Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★★

The Director's Series-Part V: John Carpenter

It's been a while since I've watched John Carpenter's Escape From New York, and my most recent viewing of it is perhaps the most enthralling viewing I've had since September 17th, 2010 -- The night I saw a double feature of New York/L.A. at the Egyptian Theater. Escape From New York is one of the finest action/sci-fi films of the 80's built around a badass character in Snake Plissken in a dystopian New York. It's classic Carpenter all the way.

In 1988, the crime rate in the United States increases to 400% and the government evacuates Manhattan and turns it into a maximum security prison island. In 1997, Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists when the President (Donald Pleasence) is on his way to a peace summit. The escape pod the President gets in lands in Manhattan. New York Police Commissioner, Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) fails to negotiate the release of the President. Hauk turns to the soon-to-be incarcerated Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), a former U.S. Special Forces soldier who recently robbed a federal reserve, is offered amnesty to go into Manhattan and rescue the president in twenty-four hours before the summit.

Just like the opening to Halloween and The Fog the tone is set when we are introduced the dystopian prison Manhattan in all of it's decayed and destroyed glory. Seeing prison escapees killed on sight by the United States Police Force. This is the future. This is 1997. Cinematographer, Dean Cundey captures everything of the prison island and the action in beautiful widescreen. The widescreen photography elevates the tension and the atmosphere, as we follow one man's journey to find the president in leas than twenty four hours. It's quite eerie and almost horror film-esque seeing Snake roam the streets of New York.

Speaking of Kurt Russell, what an absolute iconic badass he is. His voice, his long hair & eye patch, and chain smoking antics. Plissken is the ultimate asskicker, even if he just wants to get the mission over with, he still stays dedicated to his mission. He's not much a talker, but he's loyal to those who help him (Brain, Maggie, Cabbie). Escape From New York is loaded with cool characters. The comic relief in Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine), Lee Van Cleef is just as badass as Bob Hauk and his final lines with Snake. Tom Atkins looks cool as shit smoking. Adrienne Barbeau is always cool and kickass. Isaac Hayes is the Duke of New York, A Number One, with his badass Cadillac. Frank Doubleday is awesome as Romero. Donald Pleasence goes full badass at the end.

It's a low-budget action/sci-fi film, but has an epic feel to it. The writing and direction is among Carpenter's best. They way he captures the sheer action and even horror (when the crazies are chasing Snake) and it's among his most stylish. It's awesome how much awesomeness Carpenter can bring you with a low-budget. Watching this on the big screen five years ago was and still is a highlight for me. Seeing Carpenter's work on screen before in a packed house, followed by a Q&A with the director afterward. A night to remember.

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