Escape from New York (1981)


In lieu of any Netflix movies and with nothing good at RedBox, I decided to dip into my own library and start reviewing movies I already own.  The movie I watched today was the old action classic Escape from New York, starring Kurt Russell and Isaac Hayes.

Escape from New York is the story of Snake Plissken (Russell) who has been arrested in the distant future year of 1997.  The world has fallen into disrepair and crime has run so rampant that they’ve had to turn the entire island of Manhattan into a prison colony.  I’m sure we all remember this happening 14 years back, right?  My biggest problem is the same problem I have with about 90% of future movies: if you’re going to make a movie in the future, set that shit back a few years.  I understand that we can’t predict the future, but if you’re going to make a movie in the future, your motto should be “Set it to a year where, if this doesn’t turn out to be true, at least everyone involved with the movie will be dead”.  Take the cue from the original Planet of the Apes.  That movie, though granted started in 2006, the majority was set in 3978.  2010 years from when the movie was made!  No one could hold it against them for trying.  But this movie assumes that 14 years ago, the world has fallen very far.  I can only hope that in 4 years we’ll have hoverboards and flying cars so I have nothing to hold against Back to the Future 2.  Also, Spielberg better pick it up with the Jaws movies.  I think they were on Jaws 14 in that movie.  Also, in Escape from New York, the computer layouts are roughly what they were at from a quality standpoint in 1987.  This is supposed to be 20 + years in the future for you guys, and we know you have the technology to put moving images on a screen because how else would we be watching you guys underestimate technological advancements.  Throw some of that up there.  Heck, I literally watched your movie on my computer.  Just do that!

Anyways, Snake is arrested conveniently at the time that the President’s plane goes down in Manhattan (and survives, one can only assume it was Captain Sully in the cockpit).  He gets put on the task of rescuing him and some tape that’s handcuffed to his wrist within 24 hours or these explosive charges they put into his neck will blow and kill him.  Why is Plissken picked?  Why it’s ’cause he’s the baddest of the badass (which is much better than being the ass-est of the badass).  Snake used to be in a special military branch that trained people into badassdom; teaching them how to talk raspy and smoke thin cigars.  So Snake reluctantly agrees and goes in a souped up hang glider, lands on top of the World Trade Center (Never Forget), and gets to work.  It’s at this point that we see a dystopian, run down New York City, which is pretty much what I envision REAL New York City looking like.  While looking for the President, Snake meets Ernest Borgnine (who, if you’re like me, may know from Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders), who tells him the Duke of New York (None other than Chef himself, Isaac Hayes) has taken the President and intends to use him to get all the prisoners of Manhattan out of the city.  Also, he drives a car with chandeliers for headlights.

The first thing one must do when watching a movie from back then is to try to put yourself in the mindset of you back in the day it came out.  So I tried to watch it as if I were semen in my fathers balls.  At the time, I’m sure this was the best they could do, but there are things I just can’t get over.  First, the super-80s, Casio keyboard theme to the movie.  I’d rather you hit me with some Europe or Survivor.  After that, the fact that their Fischer Price Walkee Talkee’s with the super long telescoping antenna that can reach from Manhattan to the mainland.  Also, the tracking radar that was a Pong-style flashing light on a garage door opener.  There was also one point when Snake, now running from a bunch of crazy people they called … what was it again … Oh yes, the Crazies.  Anyway, he’s running from them, shoots a circle in the wall and bursts through it, I’m sure realizing shortly after he should’ve just run into it because it was Styrofoam.  I cannot allow this.  Mythbusters proved that was not possible.  And the last continuity problem?  At the end when driving across the mine-covered bridge, the car is sheered clean in half by a mine explosion and the only injury whatsoever was the person in the passenger seat was killed.  Good aim on that mine, right?

These problems notwithstanding, if you watch the movie from the mindset of the time (Which I clearly didn’t), the movie is pretty good.  I would say the idea of the movie far surpassed the actual writing of the movie, but it’s far from terrible.  The movie, as far as I know, is the start of plenty of plot devices that are overused by today’s standards.  The injection of explosive devices automatically reminded me of Mission Impossible 3 and the goofy face Keri Russell made when it went off in her brain.  The anarchic antihero, of course.  The genre blending of a Western-style movie with sci-fi setting.  Plenty of things in this movie helped define the action genre, and it should be applauded for that.  Heck, the critically dispised (but preferred by me) movie Escape from LA was practically the same movie.

So, if you choose to watch this movie, you would enjoy it more if you tried to keep the fact that it was made in 1981 in mind.  On a scale of 1 to 5, I give it a “Better back then, but watchable today”.

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