Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★

"I don't give a fuck about your war or your president." - Snake Plissken

Conceptually, one of the coolest John Carpenter films, with his anti-authoritarian attitude right up front and center in a plot that sends peak era Kurt Russell into a dystopian prison city to rescue the president before some ill-defined war breaks out after an arbitrary number of hours. It feels like a huge leap over earlier movies like Halloween and The Fog, with an all encompassing production design and a soundtrack that leans harder into the heavily synthesized soundscapes it helped popularized in the 1980s. Finally revisiting after fifteen-plus years, I was slightly let down to realize it isn't the end-all Carpenter movie for me anymore, with less urgency and all-out creativity than my very favorites from the genre master. But I was also reminded of how ballsy this vibe feels in contrast with action movies of today - even if the actual action here is pretty damn low-key in comparison. It's unafraid to get dirty, dark, and completely pull the rug out from under the audience when it comes to trust and faith in the system. Think about the MCU, where almost every movie is a fight to reestablish the status quo against villains who are threatening to topple it - the assumption that the status quo is just and fair is built into the premise. Here we get a hero who's been through the gutter of our system, knows that its failures against the working class are a feature rather than a bug, and is more than happy to take it down; he's only aligned against the villains because the authorities forced his hand. It feels like such sweet subversive victory when Snake performs a little slight of hand at the very end, securing his freedom while pulling one over on the bureaucracy - and just possibly toppling the current world order in the process.

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