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"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."
Cameron Poe, summarizing the movie for us.
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Con Air 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 (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 U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) to transport a number of notorious criminals to a new Supermax prison. These include:

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  • An undercover DEA agent (Jose Zuniga), under the command of a Jerkass Boss (Colm Meaney)
  • 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 (Ving Rhames), 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 Chappelle), arsonist, armed robber, and a "nice guy who just got caught"
  • Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom (John Malkovich), who is masterminding an escape plot that involves hijacking the plane to escape to a non-extradition country.
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  • Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi), a serial murderer with at least 30 victims who disturbs even the hardcore cons because of his body count and the depravity of the crimes.

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:

  • Actor Allusion: Colm Meaney's keychain has a Starfleet badge on it.
  • 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 recalls with a Creepy Monotone about how he "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...
    Poe: You're not getting near my daughter. Buckle up! (cuffs Cyrus just as the truck they're riding on crashes)
    • While introducing the felons boarding the "Jail Bird:"
      Larkin: He ("Billy Bedlam") caught his wife in bed with another man. Left her alone, drove four towns over to his wife's family's house. Killed her parents, her brothers, her sisters, even their dog.
  • Angry Black Man: Diamond Dog, a black supremacist and terrorist.
  • Anthropic Principle: The only reason Poe ends up on the titular plane in the first place is because his trial is overseen by the dumbest goddamned judge in cinematic history, because if the case of a trained military man and war hero defending his pregnant wife against a belligerent drunk and accidentally killing him in the process was tried by a realistic court, there would be no movie.
  • 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.
  • Armor-Piercing Question
    Poe: You know you're in a situation you can't control, right?
    Sims: I can't control it? I can't control it?!
  • Artistic License – Geography: After Swamp Thing announces that they need to land the plane in Las Vegas, he says that they have to land on the Strip as the airport is too far away. They then fly over the Hard Rock Cafe, which is closer to McCarran International Airport than the Strip. Also, the Strip is only a couple of miles from the airport anyways. You can see it from the plane after you land.
  • Artistic License – Medicine:
    • Raise your hand if you've ever seen a first aid kit with a hypodermic needle in it.
    • Also, someone going through severe diabetic shock would be completely incapable of attempting to prevent a rape, no matter how feebly.
    • Probably the most egregious depiction of a diabetic in cinema. If Baby-O is sweating profusely and "near death", then that means he's hypoglycemic (his blood sugar is too low and need to consume carbs/sugar to raise it at acceptable levels), and an insulin shot (which lowers blood sugar) is the last thing he needs.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The drunken, lecherous redneck asshole who tried to assault the Poes and kill Cameron with a switchblade is only lamented because his death is the reason Cameron is in jail.
    • Cindino. After cowardly betraying Cyrus and clumsily attempting to bail the convicts without them noticing, an enraged Cyrus burns him alive.
  • Award-Bait Song: "How Do I Live" by Trisha Yearwood, who covered the first cut by LeAnn Rimes.
    • As a footnote, Rimes' version did better on Adult Contemporary radio, while Yearwood's version did better on the country charts. Both lost the Oscar to "My Heart Will Go On".
    • It was also nominated for both an Academy Award for Best Song and a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Song.
  • Ax-Crazy:
    • Johnny-23 is a serial rapist and quite proud of it. His entire sub-plot revolves around him trying to rape Guard Sally Bishop, even if everybody else (even his fellow convicts) don't want him to.
    • Cyrus "the Virus" brags that he's killed more men than cancer. During the film itself, he is personally responsible for almost 30 deaths, most being prison guards and National Guard soldiers.
  • Badass Bookworm: Larkin is a walking thesaurus, quotes Fyodor Dostoevsky (whose literature speaks of life in prison), and personally sets out to apprehend the escaping convicts, even though he's alone, and knows he's horribly outnumbered.
  • Bad Boss:
    • Malloy concealing a gun into Sims' ankle gets him killed when he tries to take over the plane.
    • Francisco Cindino is a leader of The Cartel and the one footing the bill for the jailbreak operation because he is one of the prisoners that were going to go to the new prison. Poe manages to prevent Grissom from allowing the hostages to be killed by reminding him that Cindino is a backstabbing bastard, doing things like blowing up a car bomb while his own cousin was in it.. and sure enough, Cindino and his Cartel goons were planning on leaving without anybody else.
  • Bald of Evil: Cyrus "the Virus" Grissom.
  • Big Bad: Cyrus "the Virus" Grissom.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • When Baby-O's been shot (non-fatally) and Poe has finally had enough.
