Monday, March 14, 2016

Escape from New York (1981)

Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed By: John Carpenter
Written By: John Carpenter, Nick Castle
Main Cast: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes
Click here to view the trailer


Note: The whole "what I knew going in and why I chose it" thing didn't work for me last week, so again I'll be fooling with the review format here and there to try and find a nice fit. Ultimately, all the reviews will probably end up staying the same as they've always been...

Welcome back again this week, as I've taken to post dating the reviews so that you guys get some fresh content more frequently. This was actually written on March 4, but you won't actually be reading it until March 14. Just trying to spread things out a bit.

Being a huge fan of the original Halloween, They Live and, to a milder degree, Assault on Precinct 13, I always have an interest in any John Carpenter films I haven't seen. So when it came time to put together the 2016 Blind Spot list, it was a toss up between this and Big Trouble in Little China, as I knew both would be fine candidates. Both are films that I've always wanted to see & never got around to and both are films that your average film Joe should have under the belt.

The film is set in the future (1997, to be exact), in a world where the crime rate has risen over 400% from normal. In this future, Manhattan Island has been turned into the country's lone maximum security prison, a giant wall built around the island, so even if someone does make it across the East River, they still can't get out. There are no guards inside the wall - just every prisoner for him or herself. When Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists, the POTUS (Pleasence) takes to the escape pod, activating it and flying off to what he thinks will be safety. Not so fast, Mr. President! It turns out the pod manages to land inside the walls of Manhattan Island a.k.a. prison. When a team of men, headed up by Agent Hauk (Van Cleef), goes inside to retrieve the President, they're greeted by an unusual prisoner who produces the Commander-In-Cheif's ring finger (ring still intact) and tells the team to exit within thirty seconds or the PREZ "gets it". With no other alternative, Hauk recruits newly incarcerated Snake Pliskken (Russell) to penetrate the wall and safely retrieve the President. If he does so, he'll be pardoned of all his past wrongdoing and given a free ride out of New York. However, just in case he decides to take the opportunity to escape the clasp of justice, he is implanted with two tiny explosives, inside the arteries in his neck, which will explode if Pliskken doesn't make his time limit. Oh yeah - Snake only has twenty-two hours and change to get the POTUS, as the leader of the free world must appear at a summit that will end at that time, or else the United States could be on the brink of war. *heavy sigh of relief* That was a mouthful and really all I've given you is the setup and really none of the stuff that happens to Snake once inside the wall.


Sure, the film is super action packed and has MORE than enough material to satisfactorily fill out it's ninety-nine minute running time. However, it's also set in the future - something that almost always turns me off when it comes to movie plots. I don't know what it is: Maybe it's because I already live past the future that most of these older films are referring to and really, not much has changed in regards to flying cars, all silver wardrobe and alien overlords - therefore deeming the films quite unrealistic. Seriously though, I guess my imagination just craps out on me when it comes to thinking and discussing futuristic societies and situations.

One things for sure, you really can't sneeze at the cast. You've got Kurt Russell, who is always solid. Sure, we're not overrun with stellar Kurt Russell movies or anything, but the guy is solid and anyway, this isn't really the type of film that calls for stellar performances. He's fine for the role and plays the badass well. You've also got Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence and Harry Dean Stanton in there, not to mention the big breasted Adrieene Barbeau and the scary as hell Ox Baker. It's quite the fun house collaboration of actors and I'm pretty sure Carpenter wouldn't have it any other way. In fact, the wild, over the top personalities that the cast provides, fits right in with the whole futuristic, "all of New York is a prison" motif.

To be honest, I wasn't super thrilled with the ending. Did the President really have to be corrupt? Didn't we already have enough plot and subplots to follow along with, without making the President a heel? Couldn't we just be presented with the simplest of ideas - the President just inadvertently landed himself in a prison where there are no guards...GO! I felt like everything was just too muddled with the talk of the summit and then all of the stuff with the cassette tape and then finally, the big reveal that the President is a somewhat crooked and being taught an ultimate lesson by Pliskken. Okay - so maybe I'm making too big a deal out of all that. Maybe I should just relax, sit back and enjoy the fun that is Escape from New York. But the thing is, is that I just didn't like it AS MUCH as I thought I was going to and I really feel the need to nitpick and try to get to the reason why. It was a fine film, don't get me wrong and an audience of less picky movie goers, who haven't seen Escape from New York, are probably going to come out of it with a new front runner for favorite film. It's the type of film one can obsess over and go all fanboy on and hey, I really don't blame any fanboy who puts this at the center of their fandom. Ultimately, I've grown into too picky a film watcher and that's my own problem. I LIKED IT, but I had a hunch going in that I was going to like it more...

RATING: 6.5/10  Not bad, but I was hoping it'd crack the '8' marker and give me another favorite John Carpenter movie. Oh well...there's always Ghosts of Mars...

March 4, 2016  11:14pm


  1. Sorry Andrew, not a very interesting reply here from me.
    As you probably guessed, not really my thing. I've seen worse - much worse - action movies, and I've seen better.. and this passed by without me getting seriously bored .. but nothing else..

    1. First of all, Ray...sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I've been away from the computer for a few days.

      Yeah, I didn't peg you for liking this and I was right. I agree that it was just...there...nothing special...


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