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Touchstone Home Video presents

Con Air: Unrated Extended Edition (1997)

"Make a move and the bunny gets it."- Cyrus 'The Virus' Grissom (John Malkovich)

Stars: Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich
Other Stars: John Cusack, Steve Buscemi, Ving Rhames, Colm Meaney, Mykelti Williamson, Rachel Ticotin, Monica Potter, Nick Chinlund, Dave Chappelle, Danny Trejo, M.C. Gainey, Steve Eastin, Renoly, Landry Allbright, Jesse Borrego, José Zúñiga, Conrad Goode, Fredric Lane
Director: Simon West

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (violence, language)
Run Time: 02h:01m:32s
Release Date: 2006-05-16
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Con Air was produced by Jerry "Mr. Explosion" Bruckheimer, and that should really tell you all you need to know. It may be the directorial debut of Simon West—who would later tackle Lara Croft: Tomb Raider—but this one has Bruckheimer's gratuitous stamp all over it, which means endless action sequences, gruff cornball dialogue, a preposterous storyline and grandiose levels of mayhem and destruction.

But Bruckheimer, for all his randy excess, seems to know what he's doing, and with Con Air he slathers on the ridiculous right on top of a layer of macho action-movie posturing. What comes out the other end is pure popcorn-munching fluff, albeit noisy, explosive and fun popcorn-munching fluff.

The high concept plot—from Gone in Sixty Seconds writer Scott Rosenberg—has a maximum security transport plane crammed full of dangerous criminals ("the worst of the worst"), most of which have very colorful nicknames (The Virus, Swamp Thing, Diamond Dog, Billy Bedlam, Pinball, Johnny 23). The cons quickly stage a bloody coup and take control of the flight, much to the chagrin of fellow con and passenger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage), a long-haired ex-Ranger who has finally been paroled and is on his way to be reunited with his wife (Monica Potter) and the daughter he has never met.

Poe had been serving time for manslaughter after defending his then-pregnant wife's honor, and somehow his entire seven-year sentence is presented during the opening credits in a series of voice-over narration letters that establish that he's a good guy. And since he's a good guy, that means it is up to him to stop head con bad guy Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom (John Malkovich), get some insulin for his diabetic prisoner buddy (Mykelti Williamson) and protect the virtue of an attractive prison guard (Rachel Ticotin).

This one operates fully on the strength of testosterone and fireballs, and that undercurrent of man-ish manliness means each and every character must be quickly and easily identifiable. And on that point, the characterizations are all admittedly pretty thin, most of which seem to operate under the assumption that accents and speech patterns alone define a character. And that's for the leads; Cage has a slow, unnatural sounding Southern drawl while Malkovich uses precise, almost effeminate enunciation. That's about all the definition we're given, and there is never any doubt about any particular characters allegiance or personality based solely on the way they sound. Back stories come in short bursts of expository dialogue, and seem more like thumbnail sketches than anything else. It's like professional wrestling—all gloss and swagger with no real background, yet it tells us what we need to know about them without the need for detailed histories, because that would just get in the way of the action. Right on.

As goofy as the whole thing sounds, it is packaged and presented very well, in that high-grade summer blockbuster kind of way that makes watching a film like this one of those check-your-brain-at-the-door kind of experiences. The aforementioned stock character definitions have a comic book feel to them, and within the confines of the plot and presentation they operate as we expect them to. The action sequences are frequent, as are explosions and shootouts, but that's a Bruckheimer trait that we've come to expect. Hammer us hard and hammer us often, but make it all look cool in the process and we'll buy into the fantasy, even if that means a logic-defying climax involving downtown Las Vegas.

And for this "unrated extended edition" an additional six minutes of footage has been included, making the experience even longer and noisier than the original release.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: If you're looking to ditch your old nonanamorphic version of West's film, you're in luck because this time around Con Air comes in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. It's hard to tell if the transfer has gone through any major restoration, but colors this time around seem brighter and the overall image is generally defined well, but there are some nagging moments of edge enhancement that prevent this one from being first rate on all counts.

If you can get past the EE, this one looks darn good.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: This seems to be the same solid Dolby Digital 5.1 mix found on the original release, and it's full of all the requisite aggressive activity necessary for a noisy film like this to be that much more enjoyable. Plenty of rear channel usage throughout, and the mix employs pronounced directional movement, as well. Voices are consistently clear and distinct, but where things really get fun (re: loud) is during the frequent gunfire and explosions, which are accented by a deep and prominent LFE presence.


Audio Transfer Grade:

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Glory Road, Annapolis, Grey's Anatomy: Season One, Crimson Tide: Extended Edition, Enemy of the State: Special Edition
Packaging: Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: If you dig a good slipcase, you'll appreciate the fact that this edition comes with one, which fits over an Amaray case. Both have the same artwork—front and back—though the logo and rivets on the slipcase are slightly raised.

And I hope the joy of slipcase is enough, because that's about all you'll find here. Six trailers (none for the feature, however) are all we're given.

The disc is cut into 18 chapters, with optional English subtitles

Extras Grade: D-

Final Comments

Without doing any research, I'd have been hard pressed to tell you what was added to this "unrated extended edition" of Con Air, because it seemed much like the exact same film I remember, and there's only about six or seven minutes of additional footage, none of it being particularly pivotal. But that doesn't diminish the loud popcorn factor of this one, and it is still a fun little thrill ride.

This version includes an anamorphic transfer, making it well worth the upgrade, despite being about as bare bone as you can get.

Highly recommended.

Rich Rosell 2006-06-09