Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★½

Is there a more glorious feeling than stepping into my little apartment after walking the streets of Manhattan? After dodging the cars, the cat-callers, the AC drips, the shit - dog, horse, human? - I always heave a sigh when I make it to my front door and take off my shoes. I love Manhattan, but it doesn’t always love me back, and my apartment, small and cluttered though it may be, is an oasis. It’s the only place in the city where I don’t have to look where I step.

Escape from New York rips that security right out of my sweaty, stressed hands. There is no interior or exterior. When you’re outside on the street, you're exposed, every shadow doubled on the walls behind you, every noise a threat. You think relief awaits inside, until you see the debris, scattered around like the detritus of the damned. The characters and camera punch through walls and windows like they’re meaningless, because they are— such barriers no longer imply home and comfort. The claws of faceless attackers snatch at ankles from below, until the illusion of safety is nothing more than the splinters of broken floorboards.

This is hell, desolate and barren, and Snake Plissken is the Virgil to our Dante— or perhaps he’s a demon himself, reluctantly taking us deeper and deeper into the Inferno. Escape from New York rides the edge of absurdity all the way to eye patches and earrings, but it sells it well, and the comedy simply dissolves like so much alka-seltzer into the weirdness of this film. There’s an eighties bare-bones simplicity that’s ruthlessly, wonderfully effective here, and you’re given just enough to get hooked, until you realize you’ve spent 99 minutes flopping on the end of Carpenter’s line.

If you think safety lies inside, you’re wrong. If you think safety lies outside, you’re wrong. If you think you’re anywhere but hell, you’re wrong. And if you think that hell is a place, somewhere with walls and forgotten people, and not an entire system, filled to the brim with cruelty that knows no boundary and no shame— well, as Snake would say, you’re not just wrong, you’re already dead.

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