Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★

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

Amazingly, I haven't reviewed a John Carpenter movie on Letterboxd yet. Seems like a good time to rectify that…

Carpenter wrote Escape From New York in 1976, shortly after the Watergate scandal, and it shows. There's a clear anti-authoritarian streak throughout the movie, with the government agents (led by Lee Van Cleef's Bob Hauk) and the Manhattan prisoners (led by Isaac Hayes' Duke of New York, "A-Number-1!") being shown in an equally negative light. And aside from a few sympathetic individuals, this leaves the audience with only one character to root for: Snake Plissken.

Snake Plissken is arguably Kurt Russell's best performance. In many of his other movies, he maintains a likeable persona that defines his characters. When I see RJ MacReady, Jack Burton, or even Stuntman Mike, on some level I still see Kurt Russell. Here, I don't. Snake is almost an anti-Russell character, all Clint Eastwood grizzle and don't-give-a-shit cool. He's possibly the greatest anti-hero movie character of the 1980's, and that's saying something. He even made eyepatches and vests seem cool years before John McClane or Elle Driver were even created.

As for the movie Snake finds himself in, it's a pretty solid Carpenter vehicle. It is let down slightly by its budgetary limitations, but more than gets by on its memorable characters, tension-laden plot, and eerie electronic score. It's not necessarily one of Carpenter's best works, but it is definitely one of Kurt Russell's.

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