Escape from New York - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Escape from New York Reviews

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July 19, 2016
The 80s camp failed to charm me. If I don't buy what's going on, anything after that doesn't matter.
July 18, 2016
Being a notorious cult classic that paired together the powerful team of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell for their third collaboration

The concept for Escape from New York is brilliant. It's a simple action-escapist story set within an incredibly original setting. Envisioning a dystopian society which could factually exist one day, Escape from New York crafts a story with brilliant political commentary to it. Originally written as a response to the Watergate scandal, Escape from New York depicts a future which is far more totalitarian; a government which is far more obsessive and corrupt with their disregard for human life. John Carpenter's vision is one not only definitive of its time, but consistently relevant over the following decades. Given the recent discovery of the 2013 NSA scandal, the government has proven again and again how obsessively controlling the American government can be, as well as how little the public can trust them. This is the exact theme driving the story in Escape from New York, and the disturbing realism in a story of science fiction makes for really powerful drama.
Even though New York is said to be packed full of criminals deserving of a life sentence, one of the first things viewers see when the story reaches its titular setting is a collection of dirty-clothed gentlemen watching others put on a stage production. They are simple humans enjoying the entertainment they can procure for themselves, and this is the first example of John Carpenters humanizing his character. He later does the same thing for his protagonist by displaying that he is prone to injuries, ensuring not to detract from his fearless persona in the process. Ultimately there is only a handful of things that actually occur within Escape from New York, but the implied universe challenges audiences to really consider the meaning behind everything that is happening and the motivations of its characters. Nothing is made explicit, it is all very subtle. Less intelligent viewers who have come strictly for the action fare might not be too impressed by the way the film focuses mainly on story, but I would definitely consider Escape from New York to be a thinking man's action film. There is a solid quantity of action in the film, and audiences are kept entertained in between it all by the intelligent writing.
The dialogue in the film varies between each character; Snake Plissken is a fearless hero is incredibly blunt, Bob Hauk intelligently describes the political state of the universe and the mission the protagonist must complete while matching his blunt nature with one of his own, the President of the United States is a self-obsessed coward and Cabbie provides comic relief. This is just a handful of the characters in the film as there are many who are relevant to the story in interesting ways, yet none of them distract the story progression with their own arbitrary subplots. Everyone is an archetype in one way or another yet nobody feels generic, and there is just enough characterization to be interesting while also capitalizing on the natural charms of the actors who play them. In essence, Escape from New York presents viewers with an interesting world and strong characters to go with them which keeps the natural drama of the film enticing.
Visually, Escape from New York is executed very well. The New society looks much like the gangland America depicted in Walter Hill's The Warriors (1979). As a result, this makes the dystopian society of the story feel all the more relevant due to its contemporary realism. Given that the premise depicts a group of criminals attempting to escape back to their home turf in a society where everyone is driven by violence, the similarities between the two stories is hard to disregard. The Warriors similarly did not explore the full extent of its setting but rather focused on being an era-defined exercise in style; Escape from New York goes much deeper through implications in the screenplay and the motivations of different characters. The actual exploration of the film's setting may not live up to its maximum potential due to budgetary constraints, but the extent that John Carpenter takes it to for a meagre $6 million is truly stunning. We only get to see a handful of settings in Manhattan while the rest of the world is left to implications and a few tracking shots, but it's still enough to give believability to the story. The scenery is decorated with a tenacious eye for detail, depicting a world torn apart by destruction and mayhem where the people that the world has failed have been left to rot. The production design in Escape from New York is solid, and the sporadic use of visual effects helps it along the way. The action scenes are also awesome as they use choreographed practical stunts rather than relying on the special effects.
The cinematography that captures all this is great since it manages to use tracking shots to depict the larger parts of the story world while everything else is shot from atmospheric angles that make capital use of the dark lighting without preventing audiences from being able to see anything. Perhaps the best shot in the film comes from the beginning of the story where Kurt Russell and Lee Van Cleef make negotiations at opposing ends of a table. The way this scene is structured is clearly a throwback to the intense scene at the beginning of Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) where Lee Van Cleef is interrogating a local whom he is about to execute. It just serves as a reminder of John Carpenter's love for the violent west.
