film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Escape from New York 1981 * * * 1/2 Stars

The picture above is the movie poster for the film Escape from New York
Director: John Carpenter
Year: 1981
Rating: R
Rating: * * * 1/2 stars
Cast: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasence, Adrienne Barbeau

Unleashed into theaters in the summer of 1981, Escape from New York is a true cult classic. It's a film of heightened originality and it is brought to you from the brilliant mind of director John Carpenter. Inspired by his reaction to the 1970's Watergate scandal (I'm not sure how this movie and Watergate are connected but it doesn't matter), this film depicts a dangerous criminal (Kurt Russell) racing against time to rescue the President of the United States (as well as retrieving a secret government cassette tape with messages on it). The worst part is that the President's plane goes down in Manhattan which in the future is the country's only maximum security prison. As antihero, former war soldier, and badly unshaven convict, Kurt Russell commands the screen as iconic screen legend, Snake "Plissken".  

Doing a sort of younger Clint Eastwood impersonation, he still manages to make the character totally his own. He's helped out by an oddball cast consisting of Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine as a cab driver (huh?), music sensation Isaac Hayes as the antagonistic "Duke of New York", and Halloween alum Donald Pleasence as, the President (the flick doesn't give his name).  

"Escape" benefits from being quirky, action packed, and full of great one-liners courtesy of Russell. Yes, the film's special effects are easily outdated, but it's not about the effects per se. It's about Carpenter's terrific direction. He does an adequate job of filming with hardly any light (the shots of light he does use are soft and gleaming which look eerie as can be) and his synthesizer soundtrack (which he composed by the way) is tops all around (the opening title music is awesome, no joke). And as in most of his films (including the one I'm reviewing), he is methodical in character build up and setting up scenes for monster payoffs. Overall, this is a neat and satisfying futuristic sci-fi thriller. It will no doubt command multiple viewings. Be on alert though for its inferior sequel Escape from L.A. Skip it unless you have nothing else to do. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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