Friday, 7 August 2009

Con Express


Directed by: Terry Cunningham
Screenplay: Terry Cunningham & Paul Birkett
Starring: Sean Patrick Flannery, Ursula Kraven, Tim Thomerson & Arnold Vosloo

Vehicular mayhem, stock footage and lots of overacting and crazy stunts collide and eventually derail in the utterly barmy but still enjoyable Con Express. A low budget version of Con Air? Sort of, as there are a bunch of bad guys who take over a train (instead of a plane as in Con Air) but this doesn’t happen until later in the movie and is really only there provide much of the action. Proceedings begin with Flannery’s Agent Brooks being hauled into an interview to recite what went wrong on his previous job. He’s an Alaskan customs agent who gets mixed up in a case involving stolen nuclear waste and Arnold Vosloo’s bonkers Russian terrorist. Hot on Vosloo’s trail is sexy Russian agent Natalya (Kraven) who wants to capture (but really kill) Vosloo for some clichéd action movie reason. This means the two agents have to work together (despite not wanting to in another clichéd action movie way), Vosloo keeps escaping their clutches, a bunch of people get killed, everyone ends up on a runaway train with toxic chemicals and mucho stock footage comes into play to flesh out the action scenes.

Not quite as bad as the above description makes it sounds, Con Express is actually a lot of fun. The cast seem fairly game, though Vosloo is vastly underused despite being a fun bad guy, and there is some good character interplay between Flannery and Kraven as their characters begin to soften to one another as the absurdness around them increases. The film builds up nicely before the cacophony of action and explosions come the second half, the dialogue a little sharper than most low budget action films. The flashback structure that begins the film sort of works and does allow for some nice exchanges between Flannery and the top brass: who at first seem to be interrogating him for doing something wrong then applauding him and offering him a better job. Ah, action movie logic, you gotta love it!

Then there is the action. There is certainly a lot of it once it starts and Terry Cunningham’s direction is energetic staging some cool shootouts in a warehouse and an abandoned log cabin. But alas, what hinders Con Express is the ample amount of stock footage. Not just quick shots here and there but whole scenes lifted from other movies. So we get the plane crash from Cliffhanger, a lot of the train action and crashes from Runaway Train and, somewhat bizarrely, the truck/plane chase from Stop or my Mom will Shoot. This is lazy and cheap filmmaking and a shame as all the action that was staged for this film is actually pretty good.

Still, if you can get past this and enjoy low budget action flicks then Con Express still has much to enjoy. The baddies are suitably over-the-top, the heroes a bit more charismatic, there is plenty of action and Arnold Vosloo and Tim Thomerson are on hand to make proceedings that little more bearable.

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