"They somehow managed to get every freak and creep in the universe on this one plane, and then somehow managed to let them take it over, and then they somehow managed to stick us right smack in the middle." Con Air
— Cameron Poe, summarizing the movie for us.
is an action movie made in 1997, released by Touchstone Pictures
and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer
Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage
) loves his wife, Tricia Poe (Monica Potter). Just ask the drunk he killed in the course of defending her when she was pregnant, earning him seven to ten years in prison. He loves his daughter Casey (Landry Allbright), too, taking time every day in prison to communicate with both of them and making sure that he leaves prison a better man than he entered. Cameron Poe is now on parole, and on his way home to see his family. It will be his daughter's seventh birthday.
Cameron Poe is a nice guy. Just don't threaten his family
. And especially don't try to keep him from them.
Unfortunately, some criminals are about to learn this the hard way, because Poe, and his best friend, the diabetic Mike "Baby-"O'Dell (Mykelti Williamson), are put on the Jailbird
, a Fairchild C-123 that is not only transporting Poe home, but is also being used by US Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) to transport a number of notorious criminals to a new Supermax prison. These include William "Billy Bedlam" Bedford (Nick Chinlund), who caught his wife cheating on him, and in response, he drove four towns over to her family's house and slaughtered her parents, her brothers, her sisters, and even her dog; Nathan "Diamond Dog" Jones
), a black supremacist who bombed an NRA meeting saying, "They represented the basest negativity of the white race," then wrote a New York Times
bestseller from prison that apparently is getting a movie adaptation starring Denzel Washington
; Johnny "23" Baca (Danny Trejo
), a serial rapist; Joe "Pinball" Parker (Dave Chapelle
); and of course, Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom (John Malkovich
), who is masterminding an escape plot that involves hijacking the plane to escape to a non-extradition country.
Those criminals are about to learn a hard lesson: don't mess with Poe. They don't know Poe from Adam.
Don't mess with Cameron Poe.And never
, ever threaten the bunny◊
.Not to be confused with
the Conair Corporation,
which primarily sells hair care appliances.The characters sheet
I said, put. The tropes. Back in the page:
- Affably Evil:
- Swamp Thing is such a jolly, good-humored sort that you almost forget that he's an integral part in a scheme to bust out a planeload of mass murderers, terrorists, and gangsters. He's a drug smuggler himself, but even his actor defends him, pointing out that he didn't kill anyone or get in their faces...
- Steve Buscemi's Garland Greene. Sure, he killed 30 people in a way that "makes the Manson Family look like The Partridge Family." and speaks with a Creepy Monotone lines such as "One girl, I drove through three states wearing her head as a hat." But he's a Deadpan Snarker, has a quite touching scene with a child, sings a cheery song while the plane crashes, and seems sane as he joins a craps table in the end.
- Alone with the Psycho: Subverted. The creepy serial killer Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi) is having a one-on-one session with a little girl. After a cutaway, we see him walk off with the girl's doll, implying that she's dead. But a subsequent scene shows her well off.
- And Your Little Dog Too: "Before I kill you, I'll let you know that the last thing that little Casey Poe will ever smell will be my stinking breath." Oh, it's on...
"You're not getting near my daughter. Buckle up!
" (cuffs Cyrus just as the truck they're riding crashes)
- Apple of Discord: Poe attempts this when asking why a militant black man like Diamond Dog is taking orders from a skinhead white guy. It fails when Diamond Dog explicitly says he's The Starscream.
- Award Bait Song / Breakaway Pop Hit: "How Do I Live" by Trisha Yearwood, who covered the first cut by LeAnn Rimes.
- Ax-Crazy: Johnny-23.
- Bald of Evil: Cyrus the Virus.
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Cyrus "The Virus" Grissum and Nathan "Diamond Dog" Jones. Nathan is technically taking orders from Cyrus, but they both have equal authority and Nathan admits he is only doing so for the time being.
- Big Damn Heroes:
Cameron Poe: What do you think I'm gonna do? I'm gonna save the fuckin' day.
