Escape from New York

Escape from New York ★★★★½

Carpenter's take on the prison film is to make the entire island of Manhattan into a maximum security penal colony and get rid of the guards altogether. It's set in 1997 when the US has become more or less a police state, which it kind of arguably already is and probably was when the film was released in 1981 with Reagan set to become commander and chief. Aside from political overtones, "Escape from New York" features a great cast including Kurt Russel as a prisoner condemned to the island but offered a way out if he can rescue the president, played by the totally inspired casting choice of Donald Pleasance, who's Air Force One was hijacked by lone woman terrorist and crashed into a NYC skyscraper, though Pleasance has some kind of escape pod. That says a lot. Once on the island he's picked up and delivered to the Duke Isaac Hayes, who's kind of leads the giant penal colony. The matchup of Pleasance against Hayes is pretty interesting. Russell is Russell, hardened vet, has some excellent lines, especially with Van Cleef, who you could see emerging from the Euro-westerns. The film reminded me of Walter Hill's "The Driver" for some reason, probably the way Russell says his lines was similar to how Ryan O'Neil did it. Kind of in your face. Isaac Hayes's car with matching chandeliers on each fender practically steals the show, but the film is like that, abundantly detailed out to bring home what NYC has become after all those crime infested sleaze-fests from previous films. Amazingly well done ending that's sick af.

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