Con Air (1997)
Of all the guilty pleasures the Hollywood action machine (often headed by Don Simpson and/or Jerry Bruckheimer) churned out during the 1990s, Con Air may just be the guiltiest. Utilizing a premise that incorporates most every type of movie villain at once, the film piles it on with more of everything: more characters, more campy dialogue, more at stake, and, of course, more fire, explosions and action. As we get to meet the passengers aboard the "Con Air", you realize that you've seen all these criminal types in other renditions before, from the coldblooded, eloquent mastermind (Cyrus the Virus/John Malkovich), via the emotionless, psychopathic serial killer (Steve Buscemi as Garland Greene) to the hotblooded black nationalist (Ving Rhames as Diamond Dog) and the crazed sexual sadist (Danny Trejo). And of course, you've also seen the hero before; a man so idiotically heroic that he by all logic would have gotten himself killed a long time ago. Nicolas Cage's deadpan performance becomes increasingly fun (and possibly ingenious) as the film slowly develops from serious prison drama to gung-ho Hollywood extravaganza. When director Simon West captures Cage in slow-mo, smiling and shaking his long, wavy hair, you realize that the filmmakers actually knew all along what they were doing. Although there's a good chance not all the players were quite in on the joke. Con Air is too much in most every respect, and it even pushes the envelope within the scope of exaggeration. But it's got a sweetness to it that makes it quite enjoyable from beginning to end – almost like an epitome of the term 'guilty pleasure'. There are also a number of delightful performances to enjoy: Malkovich, Buscemi, Rhames, and Dave Chapelle are all having a field day. This silly thing still is an enjoyable watch after a quarter of a century.