The Con City Universe is a world of absurd comedy that takes inspiration from a great variety of sources. Here we cover a number of the key inspirations for Con City. You'll quickly see that most of these are movies, which probably explains why Con City and Road To Con City read like they were meant to be movies. Who knows, maybe someday they will be. Until then, feel free to rent a DVD of the films listed here in order to put yourself in the mood to read the misadventures of the likes of Sergeant Jack Westwood, Joanna Bennett, and Mister Jake, the outlandish antiheroes of the Con City Universe.
Saints Row. The video game series that started out as a GTA clone and then evolved into a simulation of what it's like to live in a batshit insane world populated by weirdos, psychopaths, trigger happy lunatics, power hungry sociopaths, and feisty nerds; a world where the constant mayhem, destruction, and explosions are the least of your worries. Sound familiar?
If you've never heard of the Saints Row series, this is the game franchise that, in its third installment, introduced a giant purple dildo that the player character could wield like a sword, and in its fourth made the player the President of the United States only to have them dethroned by an alien invasion from outer space and locked inside a simulation eerily similar to the Matrix (spiced with a little bit of Tron and a whole lot of crazy). This is also the game franchise that spoofed reality TV with Professor Genki, a pink cat with a penchant for destruction who ran a televised `murder funhouse' called Super Ethical Reality Climax, complete with play-by-play and color commentary. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
If Crank is the movie that feels closest to something like a Con City movie, then the Saints Row games are easily the closest thing to a Con City video game. Well worth playing if you want a GTA clone that went off the rails and kept going. It's best to play the entire series from start to finish so you get a better understanding of the vast roster of fun and surprisingly complex characters. Just bear in mind that the first two games are a lot more serious in tone, and you may find yourself wondering where all the craziness is, but just be patient. As soon as you get to Saints Row III, you'll be wondering how the franchise went from street gang simulation to fighting a luchador in space.
The concept of an unstoppable killing machine has been around in fiction for ages, yet one of its most iconic examples is just a few decades old. The terminator, the title character of the 1984 film The Terminator, is an intelligent robot hiding in human skin, programmed to infiltrate, seek, and destroy. Dread surrounds this cybernetic incarnation of death, and its victims know true horror as they try in vain to get away from the vise-like grip and high precision targeting skills of this fearsome movie monster.
Although Con City is far from being as dark and especially as serious in tone as The Terminator, Con City certainly took influence from this movie's iconic killing machine, in some cases figuratively, in others, a little more literally. An unstoppable killing machine is an excellent source of danger and suspense in black comedy crime fiction, after all, whether they're the hero, the villain, or somewhere in between. Hell, Con City's iconic hitman Mister Jake even steals one of the terminator's own methods for getting access to his target at a certain heavily fortified location, albeit Jake puts his own psychotic twist on it.
And that, perhaps, is the one thing for which all victims of the terminator should be thankful for. The terminator may have been cold, relentless, unstoppable, and indestructible... but at least it wasn't a psychopath.
The profound effect the action films of the 1980s had on the Con City novels is fairly apparent, yet, recent motion pictures have also greatly influenced the creation of this black comedy crime universe. A prime example is the 2010 mini series Hooker With A Heart Of Gold.
Independently produced and released as a five part web series, Hooker With A Heart Of Gold is essentially a two and a half hour love letter to the craziness of the 1980s. It tells the story of a doctor who invents an artificial heart made of pure gold that can reanimate the dead, and the hooker who winds up being the first recipient of the revolutionary discovery. And then of course there's the criminal underworld, the assorted unsavory figures of which make the lives our heroes very difficult in various ways.
The movie is cheesy, fun, features a fantastic soundtrack, and is full of memorable characters. Perhaps the one who stands out the most is Steele, a villain who belongs in the same league with the likes of Mister Joshua and Ned Trent. And despite the low budget, the film delivers authentic performances and even a couple of shootouts. The final showdown of the movie, even with the budget special effects, is a blast to watch.
Hooker With A Heart Of Gold is every bit as batshit crazy as a Con City novel, hence it's hardly a surprise that this film provided galores of inspiration for Con City. If you've never seen it, check it out at the website of independent film maker and 80s expert Brad Jones, also known as the Cinema Snob.