    Cameron Poe: What do you think I'm gonna do? I'm gonna save the fuckin' day.
    • Before this, Larkin saves Poe from Cindino's thugs.
    • "Make a move and the bunny gets it." (Attack choppers suddenly appear behind Cyrus)
  • Black Best Friend: For Poe, he's got Baby-O. All it took to buy his unending loyalty was a couple of pink snowballs.
    • Also, Diamond Dog to Cyrus, although Diamond explains that the relationship is merely one of convenience based on a common goal.
  • Blatant Lies:
    Vincent: Where are you taking my plane, Cyrus?
    Cyrus: We're going to Disneyland!
    Vincent: You're lying, Cyrus.
    Cyrus: So are you, Vince.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Agent Sims when he gets shot in the torso by Cyrus.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Poe kills Billy Bedlam - "Why couldn't you put the bunny back in the box?"
  • Brick Joke:
    • 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.
    • 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 Las Vegas.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Cyrus told Larkin (via radio) that the Agent Sims 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. For the best, really.
  • 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.
  • Car Fu: Poe crashes a motorcycle into Diamond Dog.
  • 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, which he leaves behind at the office. Vincent jacks it to get to Lerner on time.´
    • Minor version, but still bears mention: the tiny pistol Malloy hands over to Simms is the one Cyrus uses to Shoot Out the Lock of the Jailbird's weapons locker.
  • Chekhov's Lecture: 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.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Everyone but Poe and his family are liberal in their use of swears.
  • 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's car, a silver Corvette Stingray convertible with "AZZ KIKR" as a Vanity License Plate. When Larkin finds out where the convicts are going to land and change planes, a mechanic tells him that he could make it there in time if he had "a fast car". Cue Larkin looking at Malloy's parking spot.
    Duncan Malloy: Sunsets are beautiful. Newborn babies are beautiful. This, this is fucking spectacular.
  • Cool Plane: The Jailbird, a Fairchild C-123 Provider that has been souped up and turned into a flying prison transport.
  • Cowboy Cop: Duncan Malloy.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Larkin makes clear at one point that the idea of convicts actually being able to take over the plane (or at least the level of preparation to accomplish this that Cyrus and the others are currently showing) was never foreseen.
  • Crazy Sane: Garland's speech comparing the 'insanity' of his murders to working 50 years and dying in a retirement home without the dignity to take a piss seems to imply he believes himself to be this.
  • 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 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.
  • Dark Reprise: Garland and a little girl sing "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands". He sings it again as the plane crashes into the Las Vegas strip.
  • Death by Looking Up: Cyrus Grissom vs. rock crusher.note 
    • A more straightforward example occurs during the shootout in the boneyard, when one of the cons has an entire plane fall onto him, and rather than move, he just looks up and screams.
  • Description Porn: Larkin gives detailed backgrounds on Billy Bedlam, Diamond Dog and Cyrus the Virus, but skimps when it comes to Poe. This makes sense, as Poe is a parolee whose crimes are hardly worth noting, while the other three are lifers with national recognition, at least in Diamond Dog's case.
  • Disproportionate Retribution/Misplaced 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.
  • Don't Touch It, You Idiot!: Larkin orders the guards that are with him at Cyrus Grissom's cell to not touch anything as he races to try to warn that the convicts have made plans to take over the plane. One guard picks up a lunch box that has "Do Not Open" written on it, and another guard reminds him that they have orders to not touch anything. He opens it. It was a bomb.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: During the chase scene finale, two Red Shirt cops join in, dropping their donuts to do so.
  • The Dragon: Nathan "Diamond Dog" Jones.
  • 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".
  • Dramatization: There is a passenger jet service dedicated to the secure transport of convicted felons; the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System AKA "JPATS". Many actually do call it "Con Air." But notably? They use this movie as an example of what not to do; Inmates scheduled to fly are given little or no advance notice of their flights specifically to prevent any kind of escape plans. Every con onboard a flight gets the full loadout of handcuffs, ankle and waist chains. Things escalate from there to reinforced mittens and face masks.
  • The Dreaded: Cyrus, Diamond Dog, Johnny-23 and the rest of the cons on the plane are ruthless, murderous thugs who have caused countless death and destruction. Yet every single one of them is scared out of their minds when Garland Greene comes onto the plane. Dog, in particular, is terrified to even go near a guy half his size.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Some of the cons dress as guards during the stop in Nevada, as they need to keep up the pretense of everything being fine so they can pick up Cindino, who's funding the effort, and Swamp Thing, who knows how to disable the locator beacon.
