Escape from New York
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: John Carpenter, Nick Castle
Cast: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers
Seen on: 21.5.2016
1997. The future. Things have pretty much turned very bad. To get some measure of control, the entirety of Manhattan was walled off and turned into a prison, leaving the people inside to their own devices. It’s there that the USAmerican President (Donald Pleasence) crashes with his plane. There is no official way to get to him, so the prison warden Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) improvises: it just so happens that Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) was supposed to be locked away that day. With his biography, he seems like the most likely candidate to find and bring back the President. And Hauk will find a way to convince Plissken.
Escape from New York is another one of those classics that seem to be ubiquitous in pop culture, but that I had never seen. From what I gathered, I expected to get something along the lines of Mad Max, but unfortunately, Escape from New York just isn’t that, although I wished it was.
My problem with the film was mostly that I was just very bored by it. Kurt Russell’s coolness and his outfit that is frankly astonishing in a not entirely positive way from today’s perspective/aesthetics (the costumes are generally the best thing about the film in my book), are entertaining for a while, but the shtick does get old, as does the set-up that is never really expanded on beyond a very basic “that’s how it is”, and then the movie really has nothing much to offer anymore except more of the same things we just saw.
There are some things about it that I recognize as iconic and that I’ve seen referenced more than once, but here we have yet another case where I simply don’t get the excellent reputation this film has or the cult following or whatever. Maybe I would have needed to see it as a kid but that in itself is alreay a pretty damning thing for a film.
I feel like the movie hinges on how much you admire Snake Plissken (or identify with him) and beyond the first few minutes where we just get to know him, I just really didn’t know what to do with him. It also doesn’t help that the women in the film are purely decorative and that the only person of color of consequence in the film is also its biggest villain.
Watching Escape from New York, I was mostly bored and not much else. It was so obviously not a film that was made for me, that not even the 12 year old boy inside of me wanted to come out and play. I just wanted it to be over instead.