Still entertaining as fuck after more than 40 years, Escape from New York is a post-apocalyptic science fiction masterpiece featuring the perfect badass anti-hero. His name is Snake Plissken, he’s tough, and wears an eye patch and leather, lots of leather. I think you probably already heard all about him and this movie. However, I still want to go on the Rabbit Reviews record and recommend you this movie. It’s one of the eighties science fiction classics and it stood the test of time with defiance in its eye. Make sure you get your hands on the restored and remastered version offering superior picture quality.
Laced with a healthy dose of post-apocalyptic escapism, Escape from New York features a fully fleshed out and fascinating world of tomorrow. Well, not so much tomorrow but the late nineties, the year of 1997 to be more precise. We will be following Snake into the bowels of hell that is Manhattan, now a prison facility, where he must locate and save a certain individual. This is one of those movies that was etched into my memory on my first viewing. It was a late night in the early nineties and I was watching this stupid television show. They had a little game where viewers would call in and vote for a movie they wanted to watch that night.
Escape from New York won and it grabbed my attention right from the start. And the story itself takes off almost instantly. The storytelling feels awfully deliberate and highly effective. There’s no fluff or fillers, just pure fucking pulp. And since this is the “future”, we also get a couple of cool and believable gadgets. For example, a bright red escape pod you can use to safely abandon an airplane. Granted, some of the scenes do feel cheesy after all these years but at least they’re entertaining. And it’s like they’re not taking themselves too seriously so you can’t hold anything against them.
It is the year of our Lord Satan 1996 and the world is slowly but surely falling apart. The entire Manhattan is now a giant prison and unfortunately also a place where the president’s plane crashed. To retrieve him, Police Commissioner Hauk employs the services of one dangerous individual, Snake Plissken. This former Special Forces soldier is now a criminal and he unwillingly accepts this offer.
This is an overall charming movie that’s now so delightfully eighties. If you’re wondering just how eighties it is, know that in his survival package, Snake gets three shurikens (throwing stars) and one Uzi. And he’s going to need all the weapons he gets his hands on as New York is now a very dangerous place. Insert a joke about how it has always been a very dangerous place. The set design was so good that the model of the city was actually reused during the production of another eighties science fiction classic Blade Runner.
Along the way, Snake is going to meet a bunch of diverse and memorable characters. Some will help him and some will try to kill him. Adrienne Barbeau gave an excellent performance as Maggie sporting one hell of a cleavage. Apart from her we also have three veritable legends: Donald Pleasence (Prince of Darkness), Lee Van Cliff (The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly), and Ernest Borgnine (The Wild Bunch). And we shouldn’t forget about Isaac Hayes and young Harry Dean Stanton. It is, however, Kurt Russel who steals all the show here as the iconic Snake Plissken.
It comes as no surprise that this is his favorite role and his favorite character. He even reprised it in the excellent 1996 sequel Escape From L.A.. Of course, my favorite character of his is MacReady from The Thing, a movie he shot just a year later after this one. So, waste no time and check out this masterpiece as soon as possible.
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter, Nick Castle
Cast: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Adrienne Barbeau, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton
Fun Facts: Snake Plissken’s memorable eye-patch was a detail Kurt Russel came up with.