A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
Midway in "Con Air,'' the Nicolas Cage character observes: "Somehow they managed to get every creep and freak in the universe on this one plane.'' That's the same thought I was having. The plane--a hijacked flight of dangerous convicts--has so many criminal superstars on it, it's like a weirdo version of those comic books where the superheroes hold a summit.
Let's take an inventory. There's the ringleader, Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich), who cheerfully reports that his last evaluation found him insane; Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames), a black militant who's pretending to be Cyrus' lieutenant until he sees an opening to make his own move, and Johnny 23 (Danny Trejo), so-called because of his 23 convictions for rape ("It woulda been Johnny 600 if they knew the whole story'').
Plus there are about 10 more creeps--including Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi), a serial killer with 37 victims, who arrives on board encased in custom-made restraints patterned after Hannibal Lecter's traveling suit in "The Silence of the Lambs" (When Cyrus the Virus sees Greene strapped in a cocoon of leather and steel, he protests, "This is no way to treat a national treasure!'' He adds, "Love your work.'') All of these monsters are on board the same flight, a lumbering C-123K troop transport that is taking them to a maximum security prison. Also on board is a good guy: Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage), an Army Ranger unfairly locked up for eight years for protecting his family from drunken goons. This is his flight home for parole. Sitting next to him is a friend from prison (Mykelti Williamson), a diabetic who must have an insulin shot or die. Among the guards who survive the initial takeover of the plane is Bishop (Rachel Ticotin), who immediately inspires the rapist to change his name to Johnny 24.
That's just the partial roll call of creeps and freaks in the air. On the ground, we meet a good-guy U.S. marshal (John Cusack), and a mad dog DEA agent (Colm Meany) whose solution to the problem is to blow the commandeered plane out of the air. This is a big cast, but easy to keep straight, because everyone is typecast and never does anything out of character.