- Movie Rating -

Escape from New York (1981)

| July 10, 1981

Escape from New York is a relatively small movie with very lofty goals.  It flies low, gets the job done in under 90 minutes and kinda leaves you wanting a bigger picture of its universe.  Let me see if I can explain.  The movie takes place in 1997 wherein America has become such a police state that the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a massive prison.  Within its walls are the worst of the worst of the worst.

But there’s a problem.  Air Force One has gone down and the President of the United States (Donald Pleasance) has been kidnapped.  The head of the Manhattan Prison Authority (Lee Van Cleef) needs someone who can retrieve the Commander-in-Chief and recruits/blackmails a former soldier named Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to do the job.  How does he get him onboard?  He poisons his blood with a time capsule that will go off in 12 hours if he doesn’t get the job done.

The adventure itself is a trek through the landscape of Manhattan with its various gangs, creeps, thugs, sickos and violent low-life’s who roam the streets as Snake works through the spiraling network of characters in order to reach The President himself.

That’s all well and good, but there’s something short-sighted about this movie.  It’s a comic book action picture that keeps its focus very small and limits itself where it should expand outward and tell us something about this violent world.  What are the rules here?  What is the hierarchy?  How is it maintained?  Who is really in charge here.  Instead of that, we get a lot of strange caricatures who roam into the scene, have a violent confrontation and are never seen again.

I liked what was here.  I liked Russell’s character who is sort of a take-off on the Clint Eastwood persona.  I liked Ernest Borgnine as the last cab driver in New York.  I liked Isaac Hays as a gangland ringleader, but somehow, I wanted something more.  I wanted to explore this world rather than just sort of occupy it.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1981) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized