MOVIE REVIEW | Escape From New York (1981)

In a nutshell, Bored & Dangerous says: “As dark and nihilistic as The Thing, as fun and roller coaster like as Big Trouble in Little China and just a kick ass 80s action movie all at the same time.”

 Escape 1
“Remember, once you’re inside you’re on your own.”

Pre on-demand movie streaming, pre cable television in Australia, there were three commercial TV channels, and they all played movies pretty much every night of the week.  I don’t know if they could only afford the rights to a certain number, or if it was just those certain few that stuck out to me because of my age and filmic interests as an action loving pre teen in the 80s and early 90s, but there seemed to be maybe a dozen movies that popped up constantly.  One in particular was shown several times a year, and I missed it for different reasons every single time.  But now, we do have on demand steaming, so I finally saw Escape From New York.

In the not so distant, approaching dystopian future of 1988, the crime rate in America has risen by a massive 400%.  To solve the prison over population problem, the entire island if Manhattan is walled off from the entire United States and turned into one giant prison.  Once convicted of a crime, you’re sent there to fend for yourself, never to be released.  In the vastly distant, full blown dystopian future of 1997, Air Force one is flying over Manhattan when it’s commandeered by terrorists.  Using an escape pod to eject before he can be taken, the President (Donald Pleasance) crash lands in the prison city and is taken prisoner by the Manhattan’s leader, the Duke (Isaac Hayes).

Planning to use the President as a human shield to cross one of the heavily mined bridges connecting Manhattan to New Jersey, the Duke is able to leverage his prisoner to hold off the SWAT team sent in by Bob Hauk (Lee Von Cleef).  But his plan won’t last long.   Because it turns out that the President’s life isn’t as valuable as the contents of a briefcase cuffed to his wrist.  Inside is a cassette tape with a voice recording describing the details of a very powerful bomb.  Because in John Carpenter’s 1997, there are no CDs or even floppy discs to hold such information.

If the President and his cassette aren’t liberated within 24 hours, peace talks with the Chinese and Russians will breakdown and the entire planet will be rooted.  So Hauk sends in former special ops soldier, current convicted bank robber, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to covertly extract the President and the bomb tape, in exchange for his own freedom.  Once on the inside, Snake enlists the help of a gregarious old Cabbie (Earnest Borgnine) and an old friend, who is now one of the Duke’s closest advisors, Brain (Harry Dean Stanton).
Escape 2
If the five movies he made with Carpenter, Russell claims that this is his favourite.  And I get that.  The Thing is an amazingly tense thriller and horror, but it can be a little too anxiety inducing.  Big Trouble in Little China is a heap of fun and immensely watchable, but it’s also a little slight.  I haven’t seen Elvis, but it hasn’t exactly endured and become a beloved cult classic like the others.  And the less said bout Escape From LA, the better.  But Escape From New York is as dark and nihilistic as The Thing, as fun and roller coaster like as Big Trouble in Little China and just a kick ass 80s action movie all at the same time.

Kurt Russel as made a return to well made, B-grade genre fun recently with Bone Tomahawk and The Hateful Eight.  Now we just need someone to give John Carpenter to money so he can get back to work as well.  It’s been over half a decade since he was in the director’s chair, and that needs to change.

Escape From New York
Directed By – John Carpenter
Written By – John Carpenter, Nick Castle

Other Opinions Are Available.  What did these people have to say about escape From New York?
Roger Ebert
Ruthless Reviews
Review or Die

2 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW | Escape From New York (1981)

  1. Crowd funding would be off the charts with the goodwill Carpenter has banked over the years. I’d love to see what he would hatch up.

    1. Thinking about it, maybe be it’s his decision to not make things these days. The nerd and nostalgia is too strong for studios to not be pursuing him.

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