Title: Escape from New York
Country: USA, UK
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Director: John Carpenter
Writers: John Carpenter, Nick Castle
Music: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Cinematography: Dean Cundey
Lee Van Cleef
Harry Dean Stanton
American B-movie doyen John Carpenter’s anarchic, semi-cyberpunk rhapsody has a high concept to convert the entire Manhattan Island into a lifer’s prison, peopled with all types of lowlife from crime lord to nocturnal “crazies”, then thrusts a POTUS-rescue plot within a one-day stretch, and our one-eyed protagonist, the ex-Special Forces soldier Snake Plissken (Russell) grudgingly knuckles down for the job in exchange for a presidential pardon to wipe clean his criminal records, not before being tricked into carry a time bomb within his body lest he relinquishes his duty and goofs off with the rest of incorrigible perps just for the hell of it, that’s what we call “trust”!
After landing his stealth glider on top of World Trade Center, a machine-gun-toting Snake roams the rubble-ridden, decrepit metropolis in the dead night, brushes with danger but finally is apprised that the president (Pleasence) is hold hostage by the Duke (Hayes), the kingpin of the turf. Aided by some unlikely altruistic allies, like his former partner-in-crime Brain (Stanton), who has betrayed him and now becomes Duke’s advisor, Brain’s touch-looking squeeze Maggie (Barbeau), and the gabby Cabbie (Borgnine), who still rides his big yellow taxi amid the chaos, his rescue mission takes a haphazard but not entirely insipid trajectory (a deathmatch here, a car chase involving a chandeliers-mounted Cadillac there) before escorting the president to safety, and 2 seconds before the deadline.
Performers are game, but in default setting with the exception of Frank Doubleday’s vampiric mannerism as Duke’s sidekick Romero, and a sinister Donald Pleasence’s explosion with a vengeful salvo near the end. Russell finds a new lifeline in his beefy anti-hero persona and will become Carpenter’s frequent leading man for 3 more pictures, including Carpenter’s best work THE THING (1982).
An analog-era action prototype cranked out with Carpenter’s astonishing acumen of husbandry, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK still holds one’s attention for its post-apocalyptic set production and a pulsating futuristic soundtrack that reminisces how popular taste has changed in all those years in between.