Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★

"You will not be saved by the Holy Ghost...." - The Complete Carpenter Project

What did they do for food?

I do wonder if a lot of the interest and acclaim that surrounds Escape From New York is purely based around the character of Snake Plissken and considerably less on the film that he is in.

I would venture to guess that it probably is, although I don't get it personally. I love Kurt Russell and John Carpenter obviously, but Plissken isn't anywhere near my favourite Russell character, nor do I think he was one of Carpenter's best creations. He is, to me, a pretty simple action film hero albeit with an eyepatch and a put-on gruff voice. He doesn't even have all that many one-liners.

He's good enough for a quality action film like this, however, but to me there have always been far more interesting things going on in Carpenter's film than Russell. The idea of Manhattan Island being turned into a massive prison has always fascinated me and I rather hoped that the ultimately disappointing and belated sequel would return there and explore more of this concept. I'm surprised no-one's stuck together a TV series idea based around it, actually.

Instead Plissken fucked off to LA and was left floundering in laughably unconvincing CGI surfing scenes. Still, I'm sure it will get remade one day and maybe they'll look into the wider picture then. They're bound to. After all, said film is obviously going to be at least an hour longer than this judging by the running time of most mainstream American films these days.

I really loved the little touches that are scattered around Escape From New York though, such as the way Isaac Hayes' car is pimped with a couple of lampshades. Xzibit eat your heart out. The burnt out theatres and the use of a couple of landmarks for background fun rather than making a big thing out of them. If you are prepared to dig a bit deeper, Carpenter gives himself enough time to comment on how different factions have formed and how they are trying to stay alive.

Quite a lot of the enjoyment I get from Escape From New York now, on about my 10th viewing, comes from adding my own sub-plots to what's going on but there's still more than enough here to still make this one of Carpenter's premium quality films. A rich support cast means that Donald Pleasence and Hayes end up slightly underused, but Adrienne Barbeau and Harry Dean Stanton make an unlikely enjoyable couple while Lee Van Cleef brings some of his western gruffness to a futuristic action film scenario.

I guess what I'm saying is that there's more to Escape From New York than Snake Plissken. A lot more.

Steve G liked these reviews