  • Dull Surprise: Poe, when he sees Duncan's sports car attached to the back of the plane he's in: "On any other day, that might seem strange."
  • Empathy Doll Shot: The doll of the little girl that Garland talks to, he takes with him as he walks back to the plane, setting up a Bait-and-Switch that he killed her off-screen.
  • Establishing Character Moment
    • Molloy parking his car on a handicap space before Larkin could finish talking to him.
    • Cyrus speaking Spanish to Johnny-23.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • Cyrus Grissom's killed more people than cancer, and he hates 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.
    • Earlier, Cyrus is heard saying to Johnny-23, "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."
    • 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.
  • Expy: Poe and Larkin are basically John Mason and Stanley Goodspeed (a grizzled convict with a military past and a pacifistic yet courageous Badass Bookworm) from Jerry Bruckheimer's previous film, The Rock. The difference is that Nicolas Cage played the nerdy Goodspeed there, and the manly Poe here.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The bulk of the movie takes place on July 14, the day of Poe's parole.
  • Fakeout Opening: The film begins with a montage about the US Army Rangers.
  • Family Extermination: Billy "Bedlam" Bedford is in prison for killing his wife's entire family after finding her in bed with another man.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Averted. Cameron survives the movie despite constantly mentioning the daughter he's never met, and even having a photo of her he's obsessed with. But then again, he's The Hero.
  • Freudian Slip: Pinball meets a pretty girl, and pretends to be a prison guard.
    Pinball: "I work for the Department of Erec... Corrections".
  • Genuine Human Hide: Garland Greene claims he once killed a little girl and then drove through the state wearing her face as a hat.
  • Giving Up on Logic: Poe's reaction at seeing the Jailbird has somehow ended up dragging a Corvette Stingray as it's taking off in the third act is a deadpan "On any other day, that might seem strange."
  • 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 because they were shot during the initial takeover of the plane or during Willie Sims's attempt to retake it, making them three men short and forcing them to send out the guards in their place.
  • Guns Akimbo: Diamond Dog briefly dual-wields pistols during the shootout with the National Guard.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: Larkin and Malloy argue about the prison system's effectiveness since this tends to happen. Cyrus the Virus is the biggest example.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: Cyrus and Nathan use needles to unlock their handcuffs.
  • Hanging Judge: A mild example with the judge that oversees Poe's Crime of Self-Defense. After Poe declares himself guilty (because his attorney told him that the judge would grant mercy if he did so because of apparent lack of evidence for his defense), the judge decides instead to declare Poe a "living weapon" because of his military training and that he should be held to "different standards" than non-military men, and gave him a 25-to-life sentence (with parole possibility after ten). The speech makes it pretty clear that the judge held prejudice against the military, and the extenuating circumstances (Poe defending his pregnant wife) didn't matter.
  • Heroic BSoD: Poe briefly enters one after being forced to kill Bedlam to maintain his cover.
  • Hero Stole My Bike: Poe and Larkin steal Las Vegas police bikes to chase down the remaining escaped cons.
  • 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. As a soldier in uniform it might also get shunted over to a military court depending on the specifics.
    • The guilty plea is entered as part of a plea bargain, which the judge instantly reneges on. If judges could do that nobody would ever agree to a plea bargain.
    • Diamond Dog's story about getting a book deal would be incredibly unlikely in America, due to the Son of Sam laws that some states have that keep convicted criminals from profiting off their crimes.
    • On a lesser note, they do not transport convicts this way in real correctional systems. The movie shows us why.
    • A prison housing some of the most twisted, violent, ruthless, and cunning criminal geniuses in the world would probably keep these types isolated from one another to prevent them from devising exactly this sort of scheme.
  • 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. Poe specifically states that he couldn't face his daughter if he didn't act this way. "Never will I fail my comrades" and "I will never leave a fallen comrade behind to fall into the hands of the enemy" are explicitly part of the Ranger Creed that all prospective Army Rangers must memorize as part of their training.
  • Human Shield: Discussed and applied by Cyrus during the shootout between him and the Agent Sims on board.
    Cyrus: You know, the next time you choose a human shield, you're better off not picking a two-bit negro crackhead.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Inspector Javert: Malloy has trouble believing Poe (or any convict) is good. He also instantly calls for the plane being shot down from the sky even if there's still a few guards being kept as hostages on board, pointing out that the prisoners are just too dangerous to be given a chance for getting away and the hostages knew this was a risk on their line of work.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: 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.
