Gather round, boys and girls! It’s time for another history lesson!
In 1997, before he produced the critically acclaimed “Pirates of the Carribean”, Jerry Bruckheimer produced the movie Con Air, starring Nicholas Cage.
This concludes the history lesson.
Anyway, Con Air is a fairly straightforward action movie where some convicts take control of an aerial prison transport, with the plan being to escape the country after receiving a reward for releasing a crime boss going on the airplane. Of course, since plans are made to go tits up, among the prisoners is our hero Nicholas Cage playing Cameron Poe, ex-military parolee on his way to see his family after 10 years in prison. Action, highjinks and lots of violence ensues.
Just your average action movie, basically. Good action, simple story and good actors such as John Malkovich, Danny Trejo, John Cusack, Nicholas Cage and Steve Buscemi.
So, why am I writing about this movie, you may ask?
Well, to answer that, let’s go over the villains of the piece, shall we?
See, the convicts in the movie is a gang of misfits, such as mass murderer William “Billie Bedlam” Bedford, Serial rapist Johnny “23” (three guesses for what the number refers to), Black Guerilla leader Nathan “Diamond Dog” Jones and of course, Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom, the criminally insane kidnapper, mass murderer, extortionist and (of course) highly educated man who obviously is the main antagonist. And to really drive that point home, he’s played by John Malkovich.
All well and good.
But then, about a third into the movie, we’re introduced to Garland Greene.
And you know, right away, this is going to be something else. Why?
See, it all begins with a huge prison truck, seemingly with enough armor to withstand a collision with a sherman tank rolling up, two guards insert a pair of keys nuclear-silo style, and Garland Greene, dressed almost from head to toe in restrictive gear, chains and a big muzzle covering his mouth, is led onto the plane after being released from the specially made chair he’s strapped into.
The reason for the getup is that he singlehandedly killed 37 people across the country, in a way that would “Make the Manson family look like the Partridge family”. Oh, and he also killed a little girl and drove through three states “Wearing her head as a hat”.
And of course, it turns out he is also very intelligent, and a bit of a philosopher, considering “insanity” to merely be a matter of semantics, with killing 37 people and turning them into clothes being no more insane than willingly work yourself half to death and die in a retirement home wearing an adult diaper.
Basically, he’s a proxy for Hannibal Lecter, apart from the latters taste for opera, art and human flesh.
And to truly cement the creepiness of him, they have him played by Steve Buscemi.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Steve Buscemi is awesome. But he has a very distinct appearance which, coupled with him speaking very calmly and looking almost serene throughout the movie makes him very unnerving to watch. Which, seeing as he’s playing a serial killer, is a good thing.
So, what is my problem, exactly?
Well, I’ll sum it up with one simple question.
Why is Garland Greene in this movie?
He has NO purpose in the movie. If you cut him out, all you’d miss is him having a tea party with a little girl. They spend his whole introduction all but spelling out that out of all of the convicts, he’s the worst one. He’s the only one warranting the leather harness and face mask. He’s the only one who gets the mechanised chair with the nuclear silo lock…
And then they do fucking NOTHING with him!
He doesn’t help or has any respect for the other convicts, thinking they’re idiots, his “what is sanity” speech is wasted on Poe, who’s motivation is firmly to return to his family and save his friend throughout the movie, he meets up with a random little girl and, despite having no problem with murdering before this, decides to just leave her alone.
It’s not like he was inspired by Poe to become a better person, since he’s a fucking homocidal maniac who WORE A CHILDS HEAD AS A HAT! Nick Cage going “Killing people is crazy” ain’t going to fucking change that kind of insanity!
So you go through the entire movie, with the worst thing Garland does being annoying Poe and singing “He’s got the whole world in his hands”.
And in the end, the convicts are killed, the day is saved, Poe returns to his family and everyone is happy…
And then we cut to a Las Vegas casino, with Garland Greene standing by a craps table, enjoying a fancy drink and living the high life, before we fade out to the end credits, accompanied by “Sweet Home Alabama”.
It’s held out as a nice little wink to the audience, that “all’s well that ends well”…
Except… you know… Garland Greene is running around Las Vegas! As in, the man who killed 37 people! He turned a schoolgirl into a fucking fashion accessory! This is a horrible fucking ending! The worst convict of the lot FUCKING GOT AWAY, and is running around free in LAS FUCKING VEGAS!
THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING!
Call me a conservative fool, but I like to think that in an action movie, you want it pretty clean cut that bad guys lose and good guys win. Hell, that’s the reason Danny Trejo dies so often in movies! Whenever he plays a bad guy in a movie, he dies or gets arrested! This is because as an ex gang member, he wants to show people that this is what happens to bad people!
But then the movie goes “Oh, but this guy gets a happy ending, even though he was worse than all of them”.
What fucking sense does that make?!
You know what would have been interesting? I mean REALLY interesting?
If Garland Greene is brought onto the plane, Cyrus releases him because he thinks his cult-of-personality will be enough to control Greene… and Garland instantly jabs a fucking pen into Cyrus’ throat and takes over the role of main antagonist. Instead of criminal mastermind with a plan to escape to mexico, we get a complete fucking psycho who has no plan whatsoever and doesn’t give a single fuck.
Maybe this is just me, but that sounds much more interesting. I’m not sure exactly how you’d resolve that or where the story would go from there, but wherever it is would be better than “introduce super interesting character and then have him do nothing”.
Hell, even if the ending wasn’t stupid from a writing perspective, it’s makes no fucking sense according to internal logic either!
Because Garland Greene, the “Marietta Mangler” is standing in a casino in Las Vegas, one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world, not wearing a disguise, no dark glasses, not even a changed fucking hairstyle…
AND NOBODY RECOGNIZES HIM!
If you kill someone, you end up on the news. If you kill 10 people, you’re making national fucking headlines. If you killed 37 people, there wouldn’t be a news channel on the planet which wouldn’t broadcast your face day and night for the entirety of your trial and about six years after!
You wouldn’t be able to stand in Las Vegas for five minutes before someone called the fucking cops! Especially when the prison escort you were on crashed in Las Vegas and they NEVER FOUND YOUR BODY!
If you killed 37 people, the police wouldn’t just shrug and go “he’s probably dead”if they didn’t find your corpse in the wreckage. I don’t know exactly what they’d do, but I like to think “Martial Law” is among the first steps.
And not only is this stupid on those two levels, but you’re wasting Steve Buscemi! All you had him do was stand around, look creepy and sing a bit! What the hell is wrong with you! The man was in Reservoir Dogs, god damnit!
That’s it. That’s all I’ve got for this movie.
If there are any lessons to be learned from this, it’d be this: If you’re writing a story, don’t introduce an interesting element, such as Steve Buscemi playing Hannibal Lecter and then do nothing with it!