ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, John Carpenter (1981)
Definitely John Carpenter has a place on my top ten of film directors ever. His golden years registered at least 3 of my favorite movies, and although afterwards he fell into crappy stories, he’s a hell of director and creative artist.
To be honest, I don’t reckon having seen Escape in my childhood and right now I regret it, because I’m positive this is the kind of movie you MUST see when you’re young to enjoy even more: combination of nonstop action, dialogues, a charismatic hero such as Snake Plissken and a pimp car, can enrich your adolescence a lot. Because that’s what is so cool about it, the world is portrait as shit, but you can do something good and can count on some people, no matter their ideologies are, world is shit, definitely, but also comradeship and survival.
In a not so far future, things are so much out of control in the States that Manhattan island has become a massive prison, surrounded by concrete and such security nobody can escape from there, all the outlaws and people in bad habits end up there mixed. As you can imagine, Manhattan was portrait in a darker way than actually was in the late 70’s, but still both images were not so distant, delinquency, gangs, murders…not the safe place we know nowadays with a cop almost on every corner.
Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), has been sentenced to the island for bank robbery, and as it’s said, once you’re there, there’s no coming back, but he’s popular for his acts and his curriculum is outstanding, enough reason for a second chance to avoid prison if he works for the government on a desperate mission: find the president’s location and bring him back to safety.
How could the President (Donald Pleasence) end up in such a shit hole? Well, Air Force One was kidnapped and he got the chance to get away in the emergency capsule. Technology wasn’t so developed as to direct it to regular land, ending in the island. As you can imagine a guy like him hasn’t many chances to survive without body guards and gets caught by the Duke (Isaac Hayes).
In order to catch him from the balls, Snake is injected with some sort of poisonous capsules mixed on his bloodstream will be lethal in 24 hours.
It’s easy to figure out the rest: Snake moving through Manhattan, looking for the guy and getting allies on his way, fighting for survival desperately.
Although Carpenter and Russell had already worked together for the sweetened Elvis biopic, with Escape started what could be considered one of the most successful and strong relationships in business, the actor became sort lucky charm for the director, as most acclaimed movies followed immediately. In fact, Carpenter failed to provoke same reaction among audience whenever he counted on other actors, such as in They Live or Memoirs of an Invisible Man. I really love this tandem.
Problem nowadays is the subject of remakes. First in the 90’s both Carpenter, Kurt Russell and Debra Hill resurrected Plissken in another mission, this time in LA. It was basically a remake of the original one, with different special effects and different settings, but same story, although not as fresh and direct as the previous one. A New Escape from New York is due for next year, and surely it will be a shit, first because the power Kurt Russell impregnated on Plissken is hardly achievable, and and then, because it will be a movie with plenty of budget and horrible computer effects, no smoking, and no pimps, because all these social “protocols” you off the record must follow. Apart from that, I heard Gerard Butler is to become the main character…sorry, bt that’s unacceptable!
Returning to the movie after this moment of anger (sorry about that, folks!) I cannot finish the review without talking about Snake Plissken. Not such appealing heroes appear in films nowadays. He’s got an attitude, never shuts up, smart and intelligent, he’s a rat you end up loving. Kurt Russell admits is the best character he’s ever played and I reckon he’s right. Action movies need the figure of the tough guy, with key sentences at any moment which make you think, this is a hell of a guy! Plissken is the kind of guy, kids in the 80’s would dream of becoming, great heroes cannot be weak or soft, or even polite, they must drink, smoke and swear, because what they’re facing at that moment is not precisely a nice time.
Thus, apart from the criticism of society hidden and the message that politicians aren’t always as clean as they pretend, Escape from New York accomplishes the mission of providing audience with good entertainment. Action films are seen as a minor category in terms of performance, but at the end of the day, sometimes is better to escape from reality with a bit of the medicine Snake Plissken offers rather than watching a reality drama, am I right?