- Black Best Friend: For Poe, he's got Baby-O.
- Blatant Lies:
Vincent: Where are you taking my plane, Cyrus?
Cyrus: So are you, Vince.
- Blood from the Mouth: Agent Sims when he gets shot in the torso by Cyrus.
- Brick Joke: Garland Greene is unaccounted for after the ending plane crash. We don't see any of him until right before the credits... when he turns out to have made an absolute fortune gambling in Vegas.
- When the cons arrive at Lerner Airfield, they have a near collision with another pilot there. They spook him and he runs off into the desert. Later when they leave, he's still running through the desert.
- Bring My Brown Pants: Cyrus told Larkin (via radio) that the undercover agent pissed his pants after he shot him.
Cyrus (singing): "Ohhhh, nothing makes me sadder than the agent lost his bladder in the... aaaiiiirrrrrplane!"
- Bullying a Dragon: Poe winds up in prison because three general lowlifes attack a soldier who is wearing Ranger tabs. The thought process there probably involved a tremendous amount of alcohol. Probably for the best.
- Bury Your Gays: Averted. Sally-Can't-Dance is one of the few survivors. He was however the first to get re-arrested.
- Camp Gay: Sally Can't Dance, who wears a dress for the second half of the movie.
- Car Cushion: Pinball falls from the plane onto a moving car.
- Cassandra Truth: Larkin: "A body fell from the sky with a note on it." Malloy and Larkin's boss just laugh him off.
- Chekhov's Gun: Malloy's car.
- Chekhov's Speech: When the cons skid to a halt at Lerner Airfield, Diamond Dog is about to execute three prison guards. Poe tries to reason with Diamond Dog not to kill them until the cons board the second plane with Cindino, the cons' contact at the airfield. Poe argues that Cindino may not be one to be trusted based on what Poe knows of Cindino's history. Diamond Dog is unconvinced until Cyrus interrupts the exchange. Poe tries the same argument with Cyrus and convinces him. Cyrus orders Diamond Dog to stand down and for the cons to dig and pull their plane out from the dirt. Its relevance to the story seems minimal until it turns out that Poe was right; Cindino planned to double-cross the cons all along. This scene was clever in hindsight because Poe was simply trying to save the guards' lives, and may have actually made up his Cindino story in an attempt to break the partnership, and thus prevent the cons from escaping to Mexico before the authorities show up.
- The Chessmaster: Cyrus, being the mastermind behind the hijacking.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The prisoners: Normal inmates get Blue, the really scary ones get Orange, and the pants-wettingly scary Steve Buscemi gets White.
- Contrived Coincidence: Lampshaded in the page quote. Cameron Poe gets released from prison on his daughter's birthday, only to wind up on a plane hijacked by inmates, and is forced to stop them because his Black Best Friend is trapped on the plane will die if he doesn't get off and receive insulin. Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg...
- Cool Car
Malloy: "Sunsets are beautiful. Newborn babies are beautiful. This, this is fucking spectacular."
- Cowboy Cop: Malloy.
- Crime of Self-Defense: How Cameron got jailed.
- Cruel and Unusual Death:
- Cyrus dies by being chained to the ladder of a speeding fire engine, hurled through a bridge and onto some electrical wires, and finally getting his head crushed in a rock crusher.
- Johnny 23 dies (or so we must assume) when one or both of his handcuffed arms are torn from the rest of his body.
- Garland Greene was particularly fond of these, bragging about sawing a woman's head off and wearing it as a hat for days.
- Dangerously Genre Savvy: Cryus has a moment of this. His Politically Incorrect Villain line about Pinball is said while the DEA agent on the plane is using him as a Human Shield. Once the situation is resolved, to the detriment of the agent, Pinball retrieves the agent's gun and asks if Cyrus meant it. Cyrus has Pinball relinquish the gun, then confirms that he did.
- Death by Looking Up: Cyrus Grissom vs. rock crusher.
