996’s “The Rock” (a much better movie, by the way). That equaled success and anything that’s successful in Hollywood – it’s the formula to do it again. The cast is stellar, with Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich and John Cusack leading the way. The ensemble cast also includes Dave Chappelle, Ving Rhames, Steve Buscemi and Mykelti Williamson. And now the moment everyone has been waiting for…the plot!
Cage plays Cameron Poe, an Army Ranger who accidentally kills a man in a bar fight. He’s sentenced to 8 years in prison where he watches his daughter grow up through a series of letters. Upon his release, he’s hitching a ride aboard “The Jailbird”, an airplane carrying the worst of the worst criminals to a new maximum security prison. But the criminals, under the mastermind of Cyrus (John Malkovich), have a plan to hijack the plane and live the life in some exotic country. Naturally U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) is watching their every move and locking horns with DEA Agent Duncan Malloy (Colm Meany). Things go from bad to worse as the hijack is successful, a riot ensues and Cameron has to keep his identity under wraps (he’s set to go free, remember). The effects are special, the action huge and most of it not really that believable, but like I said – you don’t see this type of movie looking for a coherent plot, just to have a good time.
I’m truly amazed that this movie is now 9 years old, it doesn’t feel particularly dated, but looking back I can see how corny it really is. Director Simon West is probably better-known for his other efforts, “The General’s Daughter” and “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider”; but “Con Air” was a box office hit. The hard part comes when recommending this as a purchase. “Con Air” was one of Disney’s first releases on DVD (back when the movie was only two years old) and featured a lackluster non-anamorphic transfer and zero features. Little has changed in the 7 years since its initial release, this contains some “unrated, additional footage” that has been added back into the movie. I caught a few instances where some deleted scenes were shown, but they added little if nothing to the movie.
Video: How does it look?
I’m sure it’s no coincidence that both “Con Air” and “The Rock” are landing on Blu-ray on the same day and for some odd reason I chose to view “Con Air” again; perhaps mainly to see if the movie looked better than the previous “Special Unrated Edition” that came out a couple years back on standard DVD. Ah, vindication is a lovely thing, isn’t it? I’m pleased to say that the transfer on this 2.35:1 AVC HD transfer is the best I’ve seen for this movie and, for a catalog title, impressed me to no end. Granted, this was (and still is) your standard big-budget Hollywood extravaganza produced by a major movie studio so the transfer does indeed reflect all of the overindulgence that undoubtedly went into the production. There are a lot of earthy tones to the movie and with the film culminating in Las Vegas, we get some amazing HD looks at Sin City itself. Detail is largely improved over the previous standard DVD, so much that the older DVD looks blurry by comparison. For fans of the movie who just want it to look as good as it can, this Blu-ray is for you.
Audio: How does it sound?
One thing that can be said for most any Jerry Bruckheimer production is that it will have amazing technical achievement. In this case, we get an amazing PCM uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack that really brings the movie to life. The soundtrack resonates throughout all 5.1 channels and, as we might guess, there are no shortage of surround effect to heighten the mood. Dialogue is very rich and clear, we can hear every defect in Cage’s pitiful excuse for a southern drawl. The ending scene in which the plane lands sounds much better than I thought and as compared to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack on the standard DVD, there really is no comparison. Much like the video, those wanting an “audio upgrade” have been treated here.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The supplements leave a lot to be desired, with only two featurettes and the original theatrical trailer as extras, this one is worth upgrading for the technical aspects alone.