Friday, April 10, 2009
Film Review: ESCAPE FROM L.A. (1996, John Carpenter)
Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 101 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Kurt Russell (who not only stars, but got his sole screenplay credit for this film), Peter Fonda, Pam Grier, Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Cliff Robertson (here, as the President, previously as the Oscar-winning "Charley," Hugh Hefner in STAR 80, and the unlucky ventriloquist in THE TWILIGHT ZONE's "The Dummy"), Peter Jason, Bruce Campbell.
Tag-lines: "Plan your escape!" AND "Snake is back."
Best one-liner: "Welcome to the human race."
So basically this is a remake of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. And that's not a problem. As long as John Carpenter is doing the remaking, that's totally cool. I wish he'd do more. Almost every element from the first installment is reprised here: Kurt is still Snake. There's a con perpetrated by the establishment to get Snake to work for the man. He has to go into a major American city that's been separated from the populace for moral reasons to accomplish a goal.
(And early in the '08 primary season, when Mike Huckabee was doing well, I could have sworn that the events of this film were going to come true.
Eh, they probably still will.) He's put up to it by a hardass (Stacy Keach here almost succeeding in the impossible task of filling Lee Van Cleef's Herculean shoes).
He meets a wacky guy who will help (Buscemi here kind of replacing Borgnine AND Harry Dean Stanton). There's an expendable female (A.J. Langer is no Barbeau). A sporting contest (a deadly basketball game replacing the ball-bat cage match), the titular escaping, and a finale where Snake turns the tables on those D-bags who put him up to this. Oh, wait, I left out one detail. Georges Corraface, as the Che Guevera-esque villain, is no Isaac Hayes.
Let me say that again. GEORGES CORRAFACE IS NO ISAAC HAYES. And I'm a little sick of the whole 'villain you thought was a revolutionary is really just a common thief' plot point that it feels like has been in every single action movie since Alan Rickman did it in DIE HARD. Alright, now that we got that out of the way, this is a damn fun movie. A lot of the shortcomings are nullified by the fact that Pam Grier plays a badass post-op (?) trans woman.
Like most Carpenters, it's got an awesome, mostly self-composed soundtrack, and an existential ending that sure has got balls. It's a bold ending, and I think that we'd all be better off if Snake actually were to do what he does in the film, which I shan't reveal here. "Welcome to the human race," indeed. Damn.
Alright, Snake, here are four stars to wedge and ram into various orifices of "the Man." John and Kurt, let's get it together and ESCAPE FROM EARTH.