Director Simon West hits just the right note between self-conscious silliness and real dramatic intensity in an action-thriller that uses typecast actors to make the characters' one-liners and predictable behavior resonate. John Malkovich adeptly stalks through a performance that parodies his previous roles as a devious manipulator or crafty psycho, and Steve Buscemi manages running allusions to Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs without sacrificing his own idiosyncratic screen presence. They're part of a band of hard-core inmates--men so notorious they're regulars on the talk-TV circuit--whose escape attempt surprises the U.S. marshal (John Cusack) supervising their transport to a new prison. Nicolas Cage plays an unlucky soldier and parolee who finds himself on the ill-fated plane; when his peers run amok he rises to the occasion. The essence of the success of Scott Rosenberg's exploitation script is Cage's performance--like everything else in the movie it's both cheeky and tongue-in-cheek because it's so far over the top. Biograph, Burnham Plaza, Esquire, Ford City, Gardens, Golf Mill, Hyde Park, Lincoln Village, Norridge, North Riverside. --Lisa Alspector
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.