If there's ever been an underrated classic among black comedy crime fiction movies it's The Way Of The Gun. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, this 2000 film follows antihero outlaws Mr. Parker and Mr. Longbaugh on their quest to flip off the world and try to make fifteen million dollars by ransoming a surrogate mother who is about to give birth to the child of a shady businessman. While that premise could easily yield a grim, dark, and depressing story, The Way Of The Gun is a thoroughly entertaining flick with tons of dark humor. It's also one of those films that give you a perfect intro. The opening scene features Sarah Silverman unloading a tirade of profanity as a character credited as "Raving Bitch" and introduces Parker and Longbaugh and the crazy world they inhabit; if you love these first two and a half minutes, you will adore the entire film.
The world of Con City is heavily influenced by the world of The Way Of The Gun. Whether it's the black humor of the opening scene, the absurdity of the car chase scene which Jeffers and Obecks somehow sit through with a straight face, or the dark yet fun dynamic between Joe Sarno and his friend Abner, this flick provides fantastic characters and great moments between them that will stay with you for decades. Highly recommended if you like your crime films with a good dose of black humor.
When the video game Grand Theft Auto was first released, it sparked considerable outrage due to it being a crime simulator. The controversy did nothing to hinder its rise into one of the most successful game franchises in the world, and over the years it has spawned numerous sequels, as well as created its own genre. One of the most unique of the so-called GTA clones out there is an almost light hearted piece called Total Overdose: A Gunslinger's Tale in Mexico.
Released in 2005, Total Overdose takes us into Mexico where the player steps into the shoes of an undercover police officer for one mission (after playing as his father in the prologue) which ends pretty badly, and forces him to recruit his irresponsible outlaw brother to fill in for him while he recovers from his injuries. From that point forward the player controls the brother, Ramiro Cruz, also known as El Gringo Loco, in an adrenaline fueled rampage of mayhem, vehicle theft, and slow motion headshots.
Playing Total Overdose feels like playing a Robert Rodriguez movie. The atmosphere screams Desperado and the variety of ways in which the player can kill the bad guys (or the not so bad guys, if it comes to that) is staggering. The arsenal of weapons at the player's disposal is incredible for a GTA clone, and is well presented by the game's ultra memorable opening cinematic, which displays our antihero walking into a compound run by the bad guys with his entire arsenal and proceeding to demonstrate his skills.
The aforementioned scene received an homage in the first Con City novel, yet the influence of Total Overdose on the Con City novels was far more profound than that. All the insane nonsense that goes on during the game makes it a natural inspiration for the world of Con City. If you've never played this masterpiece, it's well worth to check it out for example on gog.com.
1994 saw the release of Quentin Tarantino's undisputed masterpiece, Pulp Fiction. Building on his previous outing, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction presents a cinematic universe of black comedy crime fiction filled with larger than life characters ranging from philosophizing hitmen through stoic retired boxers and badass crime bosses to problem solving professionals and retired army officers who have a terrible history with a certain gold watch.
To say that Pulp Fiction served as a major inspiration to Con City would be an understatement. While the first Con City novel directly pays homage to an iconic scene from the movie, Pulp Fiction's influence extends to far greater lengths than that single scene. The world of Con City is a literary universe of black comedy crime fiction. True, it gets a lot more crazy than Pulp Fiction, but even Pulp Fiction had its fair share of batshit insane moments, such as the infamous metal potato speech (one of Christopher Walken's finest moments) and the scene in the car with Marvin. Just imagine if Pulp Fiction was a novel and had lot more crazy shit like that in there. That, in a nutshell, is what's at the heart of Con City.
And if you've never seen Pulp Fiction: what? What? How have you not seen this legendary masterpiece? Go watch it right now. It won an Oscar, you know.
The 1994 movie that made plastic explosives and showers famous, The Specialist, follows retired CIA operative Ray, played by Sylvester Stallone, who uses his explosives expertise to carry out hits on people whom he thinks deserve to be put down. When he is hired by a woman called May, played by Sharon Stone, to avenge her family, Ray ends up facing the entire Miami underworld and his former CIA trainer Ned Trent. And that, right there, is the reason why The Specialist is on this list.
