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‘Con Air’ Again

The “all-women reboot” trend is missing one thing: a remake of Con Air with a female cast

(AP Images/Touchstone Pictures/Ringer illustration)
(AP Images/Touchstone Pictures/Ringer illustration)

All week, The Ringer will be celebrating Good Bad Movies, those films that are so terrible they’re endlessly amusing and — dare we say it? — actually good. Please join us as we give the over-the-top action movies, low-budget romance thrillers, and peak ’80s cheese-fests the spotlights they deserve.

With the all-women Ghostbusters remake last year and the forthcoming all-women spinoff of Ocean’s Eleven, it’s only a matter of time before this Hollywood cash grab officially becomes a trend. If it must, I have a suggestion for the third reboot.

Two words: Con Air. Buncha bad boys on an airplane. Handcuffs. Steve Buscemi. Violence. A fight on a fire truck. A whole plotline about diabetes. A little girl drinking tea with a serial killer in a trailer park. Dave Chappelle’s body getting scribbled on and tossed into the sky as an SOS-by-corpse. However, the one great weakness of Con Air is that all the good characters are men. Monica Potter plays Nicolas Cage’s dopey wife, and there’s a token female security guard whose only purpose in the film is to get tied up and threatened with sexual assault to heighten the stakes for Cage’s character. The original Con Air is wildly, hilariously masculine, a perfect ode to testosterone and explosions, but it could use a companion piece that serves as an equally over-the-top paean to female villainy. Singular female villains abound in film, from the Wicked Witch of the West to Nurse Ratched, but ensembles of nefarious women are far rarer. Even in films like The Craft, the coven contains mostly nice girls. What I want is a cast stacked with actresses playing rotten souls for once. And I want them to be convicts, and I want them to hijack an airplane.

The film will be called Con Air Again. The original Con Air worked so well because of its cast, and my remake of Con Air will also work extremely well because of its cast. It will not take place in the same cinematic universe as the original Con Air, which means there won’t be that thing that happens in all remakes where one of the original cast members shows up for a cameo; Nicolas Cage will not even be invited to the premiere. No one who is already in an all-female remake will be in my all-female remake — because one is enough, ladies — so that means the casts of 2016’s Ghostbusters and the upcoming Ocean’s Eight will not be present, my sincerest apologies to Rihanna and Kate McKinnon. Once Con Air Again smashes box office records, the Hollywood community will decide to abandon the concept of all-female remakes, as it will have reached an unrepeatable apex of critical and commercial success.

This is who will be in Con Air Again:

Michelle Rodriguez as Cameron Poe

Played by a weirdly buff Nicolas Cage in the original, Cameron Poe is the least fun part of the original movie, mostly because he’s a drawling, painfully earnest Everyman whose defining characteristic is loving his family. Also, Nicolas Cage emits such a strong, unwavering vibe of essential loucheness that it’s a strain and a snooze when he gets cast as a good guy instead of an intractable fiend. Con Air Again will not make the same mistake with its protagonist, because she will be played by Michelle Rodriguez, who is incapable of playing a drip, but immensely capable of carrying a cheesy action movie. Rodriguez’s Cameron Poe will also be weirdly buff and fundamentally decent, but we’ll fiddle with the script to give her a personality and a spicier love story.

Nicole Kidman as Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom

This is Con Air Again’s most crucial recast. John Malkovich’s droll, sadistic criminal mastermind is the best thing about the original movie, and I believe only Nicole Kidman could do it justice. Kidman is an underutilized world-class villain. Her turn as a homicidal news anchor in To Die For shows that she has the capacity to out-Malkovich Malkovich, who specializes in sneering, urbane bad guys. Plus, she commits to outlandish camp with more gusto than any other working actress (please see: The Paperboy) and while her recent career renaissance stems from her nuanced performance as the heart of Big Little Lies, I’d like the Kidmanaissance to feature at least one icily evil antagonist.

