To celebrate TIFF’s ongoing Bangkok Dangerous: The Cinema Of Nicolas Cage series, Alan Jones has resurrected his retrospective of the actor’s work entitled The Nic Cage Project. In this edition, Jones boards Simon West’s Con Air – playing tonight at the Lightbox.
“Put the bunny back in the box.”
Oh, those words. With such confidence they are delivered. With such verve, with such oomph! Truly, the quality with which these words are spoken can tell us, among other things, the quality of the actor who speaks them. That actor, of course, is one Nicolas Cage, perhaps the finest actor of our generation, and certainly the most intimidating. On a plane full of hardened convicts, murderers and rapists, thugs and serial killers, only one man could get away with saying “you should have put the bunny back in the box” while another lies, impaled, on the floor. That man is Nic Cage.
And in Con Air Nic Cage is Cameron Poe, a decorated Army Ranger sent to prison for eight years. Why? Because he killed a man while defending the honour of his pregnant wife. As U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) tells us “It could have happened to any of us!” That’s right, it could have been you!
If you had training in hand-to-hand combat you would be considered a “deadly weapon” by the state. And if you had a pregnant wife, and she was attacked by three drunk bruisers, you could be in the same situation as poor Cameron Poe. We’ve all been there.
Cameron Poe only wants to get home and give his daughter a stuffed bunny. And if anyone stands in poor Nic Cage’s way, that mothafucka’s going to pay! And that is exactly what happens to an assortment of the creepiest character actors in Hollywood:
Steve Buscemi is Garland “The Marietta Murderer” Greene, a serial killer of the highest degree of perversity. “One girl, I drove through three states wearing her head as a hat.” Never mind the logistics of wearing someone’s head as a hat (through three states no less), this dude is just bad.
Danny Trejo is Johnny-23, a man named after the number of women he has raped.
Ving Rhames is Diamond Dog, who blew up an NRA meeting and wrote a book in prison about his life called Reflections in a Diamond Eye. As Marshal Larkin mentions “They’re talking to Denzel for the movie.”
And finally, the ringleader, the mastermind: John Malkovich is Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom. Cyrus has spent 25 years in prison, where he’s earned two degrees and killed eleven inmates.
Indeed. These mofos are bad. They hijack a prisoner transport plane (Get it? “Con Air”?), en route, and attempt to escape the country with it — preferably to a place with nice beaches and mai-tai’s. The logistics of this escape are never really explained, but that’s OK, because the plan was doomed from the start. Why? Because the hijackers didn’t realize that NICOLAS FUCKING CAGE was on their plane. At one point, Nic Cage’s friend Baby-O (Mykelti Williamson) is lying on the floor with a gunshot wound; he tells Nic Cage that he’s worried God doesn’t exist. Before saving the day, Nic Cage, long greasy hair on his head, stubble on his face, responds, “I’m going to show you God does exist.”
Indeed, Con Air provides humankind with one of the most sophisticated theological arguments ever articulated: Nic Cage exists. Therefore, God exists.
Con Air is undoubtedly one of the finest cinematic achievements of all time.
Rating: Five dubious haircuts out of five.