- Description Porn: Larkin describes Billy Bedlam, Diamond Dog and Cyrus the Virus but skimps when it comes to Poe.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Paraphrased from the movie: Billy Bedlam caught his wife in bed with another man. He left them alone, but drove four towns over to his wife's family's house. He proceeded to kill her parents, her brothers, her sisters, and even her dog.
- Dissonant Serenity: Garland Greene, though he might actually be on anti-psychotics at the time.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Pinball meets a cute girl while stashing the transponder and forgets to get back on the plane.
- Donut Mess with a Cop: During the chase scene finale, two Red Shirt cops join in, dropping their donuts to do so.
- Dragon with an Agenda: Cameron Poe asks black supremacist Diamond Dog why he's content to be second in command to white Big Bad Cyrus Grissom. Dog replies that while his long term agenda is vastly different from that of Cyrus, he needs to escape before he can get back to it — going along with Cyrus is "a means to an end".
- Dull Surprise: "On any other day, that might seem strange."
- Empathy Doll Shot: The doll of the little girl that Garland talks to.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- Cyrus Grissom (who claimed to have killed more people than cancer) despises rapists.
Cyrus: "Can you fly, Johnny?"
Johnny 23: "No."
Cyrus: "You keep that in mind when you look at her, because if your dick jumps out of your pants, you jump out of this plane."
- Diamond Dog is scared out of his mind by Garland Greene and doesn't like having to be the one to release him from his restraints.
- Fakeout Opening: The film begins with a montage about the US Army Rangers.
- Freudian Slip: Pinball meets a pretty girl, and pretends to be a prison guard.
Pinball: "I work for the Department of Erec... Corrections".
- Genre Savvy: The pilot reminding Cyrus that they wouldn't be able to land the plane if they killed him.
- Genuine Human Hide: Garland Greene claims he once killed a little girl and then drove through the state wearing her face as a hat.
- Good News, Bad News: Pinball is dispatched to find three white convicts named Carl, Benson, and Popovich, because they need to deliver them to the unsuspecting guards below to keep up the ruse that nothing is wrong on the plane. The goods news is that he found all of them. The bad news is that they're all dead either because they were shot in the scuffle in taking over the plane and Willie Sims's attempt to retake it, making them three men short and forcing them to send out the guards in their place.
- Hairpin Lockpick: Cyrus and Nathan use needles to unlock their handcuffs.
- He's Dead, Jim: The barkeeper checking on the switch-knife punk Poe killed in melee.
- Hollywood Law: This was a very clear case of self defense, and the judge's reasoning of Poe being a "human weapon" for throwing the book at him despite a guilty plea should've been laughed out of an appeals court. But that would've ruined the film, now, wouldn't it?
- Also with respect to the venue. Why would a case like this be adjudicated in a federal civilian court? It should be dealt with in an Alabama state court, not federal.
- Honor Before Reason: Cameron Poe is a former Army Ranger, and refuses to leave a fallen man behind and a female prison guard to be raped and tortured by Johnny 23, even if keeping quiet would mean freedom.
- Morality Pet: Poe specifically states that he couldn't face his daughter if he didn't act this way.
- Human Shield: Discussed and applied by Cyrus during the shootout between him and the DEA agent on board.
Cyrus: "You know, the next time you choose a human shield, you're better off not picking a two-bit negro crackhead."
- Informed Attribute: Garland Greene had supposedly killed more people than any convict on the plane, and had the absolute highest amount of security for transporting him. However, whilst he definitely alludes to having formerly killed people, we never really see any of his murderous aspects on-screen, to the point where it looks like he just might have been cured of them. It's still implied that he murdered one of the guards, and that doing so made him "feel better".
- Inspector Javert: Malloy has trouble believing Poe (or any convict) is good.
