Escape from New York features the first R rated action role from Kurt Russell. Who desperately needed to shed his Disney image. It’s also the first John Carpenter movie with a big budget. Since the success of Halloween encouraged bigger projects. I’d always known about Escape from New York around the 80’s cult action circle, but it was a long time before I decided to check it out. Carpenter has always been more concerned with atmosphere, so it’s not as action heavy as you might think.
Escape from New York takes place in the distant future of 1997. Which was apparently supposed to see New York City converted into a dystopian supermax prison for the entire United States. It’s an interesting concept that’s feasible, but hopefully not a possible reality. The awesomely named, eye patch sporting, anti-establishment, standoffish, ex-soldier, and current criminal Snake Plissken is brought in to rescue the stranded President in New York. The catch is that he only gets 22 hours and a bomb will go off in his head if he doesn’t get the President and a tape containing a summit speech safely returned.
Snake doesn’t see much action at first since it’s a stealth mission, but criminals start shooting at him eventually. All of whom assume he was already dead. The President’s captor is Isaac Hayes as the violent ruler of New York called the Duke. With the help of a street smart guide, his main squeeze, and a friendly cabbie, Snake manages to beat hulking wrestlers, and return the President at the cost of his compatriots. Even Donald Pleasence gets some shots in as the President. Escape from New York paints a striking vision of the future that only a snake could thrive in.
Followed by: Escape from L.A.