Escape from New York

escapefromnewyork1A match for They Live in terms of sheer paranoia + entertainment value, Escape from New York is a ballbuster.

Who needs a peninsular Panopticon when, in the near future, all of Manhattan is a prison and there aren’t even any guards?

Air Force One careens into the Big Apple, but not before the US president exits via escape pod. Unfortunately he’s been captured on the island, soon after he touched down.

Luckily, there’s one man who can save the day. And that man, is Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell). He’s a former special forces op, before Steven Seagal ruined that designation in perpetuity. He’s a King of the Prison Break Movies before our rotund aikidōka ruined those as well. He wears an eyepatch and has awesome flying/shooting skills while lacking stereoscopic binocular vision.

In exchange for his freedom (Snake is a convicted bank robber), he’s compelled into what on the surface is a suicide mission: drop onto island via glider, rescue the president, and do all of this before subcutaneously injected capsules on time release blow his arteries to bits. The injections are to prevent the resourceful Snake from simply escaping (the open air island prison may be escape-proof, but as we saw with Alcatraz, it’s possible someone as substantial as Plissken could make a go of it).

To assist him on the mission: a yellow cabbie played by Ernest Borgnine, of all people. He shepherds Snake to get intel from Brain (Harry Dean Stanton).

But it gets better. Along for the ride, the incomparable Isaac Hayes as the Duke of New York, a kind of capo di tutti cappi of the roving prison gangs. All roads to the president must lead through him.

snake_escape_from_new_yorkThe New York City streets have seldom looked this mean (in truth, they’re actually St. Louis). The one shot that is The Big Apple is perhaps the most ironic and iconic: the tracking shot of Lady Liberty, holding her torch above this newly-created urban penitentiary.

The dystopian cityscape is a wonder. John Carpenter’s direction is simply stupendous. The man really outdid himself here.

As gorgeous and compelling as it was upon first release, you owe yourself to see this thriller.

There’s talk that Escape from New York is being set up for a reboot: Fox has obtained the rights, though it’s too early to know anything further.

**** (out of 5)

[CHECK OUT THE ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK PODCAST]

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