  • Inconveniently Vanishing Exonerating Evidence: Poe is attacked outside a bar by a drunk with a knife and kills him. One of the drunk's friends grabs the knife before the police show up. This, combined with an incompetent lawyer and an anti-military judge results in Poe being sent to the Super Max which starts the plot.
  • Institutional Apparel: Criminals in jumpsuits of some other color. See Colour-Coded for Your Convenience.
  • Inspector Javert: Malloy insists that all prisoners should be taken out, even Poe (who so far had been trying to help from the inside), just because they are prisoners.
  • Ironic Echo: Casey's letter.
    Poe/Cyrus: "My birthday is on July 14. My daddy is coming home on July 14. I'm gonna see my daddy for the first time ever on July 14."
  • 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."
  • I Won't Say I'm Guilty: Averted. Poe pleads guilty at the advice of his idiot attorney, thinking he'll get a reduced sentence. The judge instead hits him with the full sentence under dubious pretenses.
  • Jerkass:
    • The judge who sentenced Poe to prison did so with an extremely flimsy reason.
    • Agent Malloy is an unapologetic Rabid Cop who parks his Cool Car in a handicapped space right after he boasts how awesome it is (his first two lines in the film, even).
    • The only major convict who isn't this is Garland Greene, and he's a Hannibal Lecter rip-off.
  • 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.
  • Levitating Lotus Position: Poe pulls this off buy doing pushups in a Lotus Position during his montage.
  • 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. Planes explode, cars explode, all of the windows on a bridge detonate when a couple of them are hit by Cyrus and part of a ladder, all bullets make a spark when they hit something metal no matter how flimsy, and the climactic shootout at the Lerner Field junkyard is full of fireballs that are only partially justified by the convicts placing propane tanks around to trap the cops and National Guardsmen coming to get them in a kill box.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Cameron Poe doesn't break stride even when one of the other convicts shoots his shoulder.
  • Meaningful Echo: Poe is called "That guy" by the two most important people in his life; Tricia (in reference to his Dark and Troubled Past) and Baby-O (to remind him he's not a soldier anymore).
  • Meaningful Name: Johnny 23, so named because he was convicted of 23 counts of rape. He claimed to raped more than 23 women, though.
  • Monumental Damage: Jailbird One smashes into some of the Vegas Strip's well known casinos.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Poe has this moment after killing Billy Bedlam.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Cyrus the Virus.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • "Nice work, son. Not only did you not save this dude's life, you done made best friends with Cyrus the damn Virus."
    • Larkin convinces Malloy not to shoot down the plane in the desert and it crashes into the Vegas strip.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Diamond Dog asks Poe to help him fix the landing gear. This gives Poe the opportunity to get a message to Larkin to warn them of where the plane was really heading.
  • Nice Guy: Cameron Poe. The crime that put him in jail was accidental, and happened because he was trying to defend his wife. The film do implies that he wasn't so nice before becoming an Army Ranger ("you almost were... that guy again", from Trish, when the rednecks rile him up inside of the bar), though.
  • 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 fire truck.
  • Not So Different: Garland compares Poe to other famous serial killers which infuriates him.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: What you get when you cast Nic Cage as a Southern former Army Ranger.
  • 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.
  • One-Hit Kill: During the initial takeover, Cyrus hits one of the guards very hard in the face as he charges the cockpit. The guard is later seen being dragged by his feet, something not recommended with someone who's still alive.
  • 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.
  • Parking Payback: Set up by the universe. Malloy parks his car in a handicapped space early in the film, before everything goes to hell. Larkin steals the car to get to Lerner Airfield fast early in the third act, and it gets completely smashed shortly after he gets there.
  • 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.
  • Profane Last Words: Non-verbal version. Pinball's last act before being killed by the Jailbird's landing gear is to give the convict he set on fire (and is the only one who noticed he's running alongside the plane) the finger.
  • 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: Malloy's car is a vintage Corvette Stingray that he makes clear he considers incredibly precious. Larkin steals it and it gets smashed as the convicts escape Lerner Airfield in the third act, and Malloy gets utterly pissed when it comes crashing down five feet away from him.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Cy..." "...onara!" Immediately after this Cindino gives a Big NO! as he is burned to death by Cyrus.
  • Preserve Your Gays: Sally-Can't-Dance is one of the few survivors. He was however the first to get re-arrested.
  • 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!"
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Viking, Curly and Sally guard the way to the cockpit. Poe disposes of them easy.