- Idiot Ball: The pilot of the plane, learning that there was a fire and a probable disturbance on his plane, does the right thing and trips the alarm and alerts Carson City (their next stop) of a problem on board. What does he do next? Instead of locking the cockpit door where they would be safe (the inmates were extensively searched for any and all weapons) and landing ASAP, the pilot tells the co-pilot to get a gun and check it out. One wonders how Cyrus's ingenious escape plan would have fared without this error in judgment.
- It's possible to chock it up to a bit of Fridge Brilliance. Cyrus is clearly familiar with Molloy, and knows the plane is Molloy's personal project... thus the hand-picked staff like the pilots are those more likely to tend towards Molloy's own personality profile: aggressive and shortsighted.
- Infant Immortality: Played straight. It seems like Garland Greene, who is touted as a horrific serial killer, is about to kill the little girl he runs into near the abandoned airfield, but he doesn't.
- Institutional Apparel: Criminals in jumpsuits of some other color. See Colour-Coded for Your Convenience.
- Isn't It Ironic?: As the inmates dance to "Sweet Home Alabama", Garland Greene defines irony as "a bunch of idiots dancing around on a plane to a song made famous by a band that died in a plane crash."
- Some Meta: The plane Skynyrd was on was a Convair 240. The actual plane used for filming, a Fairchild C-123 Provider, was later sold to a private air transport company and was involved in a fatal crash in Alaska in 2010.
- I Won't Say I'm Guilty: Averted. Poe pleads guilty at the advice of his idiot attorney.
- Jerk Ass: Agent Malloy.
- Jerkass Has a Point: When the plane's about to crash, Malloy points out that civilian casualties could be enormous, which could've been avoided had they shot the plane down in the desert, and considering the plane crashes right in the middle of the Las Vegas strip...yeah, a lot of people would definitely be dead.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He admits in the end that shooting down the plane would have been a bad idea.
- Karma Houdini: Garland Greene, though all his villainy is in his backstory. During the movie Garland instinctively realizes Poe is a good guy pretending to be a hard con, and has a lengthy dialogue about ironic situations about how a good man has to act evil to survive. The fact that Garland intentionally leaves a little girl alive during the plane refueling hints that by the end of the movie Garland has decided to act good.
- Karmic Death:
- When his dead body is found, Johnny 23's tattooed arm is detached from his body, but still shackled in his cage.
- As Pinball tries to get the plane to stop so he can get on, the only prisoner to see him is the Native American whom he picked on and set on fire. Naturally, he doesn't tell anyone what he saw, indirectly causing Pinball's death.
- Large Ham/World of Ham: Everyone. Cage is in good company here.
- The Last Thing You Ever See: You know what? That makes Poe mad.
- Lunatic Loophole: At the end, when all the other convicts have either been arrested or killed, Garland Greene just walks away.
- Made of Explodium: Trope Exemplar.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Cameron Poe doesn't break stride even when one of the other convicts shoots his shoulder.
- Meaningful Name: Johnny 23, so named because he was convicted of 23 counts of rape. He claimed to raped more than 23 women, though.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Cyrus the Virus.
- Nice Guy: Cameron Poe.
- No One Gets Left Behind: Cameron Poe is an awesome Rambo Jesus that way.
- No Sell: Near the ending, Poe walks towards the Big Bad who destroyed his peaceful ride home. A nearby con raises his gun and shoots at the striding Poe, who gets hit in the upper arm. He just keeps walking and kicks the con's ass.
- Not Quite Dead: Apparently the plane crash in Vegas didn't kill off all the bad guys and they manage to escape with a firetruck.
- Offstage Villainy: Garland Greene is presented as one of the most horrific and prolific serial killers who ever lived, and is certainly feared by the other criminals, but all his crimes occurred before his introduction. He boasts of killing a little girl and wearing her face as a Genuine Human Hide, yet he thankfully refrains from killing a girl he runs into. The end rather implies that he's gone good, but his past crimes this still makes him an extreme Karma Houdini.
- Only a Flesh Wound:
- Poe gets shot in the left shoulder which doesn't seem to affect him at all.
- Poe piercing a wooden pole through Cyrus leg causes some screaming but doesn't put him out of action.
