Escape from New York
Not really that good
In 1988, the United States crime rate has risen to an unbelievable rate. To battle the resulting prison population, New York City (partially played by East St. Louis, Missouri) has been turned into a maximum security prison where the prisoners rule the streets.
The prison guards, based out of Liberty Island in New York Harbor, are only there to keep the prison population, all of which are serving life sentences, in the city. Once in the city, you do not come out alive.
Nine years later, Air Force One, en route to a summit, is hijacked and shot down. The "President of the United States" (the late Donald Pleasence) escapes in a life pod by the head of his personal security, and he lands within New York's city limits, where he is taken prisoner by the self-proclaimed leader of the city (music legend Isaac Hayes), who calls himself "The Duke of New York City".
In response to the threat "The Duke" has issued against the "President's" life, prisoner and military hero "Robert 'Snake' Plissken" (Kurt Russell, in one of his most famous roles) is picked to go into the city, where he is already well known, and get the "President" out in 24-hours so he can attend the summit. If he is able to bring the "President" out alive, he regains his freedom. But, he has no choice in doing the mission as he is injected with a microscoptic explosive which will rupture his carotid artery when the time limit is up.
First off, this movie is wrongly identified as science-fiction. The movie is in the near future, which makes it fall into the genre somewhat, and has computer graphics, which look cheap compared to today's standards. In fact, the computer graphics really don't hold up after all these years, and look like very cheap computer animation. It also falls in the action genre, but isn't heavy on the action. In fact, the action is pretty mild.
Another problem with this movie is character development. We are given the characters and their reason for being in the story, but we are barely given a backstory on these characters. As for the prisoners "Plissken" meets in the "Big Apple Poky" (I just made up that nickname), all we really know is that they are lifers, and never given why they are in the prison.
I felt that the action fails in this movie. There really is no suspense in these scenes I feel. The action is pretty good at best, but I have seen action handled better in other movies. Action should be fast-paced, and should put the audience on the edge of their seats. This movie, in my opinion, only has mild action.
I also believe that there was no chemistry in the cast. Russell played "Plissken" with a bad attitude and seemed to talk with his teeth clinched at all times. "Plissken" had no real personality except a bad one.
Don't get me wrong, the plot is pretty creative. I can't recall any other movie that either uses or mentions a well known city in such a way. This is a pretty original story here.
There is some violence in this movie, but it's not too gory. You don't get bodies of people with huge gunshot wounds on their body at all. You just get "dead" bodies with stage blood obviously poured strategically over them.
Strong language is also kept at a minimum I feel. In fact, I don't recall any really strong language in this movie.
Visually, the scenery is pretty interesting. I don't recall, after "Plissken" enters the city, and of the scenes being shot during the day. They made New York, actually East St. Louis, Missouri, look like a slum-meets-war zone. You would expect, being in a maximum security prison, the prisoners would have been wearing orange prison jumpsuits. You don't get that here. What you do get are clothes that appear to be worn in for a long time as if they were sent into the prison wearing only what they had on.
Inside the city, they are in a world of their own. And that is done with perfection here. You really get the feel that there is no rules in the city. People are there to do whatever is needed to survive.
Out of the entire cast, Russell is the only one I liked. However, I have to give Ernest Borgnine an honorable mention for making "Cabbie" an annoyingly talkative character, making him pretty memorable. Lee Van Cleff as "Hauk" was good at creating friction between he and Russell in their scenes together, but we really don't get this expanded upon. I also felt that Donald Pleasance was completely wrong for this role, or his character was horribly written.
I can't recommend this for a "Must See" list. I can only recommend that people see this movie because of its cult status that it has achieved over the years since it was released.