Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★★

John Carpenter is undeniably one of the greatest directors genre filmmaking has ever seen.

On top of being one of the preeminent voices in horror, his filmography also stretches to include action (Escape From New York, Assault on Precinct 13), science fiction (Starman), and even a biopic (Elvis). While his fame will always be most closely linked to the likes of Halloween and The Thing, limiting him strictly to that is to severely downplay the extent of his genius.

Escape From New York is possibly the most well-known of Carpenter's work outside of horror, and while it may not be the best of the bunch (a title I tend to give Assault on Precinct 13), this film is undeniably another of the director's masterpieces-- even if it's the least of that group. This is the film most tend to cite as the first "modern" action film, predating the likes of First Blood which would eventually become the immovable framework of the genre.

Taking place in a dystopic near-future (at least, future at the time of release), Escape From New York blends both the gritty, violent action and bizarre, gang hellscape setting of Assault on Precinct 13 with light science-fiction influences and dark comedy to create a template which Carpenter would later revisit in the sequel, Escape From LA, and his proto-buddy comedy Big Trouble in Little China. This is also another film in the bizzarely-long lineage of "punk apocalypse" films, alongside classics like Mad Max and The Warriors.

While pacing issues and age have begun to show upon revisiting the film, it isn't enough to hinder the entertainment. This is still a relatively fast moving film, even in spite of a few slow spots, and Kurt Russell's near-prime performance here exudes charisma, charm, and confidence. Snake Plissken is one of the indisputable action icons and among the most iconic anti-heroes in film history-- regardless of how much he has to channel John Wayne and Clint Eastwood in the process.

Escape From New York is a landmark film in the careers of both John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, and is one of the most important works of the early Golden age of action films. Not a must-see for everyone, but anyone diving into the genre can't truly claim any measure of expertise without seeing this film.

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