And to keep the entire experience atmospheric, Escape from New York uses John Carpenter's distinctive skill for crafting a brilliant musical score. As tradition with John Carpenter films, the first thing audiences get to experience with Escape from New York is the grace of his musical score. As the film rolls its title credits, John Carpenter's distinctively 80's and restrained yet incredibly groovy theme song plays out for all the viewers to soak up. This gives an awesome setup to the film before it later follows the same path as Halloween (1978) in the sense that it uses simple series of beats to give the entire film its full experience. The musical score is perfectly eerie and energetic in a subtle fashion, simply building upon the genuine tension constructed by everything else in the film and bringing its edge to the max.
And with such a rich script supporting Escape from New York, the talents of the cast are given a real opportunity to shine.
Once again, John Carpenter proves that he is capable of getting the best possible acting charisma out of Kurt Russell. In perhaps his most distinctive role to date, Kurt Russell solidifies his status as an action hero with his effort as Snake Plissken in Escape from New York. The entire film is he blunt; monotonous without being shallow, fearless and cold. There is always a remorseless stare of death in Kurt Russell's eyes which makes him an intimidating presence at all times, and he supports it with a blunt line delivery that makes him seem like a badass at every moment. The man has an iconic design to him, and Kurt Russell's fearless performance truly immortalizes it as an unforgettable character. Kurt Russell characterizes Snake Plissken as a fearless antihero with a nihilistic view of the world we can all see eye to eye with, and the elements of humanism in the character support the realism in this all. Kurt Russell defines Snake Plissken as one of cinematic history's greatest action heroes with a badass attitude that most contemporary action stars can barely even mimic, so it is definitely one of the greatest performances of his career.
Lee Van Cleef's performance is his finest in years. With such a grand legacy behind him, Lee Van Cleef is a most welcome addition to the cast of Escape from New York. His scenes are mostly interactions with Kurt Russell where we see the two playing games with each other as their similar lack of actual emotion creates a vastly entertaining conflict between the two. Lee Van Cleef has a fearless confidence to him which creates an effective chemistry between him and and Kurt Russell, so their moments together are some of the best scenes of character-building in the film.
Ernest Borgnine also stands out through supplying brilliant comic relief to the film. The man plays so heavily to his distinctive iconic charm that fans should easily rejoice, yet he does it without seeming ridiculous. It's slightly cheesy, but that's part of the 80's theme in the film. Ernest Borgnine creates a really friendly presence, and his funniest moment comes from the scene where he first picks up Snake Plissken in his Taxicab and keeps talking while casually throwing a molotov cocktail at a local gang. Ernest Borgnine is funny but also conveys a sense of real passion in his performance, refusing to take it for granted and making audiences laugh without detracting from the serious nature of the film.
Adrienne Barbeau is a notable solid presence. Her character Maggie is an extremely progressive one since she is as fearless as Snake Plissken and even more so at times, yet nobody ever comments on her gender. She is just another character and one of the most fearless, and her gender is not exploited for the role. Admittedly she is given a costume designed to make subtle emphasis on her sex appeal at times, but as far as the character goes Maggie is just a real badass who Adrienne Barbeau is a perfect fit to be playing. The woman is a major badass.
Harry Dean Stanton brings his natural charm to the film and Isaac Hayes' love of The Duke of New York's relentless power gives him a confident villainy. Donald Pleasance is also a great cast member due to his ability to act really scared one minute and thoughtlessly selfish the next.

Escape from New York relies largely on the implications of its screenplay to explore the concept behind the universe it presents, but it is an extremely well-written film with a lot of thought-provoking themes, John Carpenter's distinct sense of style and Kurt Russell's most badass performance to date.
½ June 29, 2016
King of all B-movies, Kurt Russel elevates the entire film to iconic status, along with well-placed actors make a cheesy script a John Carpenter masterpiece. Nod to high-contrast-ratio scenes seamlessly transition a horror-flick into an action-flick halfway through to good effect.
½ June 25, 2016
This movie seemingly is a huge inspiration for a lot of video game developers. The action sequences are pretty rad.
½ June 12, 2016
Fun, goofy, and totally ridiculous, but John Carpenter's adds clever moments in this movie that makes it enjoyable and the ensemble cast is good.