James Woods portrays what is arguably the biggest highlight of the movie, psychopathic explosives expert Ned Trent, to absolute perfection. Ned functions as the main antagonist of the movie despite that he technically works for the head of the Mafia. His wicked one liners, delivered in style, steal the show and make you love him and hate him at the same time. A truly old school 80s style villain in a 90s movie. The Specialist also features some very creative scenes involving the use of plastic explosives, going with the theme of the film.
Needless to say a movie like The Specialist is fantastic inspiration for a world of black comedy crime fiction and Con City has certainly benefited from both the sleazy elegant nut job Ned Trent and the movie as a whole. That particular character who was greatly influenced by Lethal Weapon's Mister Joshua certainly seems like he learned a thing or two from Ned Trent as well.
One of the most scandalous games of the 1990s, banned in several countries, and in general considered the spawn of the Devil, Carmageddon is a game that embodies black humor. The goal of the game is to win a race by destroying the cars of your opponents and/or running over as many pedestrians as possible. With its cartoonish graphics, over the top power-ups, crazy driver personas and even crazier vehicles, Carmageddon is an absolute blast for anyone who enjoys darker forms of comedy. It is also fantastic stress relief, for those of us who, unlike Con City's Joanna Bennett, suck at first person shooters.
Carmageddon's influence on Con City is evident from an iconic scene in the novel involving Mister Jake and the flawless paintjob of his car, but we shall not spoil that here.
Should you find the idea of Carmageddon entertaining, you might want to check out the 2015 game Carmageddon: Reincarnation or its 2016 console counterpart Carmageddon: Max Damage which does a commendable job at creating a fresh new incarnation of the old classic. A very different experience to the original, but still recognizably Carmageddon, in part thanks to the modeling of vehicle damage which allows players to experience some truly insane moments in the game. The Author of Con City is proud to have been one of the thousands of people who co-funded Carmageddon: Reincarnation on Kickstarter.
1980 saw the release of The Blues Brothers, an action comedy chronicling the efforts of two brothers to save an orphanage by committing as much crime as possible. While the tale of Jake and Elwood Blues is nowhere near as dark and twisted as the Con City novels, The Blues Brothers nevertheless provided a good deal of inspiration for Con City. Why? Because it's completely batshit insane, that's why.
The day after Jake Blues gets out of prison, he and his brother are sent on a quest to save an orphanage. Of course Jake's first idea is to stage a heist, but the old nun running the orphanage will have none of that, so the two brothers instead decide to get their old band together. Between them and their success are the Illinois police force who seem hell bent on putting Jake Blues back behind bars, Jake's ex-fiance who tries blowing him up with a bazooka barely fifteen minutes into the film, a group of angry country musicians, and the Illionis nazis, among other things. The resulting carnage reaches epic scales very quickly, well illustrated by the fact that this is a lighthearted comedy about musicians featuring an abundance of explosions, gunfights, and car chases.
The film stars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, and features several famous musicians from Aretha Franklin to Ray Charles. Well worth your time, either with four fried chickens or some white bread toast.
If you want to see a movie that perfectly captures the essence of Con City, look no further than the 2006 Jason Statham action flick Crank. The movie is 88 minutes of non-stop insanity, described by some critics as "live action GTA". Statham plays as professional hitman Chev Chelios, who is poisoned in the opening scene and comes to the realization that the only thing that can keep him alive long enough to get his revenge, is adrenaline. The result is absolute mayhem, as Chelios goes from one darkly hilarious situation to the next, going to a lot of trouble to keep himself pumped up, leaving piles of bodies in his wake.
Between Chelios, his crazy psychotic rival Ricky Verona, the assorted gangsters that get in his way, his unsuspecting girlfriend, his wimpy sidekick, and his sex-addict personal physician Doc Miles who tries to save his life over the telephone, Crank is full of memorable characters who just need to be themselves to create a fun joyride that will leave you wondering what the hell you just watched while simultaneously making you want more of it. There is a second Crank movie, which is almost as good, but we don't want to spoil that. Watch them both, it's a perfect double feature for fans of black comedy crime fiction.
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