Sunday, June 01, 2014

Escape From L.A.

John Carpenter’s sequel to 1981’s ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK assembles a darn good cast, but wastes it on a story that basically repeats the original film, right down to the duplication of certain scenes and dialogue. Instead of New York, snarling antihero Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell, who didn’t age much in fifteen years) hits Los Angeles, which was separated from the continental United States by a tremendous earthquake and is now—you got it—the shipping destination for the criminals, freaks, and malcontents deemed unworthy by the federal government.

As before, Plissken is captured, infected with a deadly virus that will kill him if he doesn’t complete his mission in time, and sent by prison warden Stacy Keach (FAT CITY) into L.A. to rescue—not the President—but the daughter of the fundamentalist Chief Executive (Cliff Robertson). Along the way, again just like in NEW YORK, Plissken meets a colorful bunch of weirdos played by a cult-movie lover’s dream cast: Steve Buscemi, Peter Fonda, Michael Forbes, Pam Grier, Robert Carradine, Valeria Golino, and Bruce Campbell included.

The screenplay, credited to Carpenter, producer Debra Hill, and Russell, not only copies the exact same story from NEW YORK, but also the structure, catchphrases, and nihilism, which played differently in 1996 than it did in 1981. Plissken also has to retrieve a McGuffin—a “black box”—like the cassette tape from NEW YORK. Unfortunately, what seemed fresh and funny and exciting the first time around plays like limp linguini this time.

Doubly frustrating are the visual effects, which cost several times the effects created by New World in the first picture, but somehow managed to come out abominably. A scene of Russell and Fonda surfing a monster wave (!) is one of the worst visual effects sequences I’ve ever seen and should not have been allowed to survive the final cut. Beyond the novelty of recognizing actors you love (Leland Orser, George Corraface, Peter Jason, and A.J. Langer are there too) and a surprising downbeat ending, there is nothing to recommend in ESCAPE FROM L.A. Even Russell, who produced with Hill, seems disinterested.

1 comment:

teddy crescendo said...

I have to disagree, i`ve always thought that "Escape from L.A." is a quite magnificent movie and ludicrously under-rated, in my opinion its better than "Escape From New York" which was slightly over-rated.