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Escape from New York (1981)

July 6, 2010

8/10 Dead Men Walking

Not quite on par with The Thing, but it is a Russenter collaboration, so therefore it kicks much, much ass.

Escape from New York takes place in the distant future of 1997 where the crime rate has quadrupled and the best idea we could come up with to get things back on track was to move all the damn yuppies out of Manhattan, sanction it off on all sides and then throw all the criminals in there to go apeshit for the rest of their days. But then some yuppie gets pissed, hijacks Air Force One, crashes the sucker into the Big Apple, the President survives, he gets held for ransom by Isaac Hayes and so the military rangles up a notorious decorated war vet/bank robber who was on his way in there anyway to rescue the Prez in 24 hours before everything pretty much goes to hell.

I think I’ve already said everything that needs to be mentioned about how deeply I long for the glory days of when John Carpenter and Kurt Russell used to be best buds and made badass movie after badass movie after badass movie, but if this is all news to you, trust me on this one, those two were glorious together. The one noteworthy thing about this entry in their relationship that I haven’t already gone off about in reviews past is that this is where it all started, back in good ol’ ’81, and oh what a year that was.

On the other hand, there’s some pros and cons to that nifty little factoid.

The main con is that Carpenter’s not exactly at the top of his game from a directorial standpoint with this one, which is kind of strange considering that The Thing came out just one year later and that was an effing horror masterpiece. The main drawback is that this isn’t exactly the prettiest, most professional-looking movie at times, and sometimes that works in its favor since Carpenter’s not exactly taking himself dead seriously to begin with, but it’s hard not to notice how slowly the first half-hour crawls by and how rough around the edges the whole package tends to be. Point is, John’s not at the top of his game just yet with this one even if some aspects are very much on-point.

But whatever, it’s all part of the experience and pretty much everything else is the shit.

Carpenter’s story is cool as hell, his characters are all cool as hell, and while it’s not exactly The Road Warrior or Children of Men, the whole post-apocalyptic vision of New York is pretty cool, too. The dialogue is pretty choice for the most part and it does start to get pretty intense once the clock starts tickin’, but for all the flaws you can pick out about this movie, they all more or less get rendered null and void when Isaac Hayes rolls down the street a Cadillac pimped out with chandeliers for headlights.

And then you’ve got Snake Plissken, and that kinda sums it all up in a nutshell.

No, it never hurts to have a killer supporting cast backed by the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, Donald Pleasence and Isaac Hayes as the A-#1 Duke of New York, but come on, folks, it’s Snake Plissken. In what is arguably the best role of his whole damn career, Kurt Russell brings the one-man-army, just-don’t-give-a-fuck, don’t-I-sound-like-Clint-Eastwood-with-an-eyepatch pain in the way only he can and if there’s any reason to see this movie, it’s probably him. Dude was the inspiration for Solid Snake, guys, and with the exception of John Rambo, that’s a pretty boss statement that I’ll never be making again.

Whatever, you get the point. Kurt was the man, we need him back in top form. As if making it onto the banner wasn’t enough.

Yeah, Escape from New York is kinda dated roughly thirty years down the road, it’s very ’80s and it’s still an unabashed B-movie for all intents and purposes where our heroes often find themselves getting awfully lucky in some tight situations, but hell, it’s a personal favorite and it might fall somewhere into the realm of guilty pleasure if it wasn’t so flat-out fuckin’ awesome. A truly outstanding way to spend two hours even if it wasn’t until later that things really started to gel for John and Kurt. If only Escape from L.A. was of the same caliber…

I think we need another Escape from Russenter if you ask me.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2010 4:49 am

    Totally badass movie. Probably my favourite version of the ‘future’ that we’ve actually seen after Death Race 2000. I fricking love the MGS games and we definitely have a lot of thanking to do when it comes to Solid Snake and Plissken, also Plissken’s the most badass name in the history of the world.

    Like you say, not quite The Thing but definitely a whole lot of kick-ass.

    • July 6, 2010 8:42 am

      Damn, never seen Death Race 2000, I feel shame. Always glad to meet another MGS junkie though, everyone needs to be on that bandwagon. Hideo Kojima’s gone on record stating that this is his favorite movie, and that is so fucking cool. Nothing beats Plissken and nothing beats MGS3, man. NOTHING!

  2. Darren permalink
    July 6, 2010 8:40 am

    I love this movie – it’s a wonderful example of what a director can do with a relatively tiny budget. And I don’t know, Escape from L.A. just soured me. Well, apart from the “Draw” bit, which was awesome (but in the trailer).

    • July 6, 2010 9:15 am

      Is the “Draw” bit the scene on the basketball court? Haven’t seen it in a while, but I seem to remember it being more or less the exact same movie as New York, only worse. Need to give it another go.

  3. July 6, 2010 9:47 am

    There’s so much to love about the John Carpenter/Kurt Russell collaborations. It’s great that they also went into different genres – monster-horror/sci-fi/post-apocalypse/martial-arts-fantasy/comedy. I do prefer The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China, but Escape From New York is great.

    • July 6, 2010 9:54 am

      The Thing is definitely my favorite, but this and Big Trouble are pretty even, hard to say which I like more. Man, those two were the bomb.

  4. July 6, 2010 3:05 pm

    I’m really not looking forward to the Gerard Butler reboot.

    • July 6, 2010 3:08 pm

      You’re fucking kidding. That’s happening? That’s gonna be AWFUL!

  5. davcorn permalink
    October 1, 2010 5:03 pm

    A reboot might be exactly what the series needs.

    As much as I absolutely love EFNY, Escape from L.A. was such a letdown that it’s hard to let go of such a great character.

    Kurt Russell’s best role. Second Best: Deathproof/Stuntman Mike

    • October 1, 2010 5:20 pm

      Dude, a man after my own heart. Stuntman Mike was AWESOME. Why doesn’t Kurt sign up for more roles like that. EFLA was bizarre, haven’t seen that in ages. Thanks for visiting, man. Need more Russenter fans around these parts.

  6. HermioneO permalink
    November 18, 2010 3:38 pm

    um … ya know … I never made that connection. And I LOVED Big Trouble, the Thing and Escape from New York. Damn.

    But I digress … You didn’t see fit to mention Adrienne Barbeau? I’m sorry? She was seriously AWESOME in this movie.

    And Stuntman Mike was perfect. I loved him cryin’ like a baby at the end.

  7. November 24, 2010 4:10 am

    great movie.great music.great characters.
    carpenter is the man

  8. Victor De Leon permalink
    August 31, 2012 7:40 pm

    Dude, I LOVE JC and Russell. I have all of Carpenter’s movies and when I saw that you listed your reviews in alphabetical order (which is a very cool thing) I went straight to “E” to see if you reviewed EFNY or EFLA. Great write up, man. You gave the movie it’s credit. Going to share it with my other JC loving friends. Oh and you nailed the fact that Carpenter’s directorial effort on this one was a bit of a “rough around the edges” effort. good catch on that. Like you said, it works in the picture’s favor.

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