Escape from New York Reviews
Exciting, great sets, and strange, this makes for a fine movie night.
Manhattan is now a security prison for criminals of all variety and after the President crash lands in the middle of the city, Plissken is hired to rescue him. Apparently Plissken is like the boogeyman for these Manhattan criminals, since they all know who he is but didn't seem to know he actually existed or where he's been. The weirdest part, however, is we never get to see him to anything of value. Even in criminals past references, they never mentioned anything specifically which would warrant him a spot to save the President.
It's one thing if the film embraces its silliness and makes all of the dialogue, action, and performances cheesy, but they don't. The tone is never truly set. On one hand, you have Plissken taking on dozens of criminals who look like they are wearing Mad Max cosplay, but then you have the issue of the President's life being on the line. Those are two opposing tones butting heads, and you never get a grasp on the type of film John Carpenter wants to make. I think Carpenter is a masterful director, but Escape From New York felt kind of like a cheap side project for him. Though, I will say Carpenter's original score made for this film is brilliant.
I think a lot of my frustration comes from the fact that this film was made close to 40 years ago, and therefore, there's plenty of dated qualities to it. CGI was young in 1981, and it shows. That and the green screen effects were difficult to watch. Of course, these aren't necessarily the film's fault, but sometimes the reach shouldn't exceed the grasp by that much of a margin. It's not the fault of the film, but I've seen plenty that are better since. Donald Pleasance doesn't get much to do, and neither does anybody in a supporting role. And most of all, I just didn't care for any of the characters or the story they were in.
-Why is Plissken so revered?
The plot of Escape From New York is that in the future the entire area of Manhattan is now a walled off prison, from which you can go in, but not out again, Berlin Wall style. The country is at an ambiguous war with maybe China and Russia and, basically, everything's gone to shit. When the president, on his way to a summit with important documents that could stop the war and put his country on the road to recovery, crash lands Air Force One inside the wall, ex-war hero turned criminal Bob 'Snake' Pliskin is strong armed into to going in and getting him. It's actually a credit to the film that that's all handled without feeling like information overload.
The key to just how tongue in cheek this film is lies I think in Kurt Russel's performance as Snake. We know he can be a bad ass in John Carpenter films, (The Thing), we know he can parody his bad ass image to great effect in John Carpenter films, (Big Trouble in Little China), so where does this performance lie? Maybe it would help if I'd seen Big Trouble In Little China, but the whole aesthetic of this film is one that knows it's a b-movie and embraces that. Now that's lightly different from an intentional b-movie, (Sharknado), which inevitably turn out to be crap, or a send up or parody of b-movies, (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), the secret is that it really has this self awareness that makes it go with a swing. Kurt Russel is actually I think having a lot of fun with this character, and he's a lot of fun to watch.
Watching this film the people I was watching it with kept saying things like 'it's knock off Mad Max', 'every 80s action cliche rolled into one' which I think are both slightly unfair. The Mad Max comment I may come back to but I would to sit on more to form an eloquent argument against it, mainly I think because Mad Max is going for slightly different notes than this film. The comment about 80s action movies, this film came out in 1981, and even if it was what my friend said, would that be such a bad film, you could look at it as a post modern send up of 80s movies, which I believe we've established anyway it isn't.
I think that even with this in mind, the film wouldn't work if it wasn't for the outstanding production design. It's all well and good poking fun at yourself in a post modern fashion, but if you've clearly put no effort in then what's the point? I can see where the comment about Mad Max came from, with the costume design echoing it, but I think that Mad Max's costumes reflect a desert wasteland where as Escape From New York represents something resembling Arkham, (because that's really what Arkham is let's be honest). The production design is also fantastic and really compensates for some of the more shoddy effects, the work is which the film inahbits is really beautifully realised.
In the end I am a bit uncomfortable with the fact that the film may be forgiving it's own schlocky quality by claiming post-modernism or homage in the way of someone like Eli Roth, (Hostel, The Green Inferno), however this film has something Roth's films don't; fun, and a real sense of humour and quality and ambition to the film making. It's a really fun, if occasionally campy, and occasionally with quite terribly plane effects, b movie.
I've seen quite a few Carpenter-flicks and this is a pretty good one. It got the prefect atmosphere - the set was actually kept and re-painted for "Bladerunner". The pace is great so the 90+ minutes fly fast.
Cool badguys, badder goodguys and some neat lines, a given cult classic. Kurt Russell's character, Snake is a huge inspiration for "Solid Snake" - the hero from the game series "Metal Gear". That's very cool as it's one of the pretty few games I've played and completed in my life and my favorite spygame-character. It's fun to see Isaac Hayes as "The Duke". It's fun to see Lee Van Cleef. If not fun, Adrienne Barbeau's cleavage is often seen and a repeated success factor.
6.5 out of 10 modded uzi's.