is proof that the slick, absurdly overblown action formula of Hollywood mega-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun
, Days of Thunder
, The Rock
, Crimson Tide
) lives on, even after Simpson's druggy death. (Read Charles Fleming's exposé, High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess
, for more about that). Nicolas Cage, sporting a disconcerting mane of hair, is a wrongly convicted prisoner on a transport plane with a bunch of infamously psychopathic criminals, including head creep Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich), black militant Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames), and serial killer Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi, making the most of his pallid, rodent-like qualities). Naturally, the convicts take over the plane; meanwhile, on the ground, a US marshal (John Cusack)and a DEA agent (Colm Meaney), try to figure out what to do. As is the postmodern way, the movie displays a self-consciously ironic awareness that its story and characters are really just excuses for a high-tech cinematic thrill ride. Best idea: the filmmakers persuaded the owners of the legendary Sands Hotel in Las Vegas to let them help out with the structure's demolition by crashing their plane into it.--Jim Emerson
Nothing makes good-guy non-recidivist offender Cameron Poe happier than the thought of returning to society, where his angelic wife and the equally angelic little girl he's never known are waiting. And nothing makes him angrier than the passel of psychopathic murderers and rapists aboard his prison transport plane--especially when, under the direction of ringleader Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom, they revolt and hijack their own plane. Fortunately, our hero's been trained by the Army as an elite one-man-fighting-machine, and a dogged Justice Department agent waits on the ground to help him bring the fanatical fly-boys in for a bloody crash landing--in Vegas. A hyperactive Molotov cocktail blended from the frenetic efforts of high-octane action producer Jerry Bruckheimer (The Rock
), hipster-schtick screenwriting specialist Scott Rosenberg, and music video director West.