Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★½

I hate this for the promise of the premise, compared to the weak, aimless rubble-porn it delivers.

Maybe I'm just tired of futuristic societies living atop the remains of the late 1900s/early 2000s. Even if, in this case, that society is a large prison where Manhattan used to be. Yet I love prison narratives, and I love prison escape narratives. Where does Escape from New York go wrong?

1. It doesn't feel like a prison. Sure, there is a big wall around Manhattan. It is, technically, a prison. There are men with guns atop that wall, just in case. We see, early on, them shooting a couple of guys on a raft trying to escape. But there's no oversight of the actual city itself--people are free to sleep when they want and eat when they want and do what they want when they want--their schedule is dictated by them, not some prison routine. It's not enforced by prison guards. It's not endured by every other prisoner. They're wearing real clothes (albeit grubby, rubble-dust-crusted clothes) not orange jump suits. And, ultimately, there is a feeling of space, of individuality. There may be walls preventing physical migration, but the prisoners retain their identity.

2. This isn't an escape movie, it's a rescue. This ensures a pretty different dynamic, just in terms of how the film unfolds and the tone of the characters.

3. Kirk Russell's character, Snake, is kept at arm's length by the narrative. He's a silent, stoic type, and in the first 15 minutes is only on screen for about 2 of them. Once the camera does center on him, he's rarely the most interesting guy on screen.

4. It's hard to care about this president that Snake is supposed to rescue, because he's an asshole. In fact, none of the characters have any kind of depth to them to make them interesting. The most interesting characters are those who dress weird, because dressing like you belong in a David Bowie music video is, apparently, the same thing as having personality.

But Escape from New York's greatest sin is simply that it's boring. That's all.

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