Craig Acton’s review published on Letterboxd:
I avoided this movie for years as it was always one of those movies that if you don't love with all your heart a pack of savage fanboys will murder you with a baseball bat covered in knives....and right after I started telling people I liked it, didn't love it....boy oy boy that's how it felt.
The movie has three amazing things going for it. 1.) the score is amazing, John Carpenter is such a master of music and the way the synth sounding score changed and kept me on my toes the whole time was awesome. 2.) The premise itself, I loved how wacky it was and that everyone took it completely seriously, I don't know if this movie works if people are self-aware to how silly this all sounds, but being presented as deadly serious really sells it and for a large portion of this movie, I was having a blast. 3.) Of course, Kurt Russell as Snake Pliskin, the man just exudes cool and badass, he really is the guy that I can imaging every guy wanting to be. Russell plays him as a flawed man with a lot of demons in his past, and I won't spoil it, but the very end of the movie, Pliskin does something that was so unexpected that I damn near clapped. I also enjoyed the performances of Lee Van Cleef and Ernest Borgnine, both hella solid in their smaller roles. I also really dug the first half of this movie, up until Harry Dean Stanton comes in, this movie was a perfect five, especially cause the first half felt so much like a fucking horror movie! The editing, the score and Pliskin creeping down dark hallways, avoiding the prisoners that are presented in mostly shadow like fucking monsters, it was so fucking cool! But...well, here come my issues.
I don't like how the film shifts in a tone so drastically around the halfway point, I liked what it was in the beginning, a man on the run from a city under siege by prisoners, using the shadows to just barely creep by and survive as times ticks down...that movie is much more compelling than generic action movie #427, which is kinda what this became by the end. I also did not like Isaac Hayes as "The Duke" the villain of the film, he has so little screen time and interaction with any of the other characters that I was half expecting Stanton to be revealed as the antagonist, the duke is boring (even if his car at the end was really fucking cool) and Hayes doesn't do much with him.
Overall, I did enjoy and like the hell out of this movie. But I won't just love something because it's a classic. In fact, I'm usually more sceptical of the "classics" because they're often placed so high on a pedestal by others. Will people flip that I didn't love this? Probably. Do I care? No, no I don't.