Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★½

Classic Carpenter in every detail, and one of the iconic badass movies of the '80s. Carpenter's junky/cheap/thinly executed style can be as frustratingly inadequate as it is hauntingly moody, but there's no denying the teeming allure of this movie - Snake Plissken is a great character, the supporting cast rocks (this time around Frank Doubleday as the ghoul Romero really stood out, and not just because I covet his ten gallon hair spikes), the score is essential like a heartbeat, and the premise is one of the more unforgettable in science fiction filmdom (even though it's all basically just a western and a prison break transported to the future).

Having seen it now only twice, and more than a couple decades apart between each viewing, I posit that it looms in the mind greater than it actually plays out on screen in the moment. Snake is just a copy of Eastwood archetypes, the pacing drags, seems like there's a lot more they could've done with Manhattan as a quarantined wild west for criminals, and by way of Mandela Effect I thought I remembered Snake's final act of cynical rebellion against the shitty president being a lot more grandiose (although I guess switching the tapes could have grave fall-out for the world war they're in). But this all just makes me respect the movie even more, actually, that it contains enough in pungent texture and salacious attitude without overstaying its welcome that it self-mythologizes big time and ripples out. Helps a little that it had a sequel, too, inferior mostly for being more aesthetically tacky with its eyesore digital effects work, but still a tonally honorable world-building continuation.

*I know there are a lot of other movies that have done the dystopian prison thing, but it didn't occur to me until now that the 1994 "No Escape" with Ray Liotta is a somewhat similar cousin to "Escape from NY". Solidly entertaining.

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