- Outrun the Fireball: Poe, jumping through a window to save himself from the exploding gas station.
- Pet Homosexual: Sally Can't Dance.
- Planning with Props: Cyrus demonstrates the plan to surround the police convoy using soda cans, engine parts and debris. The rock doesn't mean anything, though.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: The prison guard in charge of transporting the prisoners calls Pinball "the skinniest Negro I have ever seen".
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Both members of the Big Bad Duumvirate are notable racists. Cyrus the Virus says a lot of racist comments toward Pinball and Baby-O, later clarifying to Pinball that he meant it. Diamond Dog is a black supremacist terrorist who believes that all white people are inherently evil. However, both of them are still pragmatic enough to team up with each other, if only for the time being.
- The Precious, Precious Car / Watch the Paint Job: Malloy's car.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Cy..." "...onara!"
- Prison Riot: A part of the montage following Cameron Poe's imprisonment shows him reading his daughter's letters in his cell as other prisoners riot.
- Prison Ship: The airplane is a prison transport.
- Prisons Are Gymnasiums: The film featured Nicolas Cage's character doing this while in prison, though he seemed to be in good enough shape already.
- Punctuated Pounding: "You don't... treat... women... like...that!"
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Serial rapist Johnny 23 gets this line thrown in his face by Cyrus.
Cyrus: "I despise rapists. For me, you're somewhere between a cockroach and that white stuff that accumulates at the corner of your mouth when you're really thirsty. But, in your case, I'll make an exception."
- And when he actually does try something with Bishop on board and Cameron Poe gets hold of him, well...see Punctuated Pounding above.
- Rasputinian Death: The ultimate fate of Cyrus the Virus. Wait - I think he just twitched in that rock crusher...
- Red Baron: Some of the cons have nasty-sounding nicknames applied to them. Cyrus "the Virus" is just one of them.
- Refuge in Audacity: Lampshaded by Poe when the airplane tows a car through the air. "On any other day, that might seem strange." For unknown reasons this was changed in the german version to "Funny, that's exactly my type of car." Still fits, but makes one wonder why they changed it?
- Reminiscing About Your Victims: Garland Greene does this. It's how we know he killed a girl and used her head as a hat.
- Revenge by Proxy: Billy Bedlam's revenge on his cheating wife.
Agent Sims: The mass murderer?
- Scary Black Man: Diamond Dog. He's a Malcolm Xerox without the glasses or the soapbox. Strangely, he's one of the most well-spoken characters in the entire movie, and wrote a New York Times bestseller in jail. And was interviewed by Geraldo. And there was talk in-story about a movie being made about him, with "Denzel" being cast to play him.
- Schmuck Bait: The cops are investigating the stuff Cyrus left behind his cell wall planning out the plane hijacking. Vince leaves the cell, and tells the guards not to touch anything. They see that one of the boxes is marked "Do Not Open". The bomb inside it explodes when they open it.
- Serial Rapist: The inmate Johnny 23 (played by Danny Trejo) is named for his twenty-three counts of rape. Cyrus "the Virus" Grissom, the resident Big Bad, despises him, making a point of telling him to keep it in his pants when around the only female guard, or "you jump out of this plane." He boasts to said female guard, "They'd call me Johnny 600 if they knew the truth", and later tries to attack her, leading to a very well-deserved beatdown from Cameron Poe.
- Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Half the Trope Namer. John Cusack's Marshal Vince Larkin:
: [Cindino's] known to be somewhat garrulous in the company of thieves. Malloy
: Garrulous? What the fuck is garrulous? Larkin
: That would be loquacious, verbose, effusive. How about "chatty"? Malloy
: [to Devers] What's with Dictionary Boy? Larkin
: "Thesaurus Boy", I think, is more appropriate.
- Shipped in Shackles: Garland Green was introduced while restrained in a manner similar to Hannibal Lecter, complete with mask. This was likely intentional.
