It is the year of our lord Kurt Russel 1996 and strange signs began appearing in the sky. John Carpenter, one of the most influential directors of the past century, decides to bring Snake Plissken back with his latest movie Escape from L.A. and the prophecy has been fulfilled. He finally hit the west coast of the US and the sunny Los Angeles, exposing all its seedy and vicious nature. This is above all an entertaining action movie full of glorious post-apocalyptic fun. At times, it even feels like a parody of itself and concepts explored in the 1981 classic Escape from New York.
I fell in love with John immediately after I saw The Thing and the rest of his work soon followed. Escape from L.A. is actually more of a remake than a new film. The new version actually integrated a couple of elements from his previous movies. It took the subversiveness from They Live, the zany but fun action from The Memoirs of the Invisible Man, and finally the overall vibe of Big Trouble in Little China and the original movie. This combination yielded a pulpy movie, oozing with various juices, thus making it very likable.
Los Angeles became one of the worst places to live on Earth by the year 1998. Ridden with corruption and crime, the city is slowly dissolving under the weight of its problems. When an earthquake hits it in 2000, the president, or should we say dictator, of America declares it a sinful place worthy of such punishment. He also declares the start of the new “Moral America” agenda. A program that bans alcohol, tobacco, drugs, freedom of religion, and many other things.
Who doesn’t want to conform to these new values is free to seek a place among the prisoners of the new L.A., now an island that serves as a prison without any internal control. Snake Plissken, one of the worst criminals in the history of the country has been caught again and is awaiting his destiny in prison. But when the president’s daughter disappears, he would be offered a deal, a deal he could not refuse…
Now, I spent a bit more time describing the story as I believe something like this could actually happen! Filled with colorful characters, dangers, and almost anything you can think of, this new L.A. is an immensely fun place. I mean, Steve Buscemi and Bruce Campbell are there for fucks sake! Escape from L.A. knows exactly what it’s doing, with a very satirical take on the entertainment industry and many more things. The special effects are good, although towards the end certain scenes do look a bit strange. The atmosphere reminds me of another divisive nineties science fiction movie: Johnny Mnemonic.
In the end, Escape from L.A. is definitely a guilty pleasure movie, but its underlying message makes something much more. Strong leadership that imprisons its citizens if they break the rules is something that has been happening for centuries. And it will be happening until we learn to remember. I still don’t get how this movie has a measly 5.7 rating on IMDb. I think that people missed that this is an intentionally cheesy parody of all the macho action movies of the eighties. Why else would he be taking throwing stars with him?
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter, Nick Castle, Debra Hill
Cast: Kurt Russell, Steve Buscemi, Bruce Campbell, Michelle Forbes, Pam Grier, Peter Fonda, Stacy Keach
Fun Facts: At the beginning of the film, Kurt Russell wears his costume from the original film. A costume which still fits after 15 years.