Cyrus Grissom (John Malkovich)

Cyrus "The Virus" Grissom is the lead antagonist in Con Air. He is a ruthless, insane criminal with numerous convictions, including kidnapping, robbery, murder, and extortion. He is also the mastermind behind a plot to escape with the aid of other prisoners, including a South American drug cartel lord, Francisco Cindino. Grissom is portrayed by John Malkovich.

Grissom is introduced during a separatee transfer aboard the Jailbird, a prison plane. His background is described by U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin as being thirty-nine years old and having spent twenty-five years incarcerated, during which he received enough education to earn two degrees, including a Juris Doctor. His prison activity also included killing eleven fellow inmates, inciting three riots, and two escapes. Grissom's goal is to take control of the plane, rendezvous with Cindino in Carson City, and escape to a non-specified South American country, free of extradition.

Shortly after the Jailbird leaves Vacaville, CA, Grissom initiates a hijacking and seizes control of the plane, armed with a pistol (he kills three people before he gains the control of the plane). He also kills Willie Sims, a DEA agent aboard, posing as a convict, in front of fellow prisoner Cameron Poe. Unbeknownst to Grissom, Poe is a parolee and an honorably discharged U.S. Army Ranger, who secretly plots to prevent Grissom and the other convicts from escaping. With three other prisoners (Benson, Karls, and Popovich) killed during Grissom's takeover, he reorganizes the expected transfer of prisoners at Carson City, using the pilot, an elderly convict, and Guard Falzon posing as the dead convicts.

The transfer is executed as planned, though Grissom is suspicious of a tip-off to the police about the arrangement with Cindino. He kills a guard (Starkey) attempting to stall the plane's leaving Carson City, laughing maniacally. When he is later contacted by Larkin, Grissom mocks the marshal's failure to find out where the plane is going and Sims' death.

Arriving at Lerner Airfield, Grissom is again suspicious, this time regarding Cindino's assurance of a plane to take them to freedom. He orders the prisoners and captured guards to prepare the Jailbird as a backup plan. His suspicions prove true when Cindino attempts to leave the others behind, but is thwarted by Larkin. Grissom kills Cindino, then organizes the remaining prisoners to fight with an arriving team of police and SWAT members.

With Larkin protecting the surviving SWAT crew, Grissom orders the plane to leave, but notices it tied up, and is forced to shoot the ropes holding the plane down. Shortly thereafter, Grissom learns of a traitor among the prisoners and threatens to kill guard Sally Bishop, until Poe and his friend "Baby-O" stand up, the latter confessing to having done all the opposition involved. Grissom shoots Baby-O in the stomach, unaware that it was Poe who was behind all the suspicious activity. Grissom reads a letter written by Poe's daughter Casey in a mock-pitch tone and threatens to destroy a birthday present for Casey, but is interrupted by military helicopters, who fire on Grissom and the plane.

Poe uses the opportunity to take control of the plane, forcing it to land in Las Vegas. Grissom confronts Poe, vowing to kill his daughter, when the plane crashes into the Sands Hotel. Grissom uses the distraction to escape on a firetruck with Diamond Dog and Swamp Thing, but Poe and Larkin pursue them. Poe finally subdues Grissom, pinning him to the truck's ladder. The Virus is killed after crashing through an overpass, electrocuted by power lines, and finally crushed by a pounder in a construction site, avenging Sims.

Personality and TraitsEdit

Despite his inhuman and psychotic demeanor, he is shown to have at least one shred of morality: he despises rapists. When Johnny 23 attempts to rape Sally Bishop, Grissom threatens to have him thrown off the plane.

His attitude towards his fellow inmates varies throughout the movie. While it is obvious most of the convicts (except for Garland Greene) are afraid of him, he is shown to have some degree of respect towards Diamond Dog, Billy Bedlam, Swamp Thing, and Garland Greene. However, he also shows disdain for Johnny 23 (because he is a rapist), and, to some extent, Pinball (calling him "a two-bit negro crackhead"). His feelings towards Cindino and Poe are somewhat similar to each other: while he seems to trust them at first, he eventually comes to despise them (Cindino attempted to abandon him and the other inmates, while Poe attempted to thwart his plans).

Grissom takes pride in being labelled insane, based on a psyche evaluation prior to his transfer (this disturbs even Billy Bedlam, who is also unbalanced). According to fellow inmate Garland Greene, most crimes are committed out of some necessity, while others do it for pleasure. The latter seems to be the case with Grissom, as he enjoys his long history of heinous criminal activity, his motives never explained (though he tells Cindino that he burned a man and bagged his ashes for telling him to be patient).

He is still highly intelligent, calculating and meticulous in organizing plans to further his own agendas. Before his transfer, he secretly corresponded with Francisco Cindino. Hidden in his former cell were numerous concealed items that included hand-drawn blueprints of the Jailbird, several documents from Bogota, Colombia, and a cryptic image that revealed a rendezvous in Carson City. All these were instrumental in his plan to hijack the plane and escape to South America.