- Shoot Out the Lock: How Cyrus opens the gate to the plane's front section.
- Significant Reference Date: Cameron Poe's daughter's birthday note was July 14, the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, an historical event that foreshadows what happens onboard the "Jailbird" (it's taken hostage by convicts). note
- Sissy Villain: Sally Can't Dance again.
- Sleeves Are for Wimps: Poe.
- The Slow Walk: Poe's trademark.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: Pinball falls off the plane to the tune of "A Summer Place". Also Garland Greene singing "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" while the plane crashes.
- Spontaneous Human Combustion: Invoked; after Pinball intentionally sets a fellow prisoner on fire in order to create a distraction for the other more dangerous prisoners about to attempt to hijack the plane, in the middle of all the confusion Pinball humorously exclaims that this was an act of spontaneous combustion.
- The Starscream: Diamond Dog admits he is one of these to Poe, saying he'll go along with Cyrus and follow his orders until he doesn't need him anymore, and then "the Day of the Dog begins."
- The Stinger: After the fade to black, Garland Greene is shown having a drink at the Craps tables.
- Strawman Political: Malloy keeps accusing Larkin of being this.
Malloy: "Of course you can't reach [Larkin]! He's probably off saving the rainforests, or recycling his sandals or some shit!"
- Talking through Technique: Apparently, the inmates communicated with another through stencils.
- Tempting Fate: It's discussed what a brilliant idea it was to put all of the most dangerous criminals in the country on the same plane. Larkin's assistant hopes nothing goes wrong. He replies that the plane is a well-oiled machine.
"All they'll have to worry about is stale peanuts and a little turbulence."
- There Is a God!: As the diabetic black guy is dying on the plane, he tells Nicholas Cage's character that sometimes he wonders if there's a God. Cage's characters tells him he'll show him there is one, and then starts kicking Con butt.
- Title Drop: Upon taking over the plane, Cyrus gets on the intercom and announces, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. I have the only gun on board. Welcome to Con Air!"
- Too Dumb to Live: A pair of guards are left to watch over Cyrus's prison cell, with clear orders from Larkin not to touch anything in the hidden compartment they just uncovered. They proceed ignore him completely, opening a box with the words "DO NOT OPEN" written across the top. Kaboom.
- Touch of Death: How Cameron Poe got in this mess in the first place.
- Trans Equals Gay: Sally Can't Dance acts much more like a transwoman than a gay man, but is treated as such by the rest of the cast and apparently the editors of this very wiki.
- Unflinching Walk:
- Played with. The cons are walking away from an burning plane, only to jump when it actually explodes... except, of course, Cyrus. Poe was a bit closer to the plane, so he has to Outrun the Fireball at the same time.
- Poe walks towards a gun-toting con after the plane crashes and is on fire, taking a bullet in the shoulder without pausing.
- Up to Eleven: Everyone's story, but especially Garland Greene. You can't just have a Hannibal-like psychopath, he has to have "driven through three states wearing a girl's head as a hat."
- Vanity License Plate: AZZ-KIKR.
- Video Credits: With everyone happy and laughing with "Sweet Home Alabama" as BGM.
- Villainous Breakdown: Cyrus, usually very composed and in control, standing on the open ramp of the plane in flight, holding a pistol to the head of the bunny, yelling at an assault chopper.
- Viva Las Vegas: Where the bad guys plan to land in, and where the plane crashes.
- Wild Goose Chase: When the convicts remove the plane's tracking device and places it on a scenic tours flight.
- Wife-Basher Basher: Cameron Poe becomes one when he catches Johnny trying to rape a female guard. See Punctuated Pounding, wherein he slams the bastard's head repeatedly into a bulkhead while teaching him Chivalry 101.
! Treat! Women! Like! THAT
- Wouldn't Hit a Girl: During his Foe-Tossing Charge, the last person on the line is Sally-Can't-Dance, who is - depending on your interpretation - either Camp Gay or a trans woman. Poe nearly punches him, hesitates, then slaps instead.