Ian West’s review published on Letterboxd:
Countdown clock prison island dystopia jam from Carpenter nails everything I love about this particular genre... and movies in general.
First off, let me get this out of the way: this is my favorite cast of any movie—loaded with Carpenter’s wrecking crew of usual suspects... and they’re all cynical assholes—The Duke, Brain, Bob Houk, Maggie, Buck Flower! Rehme, Romero, the President (of what?), CABBIE (!) and Snake... who’s some kind of Howard Hawks hero with the sensibility of a Leone no name, gritted teeth drifter. Not the greatest cast ever assembled, but definitely the greatest cast of whoevers ever assembled, at least for me.
The story is so damn good and it almost seems mythic now, yet the simplistic nature of it is mind boggling—but than again if anyone excelled at minimalistic great ideas, it’s Carpenter. Despite the countdown clock nature, everything unfolds so smoothly and without rush, until the gladiator match (I love that in every post apocalyptic/crumbled Lord of the Flies dystopia civilization movie seems to have a Roman gladiator fight) ends and the last act ramps the pacing/tension into perfection as far as I’m concerned—there’s so many little moments in this that appeal to me more than most things in most movies... Brain living in the public library, the Plane hijackers speech, the show being put on in the theater that Cabbie is watching, (if you get a chance read the lyrics to that holy shit), and every moment that a musical stab/soundtrack mood kicks in delivering my favorite kind of synth atmos.
That brings me to Ernie borgnine. Cabbie is my favorite character in this movie, and perhaps one of my fav movie characters of all time? I adore Ernie B so much and I’m pretty sure that love started here, as a character in Carpenter’s island of misfit toys. Honestly, this is a perfect movie for me, it’s usually classified as sci-fi action, but I dunno, it’s filled with just enough self awareness and so much charming weird that sometimes I feel like the phrase Cult Classic was designed specifically for fables such as these.
It’s really something to think about that over the past 9 years and 11+ months, the love affair movies (especially indie) have had with John Carpenter’s influence has been intense, for better or for worse—he might be the most influential filmmaker of the decade and I think there’s even articles about that.
If I made a short list of my ten favorite movies this would be on it—5 stars.