Con Air: 5 Things That Don't Make Sense About The '90s Action Flick

Nicolas Cage in Con Air
(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

I can't even count how many times I have watched the 1997 action flick Con Air over the course of the past 25 years. Sure, there have been a dozen or so times where I’ve made a conscious decision to watch Nicolas Cage, in one of his best movies, try to prevent a zany group of convicts from escaping the country, but the number of times I've caught bits and pieces of it on cable has to be in the triple-digits at this point.

Con Air is one of those movies that is so bad it’s good and I just can’t get enough of it. However, there are some issues I have with the movie that I have to address in a super serious way. None of these offenses would earn the movie a 25-to-life sentence in a maximum security prison (though now would be time for its parole hearing if that were the case), but they have to be said… 

Nicolas Cage in Con Air

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Cameron Poe Essentially Got 10 Years In Prison For Defending Himself

You would think that the action in Con Air really wouldn't start until the Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich) and his co-conspirators take over the planet, but nope, director Simon West doesn't waste much time at all showing just how badass Nicolas Cage could be in the role of recently discharged Army Ranger Cameron Poe in the movie's moody prologue set in good old Mobile, Alabama. But as awesome as it is seeing Poe take down three barflies in the pouring rain, what happens next doesn't really make any sense (which is totally fine because we have to get our man on the plane).

In case you forgot, Cameron Poe essentially pushes his attacker's nose into his skull, killing the guy instantly. Here's where it gets really out of hand because Poe, a former Army Ranger, gets sentenced to upwards of 10 years in prison because he's a trained weapon. But, and a big but here, wouldn't Poe's attorney spend time arguing that his client was being attacked by three men (one of which had a knife)? I mean, his wife was there to see him getting beaten down and bar patrons would have remembered Poe being chastised. But he doesn't get on the plane, and he doesn't save the day if he's not in prison for eight years beforehand.

Nicolas Cage in Con Air

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Cameron Poe Was Arrested And Convicted in Alabama, But Imprisoned in California?

I wonder who wanted Con Air to end in Las Vegas more — director Simon West, screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, or producer Jerry Bruckheimer? Whoever decided the location of the final moments of the movie is responsible for explaining how an Alabaman, who was tried and convicted in the state of Alabama ended up serving a sentence in San Quentin State Prison, which is a federal institution all the way over in Northern California. 

You could say, "But the movie looks more badass set in the American West and don't you love seeing the plane crash-land in the middle of the Las Vegas strip?" And while you're technically not wrong because there are few things as absurdly awesome as that final sequence, it still doesn't change the fact that Poe was sent to a federal prison for a non-federal offense. Even if it was because of his military service, wouldn’t he end up in an Army prison?

John Malkovich in Con Air

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

How Were There No Safeguards In Place In Case The Plane Was Hijacked?

You can't have Con Air without the plane being overtaken by a group of crazed criminals with nothing to lose but their last shot at freedom, and boy is it something else. There's a series of small events that turn a maximum security prison with wings into a playpen for some of the most deranged convicts you'll see outside of Oswald State Penitentiary. Starting with Joe "Pinball" Parker's (Dave Chappelle) diversion to get the guard's attention, the hijacking scene quickly unfolds into madness. But the question remains, wouldn't the U.S. Marshals have safeguards in place to prevent this very thing from happening?

I completely understand that the guards were freaking out at the moment and wanted to save their colleagues and friends, but the co-pilot of the plane opens up that door to the cockpit in a manner that makes it look like he's part of the plan. Just lock the door and land the plane. 

Steve Buscemi in Con Air

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Who Was Supposed To Be Taking Care Of The Little Girl When Garland "The Marietta Mangler" Greene Shows Up?

When "Jailbird" and its passengers are sitting around waiting for the next step in the plan, Garland "The Marietta Mangler" Greene (Steve Buscemi) just wanders off and finds what appears to be an abandoned trailer park in the middle of the desert. If that's not creepy enough, the convicted serial killer is greeted by perhaps the creepiest character in the whole dang movie, that little girl who asks him to sit down for tea. It's cute if not a little unsettling, but it brings up another question — who's watching this girl?

The plane landed at an abandoned airstrip so you would think that someone would notice something, but again, these are the same people who let their little girl play in a drained swimming pool with old and broken toys and not notice a serial killer walking towards her. The only other way I could explain this is that the girl was just a figment of the killer's imagination. That’s a movie theory for another day.

Cameron Poe (and bunny) reuniting with his family in Con Air

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

How Did The Poe Family End Up In Vegas Not Long After The Plane Crashes On The Strip?

It seems like the entire duration of Con Air leads to the touching reunion between Cameron Poe and his wife Tricia (Monica Potter) and his first meeting with his daughter Casey (Landry Allbright) so he can give her that damn bunny, but how did they get all the way to Las Vegas (and the scene of a major crime) in little to no time at all?

I am fully aware the Poe family reunion was supposed to go down in Carson City, Nevada, which is a short plane ride away from Las Vegas, but they're right in the center of everything in a matter of minutes so we can hear "How Do I Live" for like the third time in two hours. And if you have ever been anywhere when disorder breaks out (not to mention a plane crash, a police chase, destruction, and chaos) you know that there's no way Tricia and Casey are getting anywhere near Cameron, especially when you consider the fact that everyone from the Las Vegas Police Department to the FBI will want to talk to him. But, it gives us a nice moment to end the movie on (unless they wanted to use this as a jumping off point for Con Air 2).

Nicolas Cage in Con Air

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

The Extra Serious Bonus Section

I also have a few random thoughts about Con Air, aka, the second-best 1997 hijack movie:

  • What is Cameron Poe's accent? I know Nicolas Cage is trying to pull off a Southern accent, but let me tell ya, I don't know anyone from the South who talks like that and I spent the first 24 years of my life in Dixie.
  • Can a plane actually take off while dragging a car? I'm not being funny, I really want to know.
  • Why is John Malkovich so good? The man has no business being so good in his portrayal of Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom and anyone else would bomb with those lines, but he absolutely kills it here.
  • Why didn't they use the more popular LeAnn Rimes version of "How Do I Live" to bookend the movie? She probably would have won the Academy Award (I’m kidding, there was no beating “My Heart Will Go On'').

All in all, Con Air is, in my humble opinion, still one of the best action movies. I mean we’re still talking about the epic movie and how it all came together 25 years after it first opened in theaters and gave the world one of the best lines of all time.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.