day nine: escape from new york. [another day, another movie – post-apocalypse.]

Escape from New York is different than all the other movies so far. It’s unique in that the apocalypse isn’t worldwide. It’s only in New York, which from the perspective of 1981, when the film was made, is a pretty fair assumption.

As the story goes, in 1988, crime rises in the US by 400 percent. So, in response, they build a big wall around all of Manhattan and turn it into a super maximum security prison where criminals are sentenced for life. There are no guards inside, they just send you in and you’re on your own. It’s the perfect cocktail for all sorts of crazy-ass gangs and criminal bedlam.

In the distant future year of 1997, Airforce One is hijacked by crazy communist Americans (because Hollywood isn’t very good at imagining new bad guys), and it crashes inside Manhattan. The president is needed alive, because he was on his way to a summit in Hartford seeking peace with China and the USSR (who, apparently, have made up post-Omega Man, and have rekindled their war with America, resulting in WWIII).

The NYPD, who by ’97 is an army camped around the walls of the prison, has no choice but to send in the newest incoming inmate, former special forces super soldier and convicted bank robber, Snake Pliskin (overacted by Mr. Kurt Russell). He has to save the President of the ole’ US of A. Oh yeah, as well as a cassette tape that apparently has a bunch of important information on nuclear fusion on it… oh, the 80’s. If he fails, they’ll detonate charges they implanted in his neck and kill him instantly.

All sorts of crazy tomfoolery ensues. Pliskin, while great pains are taken to show us he’s a bad-ass, never feels organized or skilled enough to be a super-soldier. The movie is fun on a campy early-80’s level. No part of it is believable, or even makes much sense, but it definitely does have some things going for it, for example: Ernest Borgnine as a cabbie who, for some inexplicable reason, stayed behind to keep driving his cab when they walled off the city; Lee Van Cleef, as the head of the NYPD, who, for some inexplicable reason, is wearing a gold hoop earring; and Isaac Hayes as the self-appointed Duke of New York, who, for some inexplicable reason, doesn’t sing once.

If all you expect is stupid, absurdly campy, 1980’s dystopian “action,” it’s a moderately enjoyable hour and a half to spend watching a movie which has been influential in several genres.

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    • Brian
    • March 3rd, 2011

    You had me at Ernest Borgnine and cabbie.

    I wonder if this was Isaac Hayes’ only work where he didn’t sing … hmm…

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