Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★★

Streets are lined with broken windows, turned over cars, fires, and dust as criminals scurry about in almost every shot like cockroaches. But Carpenter finds a way to humanize the "criminal" through our ultimate antihero, Snake, while still acknowledging the more obvious ugly side of society's underbelly, which builds, I think, on what Assault on Precinct 13 was doing. He also flexes his trademark anti-establishment views in the way society’s supposed "good guys" are inevitably a moral let-down, specifically through Donald Pleasance and Lee van Cleef's performances as the upholders of the status quo — a status quo that has crafted a horrifying and fascist "future" (production designer Joe Alves said he hung American flags in the background the way the Nazis hung their swastika flags during WWII and boy does that ruminate). It's a great balancing act hinging on nuance and blurred lines, and it works so well. Pleasance’s posh dismissal of Snake at the end is so infuriating (another one of those cinematic moments that reminds me of the rage behind Peter O’Toole’s “lemonade” scene in Lawrence of Arabia) and the cassette reveal is fantastic as always.

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