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
Former Army Ranger Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) is returning home on parole to his wife and child after serving eight years for manslaughter. The plane he is flying on is a special convict-only transport plane filled with some of the meanest and deadliest villains of them all. Once in the air, however, the plane is hijacked by convict Cyrus 'The Virus' Grissom (John Malkovich), who gets rid of the plane's crew (prison guards) at the first scheduled stop, picking up more convicts as he does so. But US Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) is already on his trail. Poe does his best to stop Grissom from escaping with the group of convicts, and just to complicate matters further his diabetic cellmate Baby-O reveals that he will die if he does not receive his next insulin injection within two hours.