Monday, July 9, 2012

Escape from New York

The crime rate in New York City has risen by over 400% and officials have decided to turn Manhattan into an penal colony, erecting a 50 foot wall around the island and lining it with explosives and armed policemen. Now nine years in the future, Air Force One has been hijacked en route to a peace conference, forcing the President to abandon the craft in his escape pod, leaving him to be taken hostage by the ruthless inhabitants of the colony. Now the only hope of freeing the president, and thus brokering world peace, is special forces convict Snake Plissken who's solo mission is to locate and extract the president before the conclusion of the police summit some 23 hours later. John Carpenter's "Escape from New York" beings with a compelling and promising 20-minute set-up which, as soon as Kurt Russell lands on the World Trade Center, at which point the film devolves immediately into an uninspired, vapid work where virtually nothing works and all the fun and life is sucked completely out of the film. As Plissken, Russell barely seems to be awake and sleepwalks his way through this bafflingly iconic role. Donald Pleasance is terribly miscast as the president and Ernest Borgnine is completely wasted in an underused role. Lee Van Cliff is strong as the hard edged police commissioner, but his role is quickly diminished, and I also liked Harry Dean Stanton, whose performance as a sketchy underworld leader is about the only thing element that breathes life into the final 85 minutes of this film. Carpenter is a wildly hit or miss director who has made his fair share of both veritable masterpieces and bonafide turkeys. The one has no place in being mentioned with the former.