by Scott Weinberg
Another one of those early eighties movies that is remembered rather fondly. Kurt Russell stars as Snake Plisskin (what a name!) who is blackmailed into rescuing the President, who was aboard Air Force One as it crashed in New York. Unfortunately for all involved, New York is now a maximum security prison, filled with all kinds of freaks, sluts and lowlifes, and Snake kills almost all of them, even his friends.Equal parts comic book, dark comedy and straight violence, Escape from New York is yet another minor classic from genius John Carpenter. His first non-horror movie has some great lines (mostly supplied by fiercely clenched star Russell), wacko characters (Ernest Borgnine at his most ingratiating, Adrienne Barbeau as yet another tough-talkin' floozy, Harry Dean Stanton as a sycophantic toad, Donald Pleasance as an overtly whiny President, and Isaac Hayes as one nasty[/] head villain), a tight story (he has 12 hours to make the rescue, as the cops have implanted him with a nasty time-released poison), a few great action sequences (love the spiked baseball bat), and the trademark of Carpenter's best movies: his music.
"Classic 80's silliness and action from good old John Carpenter."
It's essentially any old western, updated in a nasty, hellish setting. So many components of this movie have been ripped off, it deserves to be a footnote for any futuristic action movie. Carpenter also gets points for the few moments of political satire also, fully enjoying the fact that he has turned New York into a giant, festering prison. Strange loonies roam the streets, put on shows in huge crumbling theaters, and some even grab pretty young girls to cannibalize. (Nasty scene there.)
Russell hits the right notes with Plisskin, making him so contemptuous of anyone in authority, that we immediately love him. He growls, mumbles, curses and shoots people, barely pausing long enough to mumble some smart-ass 'hero line'. The plot races along, with Snake quickly on the President's trail, only to meet up with these big smelly hoodlums who pretty much run things in New York. (Not too unlike today. Carpenter the visionary.)
He slowly builds a slovenly-looking team of prisoners to assist him, but you know how sidekicks turn out in movies like this: Stomped, shot, blowed up, stuck with knitting needles, and basically just given dramatic deaths, so we hate the villains that much more. It's all done firmly tongue-in-cheek ) and with a good deal of style. Unfortunately, Carpenter must have gotten into some tax trouble, because he decided to do a sequel like 15 years later. Any fifteen minutes of the original is better than Escape from L.A., unless you're a big fan of stupidity.A childhood fave, which is creepy considering how violent it is. Once again, Carpenter pushes all the right buttons and delivers a funny, clever and exciting movie. It may look somewhat familiar now, but keep in mind that it was pretty damn influential to young Italian filmmakers with more money than talent. Hey, without Escape from New York, we'd never have gotten Steel Dawn, World gone Wild, or After the Fall of New York. Still, it's just a lot of fun.
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originally posted: 10/20/99 07:16:58