Halle Berry as “Baby-O” O’Dell

Mykelti Williamson (forever known as Bubba from Forrest Gump) plays Cameron Poe’s diabetic best friend in the original Con Air, and he spends most of the movie slumped over and in dire need of insulin. It’s not the most exciting role, so to liven things up, I want to stunt-cast Halle Berry, who infamously claimed to have cured herself of diabetes. Also, in the original movie, Cameron Poe and Baby-O are just platonic jail BFFs. But in this version, they will have developed a relationship, and Cameron will be struggling to decide whether to stay with Baby-O or go back to her wife. Speaking of her wife …

Samira Wiley as Tricia Poe

The original Tricia Poe was played by Monica Potter, and she was as boring as plain toast, as all she did was gaze lovingly at Nicolas Cage or gaze concernedly at law enforcement officials. The new Tricia Poe will be played by Samira Wiley, and she will actually try to rescue her spouse from the convict airplane instead of just making sad faces as men explain what’s happening.

Gina Rodriguez as Vincenza Larkin

Replacing John Cusack in the role of good-guy law enforcement foil we have Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez, who shares a capacity with Cusack to play wholesome without seeming irredeemably Pollyanna-ish. You need someone in this role worth cheering for who won’t be overshadowed by how fun the bad guys are, and Rodriguez has enough charisma to pull it off.

Christina Hendricks as Mallory Duncan

Duncan Malloy, the blowhard DEA agent who won’t listen to reason, is played by Colm Meaney in the original, but not in Con Air Again. The character will be called Mallory Duncan and will be played by Christina Hendricks, who has action movie experience (Drive) and underappreciated comic timing.

Issa Rae as Nathalie “Diamond Dog” Jones

The Diamond Dog role in the original Con Air is bizarre. Ving Rhames is supposedly playing a murderous black militant, but he spends the whole time letting Cyrus the Virus take charge, and he appears to have become completely apolitical in the clinker. Issa Rae will take on a modified version of this role, in which “Diamond Dog” is not nearly as willing to let Cyrus run the show, and much more likely to realign herself with Rodriguez’s hero.

Jada Pinkett Smith as Garland “The Marietta Mangler” Greene

Steve Buscemi originally played this Hannibal Lecter–inspired serial killer, and it’s hard to find a female counterpart that’d inhabit the role in the same way. So why even try? Con Air Again will instead feature a chilling psycho with a completely different energy. I was probably one of seven people who got really into Gotham during its first season, mainly because I thought Jada Pinkett Smith was really fun to watch as the murderous, conniving Fish Mooney, who was manipulative enough to rise from nothing to crime boss and extreme enough to gouge out her own eye with a spoon rather than stay captive. She can dial into the intensity required to make a gentle-seeming sociopath stay sinister despite good manners.

Glenn Close as Joanie “23” Baca

Danny Trejo’s Johnny Baca was probably the scariest character in Con Air because while most of the other bad guys were played with winks and one-liners, Trejo’s serial rapist was just really intent on raping again. As Joanie Baca, Glenn Close will channel her Fatal Attraction energy to surpass Trejo’s menace.

Ali Wong as Josephine “Pinball” Parker

For the role originally played by a young Dave Chappelle, comic Ali Wong will bring the requisite frenzied energy to a convict named Pinball who gets crushed by a plane, and then tossed out of said plane from a high altitude.

Dwayne Johnson as Guard Sal Bishop

In the original, guard Sally Bishop (Rachel Ticotin) was the only female aboard the plane, and she spent most of the film tied up and helpless. In our remake, Dwayne Johnson will play Sal Bishop, tricked into captivity and terrorized by Joanie Baca. It will be the gregarious leading man’s most challenging role to date.

Taryn Manning as “Billie Bedlam”

The hillbilly assistant to Cyrus the Virus isn’t a big role, but it’s perfect for Taryn Manning, who set the gold standard for trashy prison antagonists with her Orange Is the New Black role as Pennsatucky.

Britney Spears as “Swamp Thing”

Another smaller role to round out Cyrus’s crew: “Swamp Thing” is the designated pilot in Con Air, but the original version of the character doesn’t have much personality, other than being bayou garbage. I’d like to see Britney Spears reunited with her Crossroads costar Manning to play Swamp Thing with a little more panache, but the same thick Louisiana accent.

Will assembling this lineup of all-stars be easy? No. Will Con Air Again also feature a climactic crash landing on the Las Vegas strip with a tearful reunion set to a Trisha Yearwood song? Yes, a thousand times. Am I available to turn this extremely good idea into cinematic reality? Again, yes, please call me.