It would be easy to write off this bottom feeder as a slicked-up rehash of The Dirty Dozen and let it go at that. On reflection, though, the contaminating effect of the film nags at you. Good-guy parolee Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) — he killed in self defense — is sent home after eight years. His air transport, monitored from the ground by a U.S. marshal (John Cusack), is moving hardened convicts to another prison. They’re “the worst of the worst.”
So’s the movie. The creeps are played by such terrific actors as John Malkovich, Ving Rhames and Steve Buscemi. Writer Scott Rosenberg gives them flip, hip dialogue as they hijack the plane and a rapist lunges for the female guard. Malkovich’s killer calls Buscemi’s pederast “a national treasure — I admire your work.” It’s an in-joke between two pros stooping for a big payday. But since producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Simon West — he does commercials — care nothing for the connective tissue of character, the film comes off as cynical pandering, an invitation to revel in the perversity and join in. Con Air has all the signs of a hit. That’s depressing.