Escape from New York (R)
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So, this came out in 1981, but I never saw it until 2012. I had it built up in my mind as a cult classic, and so... when I finally watched it, I was slightly disappointed. I mean, it's a good movie, I just didn't feel like it was a great movie (if I didn't know it was a classic, I might even rate it slightly lower than I did). I also want to say that when I started watching it, I was thinking about what category I might put my review in. I originally put my review in "action/adventure," but I was wondering if I might call it sci-fi, since it was set in 1997, which was the future, when the movie was made. And I was thinking about "weird," but I never thought too seriously about that. And I thought about badass, since I had the main character, Snake Plissken, built up in my mind as like an archetypal badass. But ultimately, after watching the movie, I decided not to call it a badass movie, after all. I'm not saying it isn't... I'm just saying I've seen so many movies where the badassery goes so ridiculously far beyond that of this movie, that it felt sort of... quaint, by comparison. I feel kind of guilty about my under-appreciation of the movie, but... it can't be helped, I'm afraid. However, a few years after I saw the movie, I started a B-movies category, and moved the review there. And just a few weeks later, I started a dystopian category, and moved the review there.
Anyway, the backstory is that in 1988, crime had gotten so bad in America that Manhattan island had been walled off as a prison where the worst convicts (or maybe all convicts) would be sent to stay forever. (They're left to their own devices; there are no guards on the inside, but escape is pretty much impossible.) Apparently it's so bad, that they're even given the option of execution, rather than imprisonment. And I kind of wonder how many actually choose that option. Oh, and incidentally... early on I kind of thought about the situation in The Dark Knight Rises. No doubt there are any number of TV shows and movies that have been to some degree influenced by this movie, but I'm sure this isn't the first story to have a place that's... whatever. Never mind. Um... so, Air Force One is hijacked by dissidents or whatever (or maybe it was just one dissident), and the plane is crashed into Manhattan. The President of the United States (Donald Pleasence) was on board, en route to a summit meeting which could potentially bring an end to whatever war the country was engaged in, I guess. And he escaped in a pod, but also landed within Manhattan. Police Commissioner Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) takes in a team to extract him, but he'd already been captured, and rescue by normal means was apprarently impossible.
So, the police left, and Hauk decided to try a different tactic. There was a convict named Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), who was a former war hero. He'd just recently been captured, and was about to be sent to the island. But Hauk offered him a pardon, if he could bring back the President (and an audiotape he was carrying) within 22 hours. Also, Snake was injected with something that would kill him at the end of that time limit, if he didn't return with the President in time for the... things... to be neutralized. Snake goes into the city, and um... soon meets a cabbie called Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine). Cabbie said he'd been driving his cab for 30 years, which made me wonder if he was actually a prisoner, since he must have been there before the island became a prison. But his backstory is never explored, so whatever. Um... Cabbie tells Snake that someone called the Duke (Isaac Hayes) had the President. The Duke, apparently, is the most powerful guy in the city. And Cabbie takes Snake to meet a man called Brain, who is apparently an associate of the Duke. Snake also meets a woman named Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau), who I guess was Brain's girlfriend, or whatever.
Anyway, Snake's mission seems practically impossible to begin with, but it quickly gets even harder than anticipated. And... I don't really know what to say. Things just suck. A lot. But somehow... Snake survives. And basically accomplishes his mission. But... the ending is about as far removed as you can get from "happy" and still call it a success. I can't say I really liked any of the characters, I can't say there was anything amusing about the movie. The action was decent, even if it's not on a par with what I've grown accustomed to. Um... it's a very dystopian movie, and I'd like to learn more about the world in which it's set. I'm not sure what else to say about this movie, though I do like the fact that it's so... unrelenting in its bleakness. I think a lot of movies try to make their anti-heroes likable, so it's kind of refreshing to see one who I don't think is any better than the villains. And Hauk certainly didn't seem like a good guy, either. It's just a crapsack world. And Snake... does his best not to make it any better.
But, yeah, I guess it was kinda fun.
Followed by Escape from L.A.