Review: Escape from New York (1981)
Best Bad Quote:
“When I get back, I’m going to kill you.”
Now, I know all the fanboys are going to get their Spiderman undies in a bunch, screaming “How dare you sir, EFNY is no bad movie, but instead a cinematic classic.” Before you damn to the fiery pits of Mordor, Escape from New York is, like many John Carpenter movies, so bad, that they’re great. EFNY and my personal favorite Carpenter classic, Big Trouble in Little China, don’t take themselves too seriously and in turn creates a fun, adventure-filled world for the viewer.
The year is 1998, and Manhattan has become the most dangerous place on Earth. The Big Apple has been turned into a prison supposedly, although you never see any guards in the actual city or any other prison familiar iconography for that matter aside from a maximum security fence guarding the perimeter. Feeling that good fortune has smiled down upon them, the prisoners shoot down the President’s plane flying overheard, with the intent of using him as the ultimate bargaining chip. The government recruits new prisoner/war hero/anti-hero/ultimate bad ass, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), to go into Manhattan and rescue the leader of the “free” world in exchange for his own freedom. The only caveat besides being murdered by ruthless thugs led by Isaac Hayes is that Snake also has only 24 hours to rescue the President before a powerful explosive implanted into his jugular will blow his head off. Just another typical day in post-apocalyptic 1998.
This movie lives and dies on the performance of Russell as the one-eyed, one-liner spewing Snake Plissken. Plissken is arguably the greatest anti-hero since Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” of the Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns from the 60’s. In fact, Plissken is kind of the futuristic version of Eastwood’s iconic character. Not to mention that Plissken is the only guy who could still be intimidating despite a happy trail cobra tattoo. There are also some great supporting actors in this movie including Harry Dean Stanton, Ernest Borgnine, and the beautifully breasted Adrienne Barbeau. All the actors believe in the sci-fi world created by Carpenter and it lends to a captivating narrative.
The production value of EFNY is top notch for 1981. You can tell a lot of money was poured into this movie. That being said, a lot of the production value doesn’t hold up to the test of time, and in turn feels a little silly. All in all, Carpenter succeeds at taking a premise that seems absolutely ridiculous, and making it into an action-packed viewing perfect for any “So Bad It’s Good” Bad Movie Nite.
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