Escape from New York (1981)

In retrospect, it’s incomprehensible that I waited all this time before finally watching John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York,” but here we are. Frankly I’m not quite sure what I expected, I somehow managed to be ignorant of the general storyline before I sat to watch the movie, but I was absolutely blown away almost immediately. It’s one of those few movies I’ve seen where everything just seems to come together and compliment each other perfectly well: To begin with, Carpenter’s direction is sure-handed without being ostentatious. He clearly knows this is a genre movie and he treats it as such by focusing on the necessary beats to keep the movie going and keep the audience engaged, so everything just functions like a well-oiled machine. Similarly, the sets, backgrounds and costume design are perfectly tailored to the grimy atmosphere Carpenter is aiming for; it’s clear that there’s a lot of money behind this movie, and yet it feels like gleefully disreputable grindhouse fare, like it should be seen at midnight on an old reel. And then, there’s the music… The glorious, glorious music. This is full-on synth heaven, with the kind of ’80s music you would expect from the indie director who came up with the immortal “Halloween” theme, and like his earlier classic, Carpenter’s music here succeeds at weaving the whole package together. But the movie’s best aspect is undoubtedly Kurt Russell, who seems born to play Snake Plissken. All the movie’s aforementioned attributes would be great on their own, but Russell is the final ingredient that makes this a goddamn masterpiece – he’s brutish without being a savage, ballsy without being careless, and just so, so frigging sexy you just want to *be* him. Do you know the feeling you get when you’re watching a movie for the first time and you just know you’ve discovered a new classic you’re going to watch over and over? That’s “Escape from New York” for me.

Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)

2 comments

  1. Such a fun movie! My dad took me to see it. Believe it or not, we didn’t think it was that far-fetched. Crime was very high, and NY was perceived as a cesspool. Anyhow, the sequel was a huge disappointment. BTW, the big burly guy Russell fights in the ring was a famously mean wrestler, Ox Baker, so it’s an in-joke that may go over the heads of modern viewers.

    Like

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