  • Rabid Cop: Malloy. Several deaths occur because he insisted on his undercover agent bringing a gun to the plane even when he's supposed to be a prisoner (and when Larkin puts his foot down and insists it won't happen, Malloy still manages to pass him a pistol secretly and remains completely unapologetic about it ("if I had known that the plane was going to be taken over, I WOULD HAVE GIVEN HIM AN UZI!!!"). He also constantly advocates just killing all of the prisoners, hostages and actually lawful prisoners playing mole be damned (when Larkin points out that they have hostages, Malloy answers that They Knew the Risks). And when the "Jailbird" is trying to take off from the field...
    Larkin (trying to stop the "Jailbird" from taking off): Shoot the tires!
    Malloy: Fuck the tires! I'm going for the pilot [Swamp Thing]!
  • 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.
    • Later, Cyrus threatens Johnny 23 to at least wait until they are out of the country before doing such shenanigans with Bishop. 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...
  • Rated M for Manly: Guns, cops, cons, a lot of shirtless scenes, stuff exploding, male virtues like honor, etc.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: During the final chase scene, Larkin tosses his gun onto the road when it runs dry. On the one hand, he should have brought spare magazines to a firefight and on the other, no U.S. Marshal would carelessly discard their weapon for someone to pick up
  • Red Baron: Some of the cons have nasty-sounding nicknames applied to them. Cyrus "the Virus" is just one of them.
  • Redemption Earns Life: Garland Greene again. At the end of the movie he is alive and probably free, too. He is the Karma Houdini, if we look at his past. But he refrains from killing the defenceless little girl, thus (in some way) redeeming himself and earning this karmic prize.
  • Red Shirt Army: The National Guard sent to apprehend the con's at the boneyard.
  • Redundant Rescue: Most of the surviving guards make it off the plane on their own power.
  • 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?
    Larkin: The same. He caught his wife in bed with another man. Left her alone, drove four towns over to his wife's family's house. Killed her parents, her brothers, her sisters, even her dog.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The movie was inspired by a newspaper article about a plane that transports convicts.
  • 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: Johnny-23 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:
    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 Greene 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. It does take an entire magazine from an assault rifle to do it, though.
  • 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.
  • Slashed Throat: Diamond Dog slits a guard's throat with his cuffs during the initial takeover.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Poe, who spends most of the movie in a tank top.
  • The Slow Walk: Poe's trademark. Even when he tries to outrun an explosion, the scene gets a lot of slow-mo.
  • Society Marches On: Regardless of whether you see the character as a transgender woman or a gay man (or if you think the filmmakers realized there was a difference), you're probably not gonna see many characters like Sally Can't Dance in summer blockbusters today.
  • 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.
  • Spotting the Thread: Poe makes up an excuse about having another fifteen years to serve so he can stay on the plane instead of getting off in Nevada. Bedlam later confronts him, noting that Poe's supposed sentence would put him in North Block, where Bedlam was also housed, yet the two have never met. Poe dismisses their unfamiliarity as having no desire to interact with any of the 150+ prisoners on North Block, Bedlam included, but Bedlam remains suspicious of him from then on.
  • 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. He was frankly asking for it.
    "All they'll have to worry about is stale peanuts and a little turbulence."
  • There Is a God!: As Mike "Baby-O" O'Dell is dying on the plane, he tells Nicholas Cage's character that sometimes he wonders if there's a God. Cage's character 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. One of them ignores him completely, opening a box with the words "DO NOT OPEN" written across the top. Kaboom.
    • DEA agent Sims gets killed after blowing his cover and trying to take the plane back by himself while armed only with a very small pocket pistol.
  • Training Montage: In the title sequence we see Nicolas Cage's character working out in his prison cell.
  • 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.
  • Triumphant Reprise: Has two.
    • "How Do I Live?" is first heard when Poe comes home from the army to find his wife Tricia and their unborn daughter Casey. It is heard again in the end when he finally meets Casey in person.
    • "Sweet Home Alabama" is heard first when the cons escape the boneyard, then again in the end when we see Garland Greene is still at large.
  • 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.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight:
    • No one cares that Poe cuffed Johnny-23.
    • Upon seeing Malloy's car tethered to the plane:
      Poe: On any other day that would be strange.
  • 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 for Malloy's car.
  • 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.
  • Watch the Paint Job: Malloy's car doesn't survives the events of the movie. Even when he lets Larkin off the hook for its destruction, he still mentions that he loved it.
  • 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. The very reason he was in jail in the first place was to defend his wife from being attacked by three drunken idiots.
    "Do not! 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.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Billy Bedlam caught his wife in bed with another man, and in response drove four towns over to her family's house, and killed her parents, her brothers, her sisters, even her dog.


 
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Con Air- Billy Bedlam

Billy made his wife pay for cheating on him.

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