Escape From New York (USA/UK, 1981)

escape-from-new-yorkDirected by: John Carpenter. I had to check this out, but I’m not sure why. I guess I thought it would be good for my quota of campy 80’s cult movies, and this is certainly of that canon. This movie is definitely a welcome addition to the string of cynical, conservative, bad-hero movies that you can trace from, say, Eastwood’s Leone westerns, through Death Wish and Dirty Harry and beyond. I say a welcome addition because, for the  most part, I sort of hate that kind of thing: lone hero, grimly facing the disgusting detritus of humanity, the sole beacon of dark light in the hopeless cesspool of modern, post-civil rights civilization. Basically, movies for people who thought Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver was a really swell guy who only wanted to help society. The thing with this movie, though, is that because it’s in this dystopian, sci-fi, future-noir world (and a layer of charming low-budget camp for further distance), all of that gross, macho shit gets sort of taken down a peg. Basically, the film has a built-in fail safe to prevent it from being taken too seriously, which is pretty awesome. This isn’t even an ironic, self-detached, postmodern take on masculinity or violence or anything of the sort, but it actually has these detachments built into itself so that it can just carry on with its narrative without stopping, so you can actually just take it at face value. As far as having a good laugh goes, this isn’t actually all that “entertaining”, certainly not remotely like the last time I saw Messrs Russell and Carpenter collaborate, with the sublime Big Trouble in Little China. But, now that I think of it, that is an apples and oranges comparison. This is a worthy waste of your time, if only so that you can see Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes and Harry Dean Stanton in one movie.


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