I can't even count how many times I have watched the 1997 action flick Con Air in the past 23 years. There have been maybe fives times where I've actually put in a VHS, DVD, or streamed the prison plane hijacking movie starring Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich and the rest of the ridiculous cast, but the number of times I've caught bits and pieces of it on cable has to be in the hundreds.
Con Air is one of those movies that was made to catch halfway through on TNT, AMC, or whatever channel has the rights to it that month. There is nothing more enjoyable than turning on your TV on a Sunday afternoon at just the right time to see the prisoner introductions, so much so that I'm willing to overlook most of the glaring issues with this highly rewatchable summer blockbuster. But since I'm on the topic of issues with the movie, here are five things that still don't make sense about Con Air that pretty much served as a turning point in Nicolas Cage's career.
And so we are all clear here, I unironically love Con Air. I was 9 years old when the movie first came out and it has held a soft-spot in my heart ever since. The characters, the action, hell, even the insane score that's pretty much nothing but guitar solos and drums that sound like trashcans all get points in my book.
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 prisoners took over the plan at the end of the first act, but nope, director Simon West doesn't waste much time at all showing just badass Nicolas Cage could be in the role of recently discharged Army Ranger Cameron Poe in the movie's sappy and amusing prologue set in good old Mobile, Alabama. But as awesome as it is seeing Cameron 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 pretty much pushes one of his attacker's nose into his skull, killing the guy instantly. Here's where it gets really out of hand because Poe, a decorated soldier and all around nice guy, gets sentenced to upwards of 10 years in prison because he's too dangerous and technically trained as a 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.
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 a resident of Alabama, who committed a crime in the state of Alabama, was tried and convicted in an Alabama courthouse ended up serving a sentence in San Quentin State Prison, which is all the way over in Northern California.
You could say, "But the movie looks more badass set in 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 that compare to the destruction and absurdity of the sequence, it still doesn't change the fact that Cameron Poe was sent to the other side of the country when everyone knows that Alabama has plenty of prisons.
How Were There No Safeguard 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 here. There's a series of small events that turn a maximum security prison with wings into a playpen for some of the most random and colorful 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 in 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. I mean, he's the only one with a gun… Oh wait, that moronic DEA agent brought one onboard, but there isn't enough space on the internet to go down that rabbit-hole.
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 the cutest creepiest girl you'll see in a 1997 movie 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. Could it be?
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 life Tricia Poe (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 anything happens (not to mention a plane crash, a police chase, destruction, chaos, etc.) 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.
The Extra Serious Bonus Section
- 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 down there.
- 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.
Is there anything about Con Air that doesn't make sense to you or are willing to let everything go because this is just such an insanely fun movie? Let me know in the comments below.
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 yelling 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.
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