Thursday, 6 September 2012

Escape from New York Commentary

If you remind yourself that this movie was released in 1981, it's actually pretty good.  Most of the time, movies that depict anarchistic situations in the near future do not age very well.  This is especially true when they are set up as being in an era of paranoia towards communism.  But, while Escape from New York is set up in that, it doesn't dwell on it.  Rather, it relies on the basic, self-contained story of getting the President off of Manhattan Island.  So it really is a story that could happen in any time period.

Don't get me wrong.  The situation is preposterous.  The notion of turning one of the most vibrant commercial centres of the world into a maximum security prison is laughable.  But, when you think of the time period, New York's crime rate was pretty staggering and the city was seen as a cesspool of urban decay and moral depravity.  While it's still a huge stretch, it isn't as preposterous as it would be now.  With this context, they do a very good job of setting the story in a wasteland of a city with very good set designs and locations.

Another reason this movie ages well is that it doesn't rely on special effects too much.  It relies on tension with Plissken working against the clock.  It does a very good job in moving through the story quickly.  A drawback to this is that it has to rely more heavily on the writing and acting.  For the most part, this is passable.  Lee van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, etc are all about what you would expect.  But Kurt Russel is downright terrible.  He looks the part very well.  And I can see that he was going for a guy who doesn't give a damn about anything.  But his portrayal of a badass is just way too wooden and lifeless.  (Another thing that bothered me is that it has one of the worst choreographed fight scenes that I have ever seen.)

Overall, though, it isn't a waste of time.  As I said, it moves quickly and does entertain.  So if you see it on one of those specialty cable channels, stop and see it.

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