That poster has nothing to do with this flick but it’s still pretty damn cool.
It’s 1997 and crime rates have been soaring up so high that New York City has been blockaded off for a place where all criminals run around and do their own thing. However though, the U.S. president (Donald Pleasence) is soon captured by these criminals and soon has to be rescued by condemned criminal and former war hero, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell).
The 80’s may have been a rather lame decade but for legendary director John Carpenter, it was probably the best 10 years of his life that he will ever have and it all started because of this one. I don’t know why though either considering there isn’t anything really special to be seen here.
What bothered me with this film right from the start was how the flick started off so slowly and just seemed to just slide right by with barely any action or anything else that would have held my attention. There’s definitely a certain type of atmosphere here to really get you worried but the film never really plays up on that and is more concerned with building up the plot, which in some cases is a good idea but for this one, it doesn’t work and just comes off more as being a bore fest.
You can also definitely tell that Carpenter really didn’t hit his niche with this flick either. The vision is cool but it definitely isn’t pretty looking and it actually looks a lot more unprofessional and cheesy rather than eye-opening. Since I knew there was going to be a lot of New York looking like total ish the whole flick, I wasn’t all that surprised to see how much Carpenter just littered it up here but then again, he could have made it look a lot better rather than just making it look a bit too much like an indie flick. Basically what I’m trying to say is that it’s obvious that Carpenter was on the top of his game with this one but a year later, he ended up making The Thing, so I guess he can be forgiven for that.
However, once that first hour went by everything started to get better and better. There isn’t much dialogue but even when these characters do speak, they seem pretty mean, nasty, and tense which adds a lot to the whole vision and feel of this flick. Speaking of the vision, the central premise of how New York is now all of a sudden a huge play-ground for all of these angry and evil criminals to just do whatever the hell they feel like is really cool and used well enough here to give you a cool feeling that this place is basically shit and everybody in it deserves to die, with the exception of some nice peeps. The action is also pretty good but then again, there wasn’t enough of it except for a one-on-one fight between Snake and this big ass bearded dude that ends in a very cool way which definitely is one of the high-lights here.
The main reason why this film is probably as iconic as it is today is because of its central character himself, Snake Plissken, played by the always amazing Kurt Russell. Russell and Carpenter had great collaborations together and this was definitely one of them because Russell is able to create this bad-ass, cool, and utterly terrifying dudes that seemed like he didn’t give any shit whether or not you were ready to fight, he will just kick your ass no matter what. Plissken barely talks in this flick but even when he does, he always seems to talking through his clenched teeth but he’s not about his words and more about his actions. This guy is definitely one you want on your side in a bar fight and also a character that shows that Russell was and still is able to create characters like this where you don’t want to mess with them, even if you do think they need a nice ass-whoopin’.
As for the rest of the cast, they are all pretty good with the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, and Donald Pleasence all showing up, but perhaps the most memorable from this whole flick is Issac Hayes as the #1 and only master of this little criminal playground, The Duke of New York. Hayes is cool no matter what flick he does and here is no exception even though I would have definitely liked to see a little bit more of him being an evil mofo, but then again I think we get enough.
Consensus: Escape from New York has a cool vision, great central performance from Kurt Russell playing the bad-ass character, Snake Plissken, and has some amount of B-movie fun to it, however, the first hour goes down with a whimper and you can definitely tell that this isn’t Carpenter’s best direction but he made up for it a year later so it’s not that bad.