Con Air: Unrated Extended Edition
Film critics are generally regarded as snobs who heap praise on pretentious art movies and tedious foreign releases while dismissing popular entertainment as "popcorn movies" or worse. And it's true that there are reviewers who take just such a stance, showing off their Film Studies educations by habitually referencing John Ford or Sergei Eisenstein and turning up their noses at movies drafted purely for mass-market consumption. Ultimately, it all comes down to taste and it can be argued that films should be judged not on a level playing field but individually, on their own merit. Zoolander shouldn't be assessed with the same yardstick as, say, Cries and Whispers. Both are good movies, but their purposes are radically different. Instead we might ask if a film reaches what it sets out to accomplish, and in the field of testosterone-drenched, guy-centric action flicks, producer Jerry Bruckheimer is the genre's master. Having masterminded a catalog of movies that reward ticket-buyers' expectations of car chases, shoot-outs, helicopter crashes, propane-tank explosions, and some de rigeur deeply felt male bonding, they are virtually a category unto themselves. Top Gun, Bad Boys, Crimson Tide, The Rock, Armageddon, Enemy of the State, Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, and National Treasure are just a handful of over 60 films in the Bruckheimer oeuvre. And while each has a memorable quality, it's 1997's Con Air that's the most deliciously self-conscious Bruckheimer picture. With a cast of actors usually not seen in action flicks, a script that hits every expected plot point then piles on eight more, and a bombastic conclusion that's so huge, loud, and silly that it leaves the viewer giggling at the audacity of it all, Con Air is a perverse take on the traditional action film, offering over-the-the-top Bruckheimer goodness with an ironic wink at the audience.