Escape from New York (1981)

Article 2276 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-15-2007
Posting Date: 11-5-2007
Directed by John Carpenter
Featuring Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine

When the president is forced to use an escape pod when his plane has been hijacked by terrorists, he ends up landing in Manhattan, which has been converted into a massive prison due to the increase of crime. A bank robber is recruited by the police to go in, find the president, and bring him out.

Personally, I find the whole premise of the movie (that New York has been converted into a maximum security prison by 1988, seven years after the movie was made) to be utterly far-fetched, but the truth of the matter is that it hardly matters; the movie seems to be aspiring to a light-hearted goofiness that renders any sort of strict realism to be beside the point, and under such circumstances, I find the premise rather engaging. This is the second of John Carpenter’s movies that I’ve covered, and I like the way he tells his story; he keeps things smooth and efficient, but he avoids rushing and doesn’t attempt to overwhelm you with dazzle. He also gathered together a great cast, with Kurt Russell (as the memorably named Snake Plissken), Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine (who practically steals the movie as a chatty cabbie who somehow always manages to be there when you really need him), Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau (whose costume almost steals the movie as well). I can’t bring myself to call it a great movie, but I do think it’s very good, and my biggest complaint is that I wish Kurt Russell would speak just a little bit louder; otherwise, his performance is fine. My favorite touches include one of the best running jokes in history (involving speculation on Snake Plissken’s current status vis-a-vis his existence in this world), and the great ending moment in which Donald Pleasence shares his cassette tape with the world.



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