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Movie Review

Con Air

Reviewed by: Tim Emmerich
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Action/Adventure
Length:
112 min.
R

Starring: Nicolas Cage, John Cusack, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney / Director: Simon West / Released by: Touchstone Pictures

My overall recommendation is to encourage you to skip this movie. It is extremely violent and would receive a R+ rating, if there were such a thing! Even the excellent action can’t keep all the negativity down.

“Con Air” is a good-versus-evil struggle with Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) as the good character. Poe retires from being a Ranger in the military but shortly thereafter gets into a fight defending his wife, Tricia (Monica Potter), who is pregnant with their unborn daughter. Unfortunately, Poe kills one of the three men and is sentenced to 7 to 10 years. Time quickly passes and he is paroled after 8 years, but as luck would have it, he is flying back on an airplane full of hardened criminals (“lifers”) who are getting transported to a new facility. Of course, the hardened criminals get loose and take over the plane.

Some of the obvious dumb things performed by the US Marshals responsible for the prison transfer include: having very few guards on the plane, allowing a “DEA” agent to pose as a fellow prisoner in order to try to get one of the criminals to confide in him (he sneaks in his gun as well), and allowing “normal” prisoners who are about to be paroled to be on the same transfer plane as the hardened criminals. Why don’t they just sedate the bad guys??

I won’t discuss the criminals, they are the baddest of the bad with all kinds of perversions. Terrible perversions. One, who had killed 38 people including children, finds a young girl. She comments that he “looks sick” and does he take medicine? He says that “there is no medication for what I have.” While they are playing teatime, the girl asks him to sing and they sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” I’m not sure if the song saves the little girl, or the fact that the plane needs to take off again, but thankfully she is spared.

Some specific examples of the strong violence are: death by a fight, death by impalement, attempted rape, death by explosion, multiple people getting shot, and death by crushing. Add to this the foul language and you’ve got a movie to avoid.

Year of Release—1997

Viewer Comments
Conair is an excellent action movie! One of the best I’ve seen. Due to the violence content, it is justifiably R rated although the material is on par with some PG-13 films I’ve watched (that doesn’t say much for the PG-13 rating). Remember, Conair isn’t in the lifechanging drama category. This is nonstop very well filmed action. Better than the James Bond films in my view. Put a repentant and moral protagonist in with a bunch of hardened criminals and let him think and action his way out, all on board an airplane. It works! The bad are bad and the good are good in this movie. The morals are clear cut—nice to see in an age of morally confused Hollywood films. If you can handle 2 nonstop hours of this much action, you’ll be very well rewarded indeed. Alas, definitely balance out your entertainment with a lifechanging drama as well.
—Todd Adams, age 30
Just saw ConAir over the weekend, and the action was fantastic. But as a Christian, there were some serious problems with this movie, the extremely perverted villians, the scenes with the pycho and the little girl were hard to take, and the thought of rehabilitation from singing one song was dubious. Yet, Nicolas Cage was a man of morals in the midst of chaos. As Christians we must remember when we go to the movies, they are of the world and must always be approached from that perspective. I wouldn’t suggest that Christians view this film the references to God may give the appearance of gloryfying the Lord, the utter violence and evil certainly do not.

I enjoyed the film for what it was… a secular movie. Those who struggle with this type of film don’t watch it!!! But remember Paul in Romans 14, speaking about disputable manners, if one’s faith is strong enough, amen! If not, don’t watch. I don’t make a habit of watching this type of film even though there is freedom in Christ, we must always be aware of how the world influences us on a daily basis.
—Stephanie Gale
ConAir: Let’s skip over the violence and special effects. Yes, there are a lot of both—but that is what an action movie is about. I would bet that there was a Christian somewhere in the writing staff or directing staff of this movie. Cage’s character plays a man of character. He will not abandon his convict friend or the female guard regardless of the personal consequences. Principle takes precedence over personal convenience. That is a message that we need to hear.

But you could argue that this is not explicitly Christian. But in addition to this general ethical tone, there were too many “gratuitous Christian refences” for someone not to have intended that they be there. (I use the phrase “gratuitous Christian references” to parallel the phrase “gratuitous sex” which is used to denote when sex is inserted in a movie that is not integral to the plot.)

