Escape From New York/Review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

< Escape From New York

“Once you go in, you don’t come out". In 1988 the United States crime rate has risen over 400%, and in response to the sophisticated growth in crime, the U.S. government has turned the island of Manhattan, New York into a maximum security prison where criminals from all walks of life must reside forever.


The film stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a highly decorated, former special forces lieutenant who is arrested for robbing a federal reserved bank. Snake faces a lifetime sentence in the Manhattan, New York maximum security penitentiary himself, and is ultimately offered a deal by Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef), the police commissioner. He must save the president (Donald Pleasence) from certain death after Air Force One was hijacked and crashed on the island of Manhattan - and within a twenty-four hour time limit the president must be brought back alive. The offer comes with an ultimatum in order to ensure his captivity if the mission is not accomplished. Plissken is injected with two microscopic time capsules that are lodged in his arteries that will dissolve within a twenty-two hour time span.


Escape From New York was written, directed, and scored by John Carpenter in 1981 after completing The Fog the year before. Made with a diminutive budget of five million dollars this film marked Kurt Russell’s first collaboration with Carpenter for the silver screen - their first collaboration was for a TV biographical Elvis movie in 1979.


Practically a cult film, “Escape From New York” looks like a huge budget picture considering how much it was actually made for. It boasts an: incredible cast, solid acting, decent effects, and spectacular cinematography, but lacks necessary story elements that keep the intrigue of the story heightened.


As with any plan that’s all action and no forethought, there are a couple of hitches. First, the President won’t be worth much to the nation in 24 hours if a certain speech he’s carrying isn’t delivered. With the help of a cab driver (Ernest Borgnine), Snake's old crime partner Brain (Harry Dean Stanton) and his gal (Adrienne Barbeau), Snake squares off against a multitude of enemies and kicks some major ass while trying to save his own skin. The notorious "Duke Of New York" (Isaac Hayes) has taken the president hostage and has no intention of letting him go alive unless some of his demands are met. And after a sloppily planned scheme to rescue the president goes terribly wrong, Plissken is incarcerated and all hope of saving the president from the Duke is lost.


The story thins down after this episode as most of the action comes from external forces of the story, which isn’t a good thing. Plissken is overshadowed by the situation evolving around The Duke’s actions and not his. And in an attempt to prolong Plissken’s suffering, he is subjected to a hardcore wrestling type of match against a giant. Meanwhile, Brain and his girl attempt to rescue the president while The Duke and his army of followers are entertained by the bloody spectacle that is about to unfold.


The film reaches it’s climax in a very long chase sequence that leads them into the dangerous mined bridge of Manhattan - filled with explosions and adrenaline this is by far one of my favorite action sequences in the film.


Overall, Escape From New York is one of the best futuristic action-crime thrillers of its time. It stands along with the likes of Blade Runner, Total Recall, and The Terminator.

Reviewed by Biohazard

  • Grindhouse Database Newsletter
  • Exploitation books
  • Kung fu movies
  • Giallo BluRay