May 23, 2016
I had seen this John Carpernter film many years ago but didn't remember it at all so it was like seeing again for the first time. It was a 2k restoration so looked amazing on Blu Ray. It's a highly entertaining action film with a lot of great character actors that really invest you in the characters, in addition to Kurt Russell, there's Harry Dean Stanton, Ernest Borgnine, Adrienne Barbeau, and Isaac Hayes. Definitely worth a watch!
½ May 8, 2016
Would love this movie just for the cool soundtrack. But apart from that, a very cool action movie, one of those heroes you could love.
½ April 3, 2016
Bleak view of the prison system in the future, 1997 to be correct. I did laugh at the time line for the film considering it's 2016 and the film states now. Snake isn't the toughest guy around but he knows how to get the job done. Russell and Carpenter are a great team, a shame most of their work never generated box office results. The film is grim from beginning to end and has that 80s vibe throughout. Like most Carpenter films you are provided a score that is very unique to the film. If you dig Carpenter films you'll definitely dig this
Super Reviewer
April 3, 2016
Per usual, Carpenter does a lot with very little and while the set-up is pure Sci-Fi B movie material there's a complex cynicism to the characters and plot that elevates the whole thing above simple schlock.
½ March 17, 2016
Classic type of action movie from John Carpenter. It starts out very slow and boring, but once you're in the climax in the action and blood get's in, you won't be bored! Once thing i do have to say about this flick is that the film can get dark, because it's shot at night and there doesn't seem to be much lighting, so you can't always see everything. But overall, it's a decent action flick, and Kurt Russell really defines it. Recommended !!
½ March 12, 2016
Yeah this movie's famous why?
March 2, 2016
I don't get it. This movie was painful. I've heard so many good things, Solid Snake is based on Plissken, and there's a cast full of wonderful faces (Russell, Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Angel Eyes, Ernst Stavro Blofield), but that was horribly dull and coincidental. I don't know if Plissken actually did anything of note the entire movie. Everyone knows who he is and talks up his reputation, but he shuffles about the movie while all the people and things he seeks are bandied about by the other characters until things work out perfectly (besides lots of deaths). Rotten.
March 1, 2016
Why have I not seen this! Love The Thing and They Live
½ February 19, 2016
I've wanted to see Escape From New York for the longest time. The merchandise has been everywhere, the legends have been told, and my excitement has always been on the rise. Already, many of you will have already figured out where this is going, and not just because you read the posted score before reading the review. Escape From New York was an alright movie. I don't see why everyone loves Snake so much when it's obvious that Cabbie was the best character in the film. I mean, there was really no other option. It certainty wasn't Donald Pleasance's character as the President that I could absolutely not stand. I will say though that there were parts of this film that I very much enjoyed. The atmosphere and soundtrack reminded me of The Warriors which is always a big positive, and I will always be down to watch anything related to Ox Baker. The man was one of the craziest and most intimidating pro wrestlers of all-time and he put on a great performance in his limited time on screen. I definitely see how people could fall in love with this movie but sadly it just didn't do it for me. A lot of the characters were irritating, the plot was ridiculous and the film just sort of trudged along for the majority of the time. I've heard from several people that Escape From LA is a vast improvement, so we shall see if it can live up to the praise that has been bestowed upon this franchise.
February 15, 2016
Ridiculous movie. Dreadful to watch. I love "Halloween" by John Carpenter but this movie he did was horrible.
February 9, 2016
My favourite Carpenter
January 31, 2016
I love Kurt Russell and I love John Carpenter but I don't love this...could have been so much better but it just fell flat for me.
½ January 23, 2016
'Escape From New York' is a western at heart, but it fully embraces its dystopian setting. It's a large scale adventure in which the viewer, much like the hero, is thrust into a gritty, dilapidated urban America that gives way to some great social commentary. Plus, Snake Plissken became one of the great action heroes, and that couldn't have happened without Kurt Russell.
January 17, 2016
I thought you were dead.
The name's, Snake!
January 11, 2016
An enjoyable film to watch, watching it in 2015 makes the film look a bit strange and to some boring or whatever but it's an interesting story. Kurt Russell is great as Snake and is the cynical type of anti-hero. If you like Blade Runner or Mad Max then you will like this film.
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