Con Air, On A Scale Of 1 To Cusack

Achievement: #98. Watch 1 Film from Each Decade of John Cusack’s Career

Before we get into our chosen film, it probably should be addressed: why John Cusack?

John Cusack; image courtesy of

Well, the best answer I’ve got for you is: why not? John Cusack is always fun to watch, and more importantly for this achievement, one who brings a distinct persona to his projects. The quintessential John Cusack character is fast-talking, and carries himself like he’s the smartest guy in the room. But underneath the bluster he’s also neurotic and obsessive, and he just might freak out at any time. And, of course, at his core, he’s a romantic. (It’s also likely he’ll be wearing sunglasses.)

Basically, John Cusack is one of those actors who reminds me of the old Hollywood star system — he’s got his thing that he does, and he brings it to almost every party. So for this achievement, we thought we’d take one movie from each decade of John Cusack’s career, and see how his star persona shines through.

Because there are no real rules to this achievement, we’re starting out of chronological order and viewing something from the 90s. Our film of choice?

90s John Cusack - Con Air

Yes, Con Air — a film that allows me to combine my love of John Cusack with my love of big, dumb action movies.

Now, you might be thinking, “Wait, that’s not a John Cusack movie, that’s a Nicolas Cage movie!” And you’re right; the star of the film is Nicolas Cage, before he became a complete punchline. The basic plot is that Cage is an Army Ranger-turned-convict who (on the edge of parole, of course) must save the day when he gets mixed up in a plane-based prison break with a rogue’s gallery of super-criminal.

So yeah, Nicolas Cage with a molasses-thick cornpone accent. But on the ground, helping him out?

90s John Cusack - Con Air

US Marshall John Cusack. The character he plays is, on the page, quite boring. As written, he’s a walking exposition-machine, explaining stuff everyone on screen already knows for the benefit of the audience…

90s John Cusack - Con Air

…and occasionally ducking away from explosion debris.

But in the hands of John Cusack, it becomes something more. The seriously hackneyed “as you know” speeches he must deliver all come rapid-fire, with this veneer of sarcasm and even disdain — like he knows it’s ridiculous to be explaining everything in such detail. Basically, all of his dialogue is delivered with an implied “you dummy” at the end of it:

90s John Cusack - Con Air

So yeah, while Nicolas Cage blows up a bunch of stuff, Cusack blows Cage off the screen.

90s John Cusack - Con Air

So, yes, Con Air is loud, dumb, and at times borderline-incoherent, but it’s also got some vintage Cusack. Let’s see how it fares on our proprietary measure, the Dobler ScaleTM*.

  • Fast dialogue? — Yes!
  • Out-clevers his scene partners? — Yes!
  • Neurotic freakout? — Yes! Cusack loses it when dealing with a DEA agent who wants to shoot down the plane.
  • Romantic subplot? — Not for Cusack…through there’s some serious bromance for Nic Cage with a prisoner he wants to save.
  • Bonus – Wears sunglasses? — See for yourself…

90s John Cusack - Con Air

(Sorry for the blur…I was taking these mid-watch.) Final Dobler score?

6.5 Doblers

Con Air scores a 6.5/10 on the Dobler Scale. There’s not a ton of Cusack in the film, but what’s there is golden.

* No, The Dobler Scale is not actually trademarked. But still — if you’re going to steal it, please throw us a link!

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