Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Great film presents outdated future

Escape From New York (1981)
Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, Donald Pleasence, and Adreinne Barbeau
Director: John Carpenter

In a 1980s vision of a dark future, Manhattan Island has been turned into a massive prison where the worst of the worst of American criminals are sent to live out their lives with no chance of ever being freed. After Air Force One crashes into the prison, decorated war-hero turned violent criminal Snake Pliskin (Russell) is recruited by the authorities to rescue the president.

What follows is one of the best adventure movies ever made, with touches of dystopic sci-fi, humor, horror, and action mixing easily together. Snake's quest through the deadly, decaying streets of Manhattan take him from strange to stranger, and from bizarre to deadly, as he penetrates ever-deeper into the nightmarish world that the prisoners have created. As if the cannibals and crazies weren't enough, Snake is also fighting the clock: Commisioner Hauk (Van Cleef) had Snake injected with time-released poison capsules that will kill him if he isn't back with the president in 22 hours.

"Escape From New York" is full of great moments of horror, humor, and action. Every actor puts on great performances, with Russell's Clint Eastwood imitation as Pliskin, Van Cleef as coldblooded prison warden/police commissioner Hauk, and Hayes as the insane, intensely evil Duke of New York being the most impressive. It's a movie that stands up to repeated viewings, with perfect pacing, magnificent sets, and an excellent electronic score that also ranks among Carpenter's greatest works.

If there's anything wrong with the movie, it's that its "near-future setting" hasn't aged well...but that is the complaint that can be made of ANY film that says "here's what tech will be like 20 years from now."

(From the News Department--Bad News Department: "Escape From New York" is yet another film that's going to be the subject of a crappy remake. Click here for the tragic news. While I agree this is one movie that's outdated, it's also a movie that there is no way they'll be able to match quality-wise.)

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