I would point to four explicit instances:
  1. When Cage is leaving his cellmate, they embrace. Cage says, “Who will watch your back when I am not here.” The cellmate says, “God will.”
  2. The picture of Jesus on his cell wall.
  3. When he tells his wounded cell mate that he is going to take over the plane “To show you God exists.”
  4. The fascinating sequence where the serial killer has tea with the little girl. With great menace he replies to her question about his “illness” by saying it can never be cured. Then he says he knows the song “He’s got the whole world in His hands” and he joins her in song. Later we see that he has not harmed her, and the implication is that something has changed for him.
I for one, felt these were wonderful flashes of light and truth. If one wants to throw out the entire genre of action films then let’s throw this one out too. But if you accept the genre, I would rather have ones like “ConAir” with messages of character, honor, and positive references to faith. I can certainly imagine having a discussion with a non-Christian about what they thought the sequence meant with the serial killer and the girl.
—Bob Prud’homme, Princeton University
I don’t think the Disney Co. is to blame [Touchstone is owned by Disney]. If we as Christians live our lives boycotting them we should boycott about every other biz. Let’s live our lives with discernment and not be judgmental. It is the Lord who will judge in the end. As for my review of “ConAir”: not a bad flick but not one for younger viewers or those offended by this kind of subject. Use discernment: find out why the movie got the rating it got, what the subject matter is, and discern from there if you should see it (causing yourself and loved ones you take to stumble).
—Brian McClimans, age 22
KABOOM!!! Con Air was loud, noisy and funky! The type of movie that'll leave your head ringing for 10 minutes after it’s over. Honestly, I’ve seen better. A good action movie will present a situation that we, the audience, will be concerned about. Aside from the burning question “WILL NICHOLAS CAGE GET HOME TO SEE HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTER,” there was nothing else in this movie for me to give a care about. The only spiritual context that we can be proud of is that Nicholas Cage’s character at least knew who God was. Then again, maybe Steve Buscemi’s character (Garland Greene, the psycho) knew HIM, too… he was sane enough to realize that while the plane was crashing, “HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS” would be the most appropriate song to sing while everyone else on the plane was freaking out!
—Chris Utley, age 24
There were several glimpses of biblical principles present in the movie.

(1) Cage stays committed to his wife.
(2) A picture of Christ on the wall of his cell suggests his beliefs.
(3) He declares, “God does exist.”
(4) He demonstrates true love by “laying down his life” for his friend.
(5) The complex psychopath (a child killer) receives knowledge that “God’s got the whole world in His hands” because of the innocent child-like faith of a little girl.
(6) Jackpot machine strikes 777. (why?)
(7) Rape is despised heavily in the movie…

Need I say more?
—Irwin Tan, age 21
It was a violent movie with unbelievable events for sure. But my question is did the song “He’s got the whole world in his hands” save the little girl or the bad guy?
—Robert Schmall, age 32
Aside from the cussing and extreme violent content, I had to say that…“Con Air” was a “fleshly” treat. There were some funny moments, and I think that if an adult Christian’s convictions and character were strong enough, this movie is entertaining. If Cage did not cuss and if he prayed for help, then this movie would’ve been better…
—Milo, age 22
As far as Christian content goes, there’s very little. There does seem to have a little though, remarkably, if you can get past the violence and cursings. One psychotic (in a rather disturbing scene) talking with a little girl, discussing a possible cure to his illness, and he thinking there is no cure, she offers to sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands” as a cure to his disease. It was weak but it was there. Also our hero desperately wants to prove to a dying comrade that God is real, by risking his life to save the day.
It tried weakly to be intelligent and then you can almost see the Director say, “Uhh, Ok let’s see just how many explosions we can fit in one movie, uhh ACTION!.” It’s quite cartoonish too. Nick gets shot in the arm and doesn’t even blink, then proceeds to beat up all the bad guys, and dangle from the ladder of a speeding fire truck (the ladder is parallel to the ground) from his should be paralyzed arm, then with all the strength he can muster successfully grabs a poker that the bad guy is poking him with from atop the ladder, breaks it in half an jams it straight through the ankle of the bad guy. Ay to work Nick!
Bad guy (John Malkovich) then yells as though in great pain, “but you can see him think “I can handle it” and with all his strength then pulls the stake out of his ankle, and pivots on his newly “holy” leg to face his adversary. John gets in a few good punches (Boo), then Nick materializes a handy pair of handcuffs (a new trick he’s been workin on) and gets the idea to strap John to the ladder and then move the ladder perpendicular to the ground, not before adding his last words to his next bad guy victim, “Yer never gonna git near mah daughtah.” they’re still on a speeding fire truck mind you. John now is heading straight for a crosswalk in downtown Las Vegas,(a predicament we’ve all found ourselves in at one time or another I’m sure…) and plummets through gracefully onto a handy conveyer belt in a construction site which seems rather large but was nowhere to be seen only moments ago. John is shaken. Not hard to understand, he’s had a rather interesting couple of seconds. No doubt he’s confused that his arm that was handcuffed, with metal handcuffs to a metal ladder, could still be intact and in fine shape after it being pulled off violently, at about 60 mph's. I’d be confused too. He desperately tries to get his bearings, no doubt to make a “discreet” exit, to find that his head is in the path of a very large very speedy piston, to which he decides to look at intently with a “why me” look on his face.
There’s an example of the voilence. I’d save your money, now that you know.
—Don Hobbs, age 20
Nicolas Cage plays a wonderfully moral character, but I found myself being distracted by the huge gaps in plot, like how Cage’s wife gets from a Southern airport waiting for her husband, to a California airport talking to John Cusack, then makes it to Las Vegas in time to see the plane crash?—This is just one example. The action sequences were just one yellow explosion after another—a movie with TWO scenes of men running, while things explode behind them—wow. If you want an action thriller, see “Speed 2.” Don’t waste your money on this one.
—Dennis Rupert, age 44
…Be warned, use of the F-word by convicts is VERY heavy and the violence is exceptionally explicit. The movie doesn’t glorify the Lord, but it (sure has some) awesome action and special effects.
—Brian Pedigo, age 17
From a Christian perspective, Cage presents himself as a moral, God-fearing man (even mentions, “I will prove there is a God to you” by overcoming serious odds) who longs for the reunion to his family. …This movie is not meant for children.
—Christine Brown, age 26