Escape from L.A. (1996)
Director: John Carpenter
Steve Buscemi/Map of the Stars Eddie
In the future, L.A. has become a dumping ground for the un-desired of New America (basically a prison for the law breakers). When the President’s dim-witted daughter (Langer) steals a mysterious black box from the Senate and hides out in the prison, the government, once again, blackmails criminally-inclined Snake Plissken (Russell) in order for him to go in and retrieve it.
Let's face it, "Escape From L.A." is basically a big budget remake of Carpenter’s cult classic "Escape from New York". It has an identical premise and similar plot turns. It’s what "Desperado" was to "El Mariachi". Now I know I might get stoned for this, but I really enjoyed this sequel and still don’t get the lukewarm reception that it got upon its initial release. Then again, Carpenter can’t seem to get any respect these days ("Ghost of Mars" was a hoot!) What’s wrong with people?)
To a certain extent, L.A. bettered “New York” in some aspects. First off, the L.A. locations were very distinct, where in “New York” it could’ve taken place anywhere. We feel L.A. come through big time here. Hell...even Universal Studios makes a quick cameo in this wild ride! The action sequences were also way more involving than the ones found in “New York” due to the obvious larger budget. Want to see Snake surf a reckless wave through Wilshire Blvd with Peter Fonda doing the same (yes, THE Peter Fonda)? Right here, baby! How about seeing a hand glider, machine gun attack on a theme park? You got it, Tonto! The physical happenings were on the ball!
Much like "New York", Carpenter also slapped all kinds of slick character actors into the mix, upping the film’s fun factor a couple of notches! We get Bushemi, Keach, Fonda, Grier and more! Of course, the biggest treat of them all was the return of badass extraordinaire Snake “The Man” Plissken once again played perfectly by Kurt “Also The Man” Russell. Thankfully, good ol' Snake hasn’t changed one bit (one character even refers to him as looking retro early on) and it was nice to see that even though the times have changed, the bad boy remained the freaking same. You go Snake! Kick that ass!
Where “New York” and “LA” differed gravely though, was in tone. “New York” was dark and somewhat serious where L.A. took the opposite route, going the bright, campy way. On that front, I actually appreciated this sequel’s sense of humor. It’s not everyday that you get to see a dude shoot hoops for his life…funny stuff! Carpenter even took the time to add some semi-substance to his “yuk-yuks” by poking fun at America’s value system and Hollywood’s vanity in extreme ways. That surgeon general bit was hilarious in a twisted, yet scary, way because I see it happening, taking into account the context. Brrr!
My main beef with this sequel would have to be its script. It just didn’t flow like the one for “New York” did. Some of the characters didn’t get enough screen time for me to care (Talisma being one of them) and the pace somewhat dragged during the last block. The flick also almost felt patchy at times-- it all could’ve been tighter and meatier. But in the end, "Escape from L.A." was still a joy-filled watch for me. It played out everything with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and aimed to please the “cheese” lovers of the world. Even the obvious “fake” visual effects complemented the film by upping its endearing kitsch factor. I know not everybody felt this way, but I for one was ecstatic to see Snake back in the game. SNAKE LIVES!
We get some bullet hits and some creepy folks who’ve had too much plastic surgery. Not really gory.
Kurt Russell (Snake) did it again and managed to give us the same Snake after 15 years. He’s bad, he has no remorse and best of all...he’s kool. Steve Buscemi (Map of the Stars Eddie) did what he does best: play the weasel. Georges Corraface (Cuervo) was no Isaac Hayes, but still pulled off a charismatic turn as the villain. Stacey Keach (Malloy) did what he had to do and was fun to watch. Michelle Forbes (Brazen) showed up long enough to act like a bitch effectively. Pam Grier (Hershes) was hilarious as the gender confused she-male. Peter Fonda (Pipeline) had me cracking up as the surfer dude with a kind heart. Valeria Golino (Taslima) is pretty and a good actress, but her part here was weakly written. Cliff Robertson (President) played it straight and was actually kind of scary as the over-religious, Ronald Reagan-like President. Bruce Campbell showed briefly up as the Surgeon General. He looked pretty freaky under all that makeup, I didn’t even recognize him! A.J. Langer (Utopia) did the ditzy thang well and had a great ass!
T & A
The ladies get Snake’s impressive biceps and we get a few loosely dressed whores and Utopia (Langer) wearing a tight leather skirt that accentuates her buttocks.
Carpenter kept the pace going at light speed up until the hour mark where the film dragged just a little bit. Visually, the picture looked like an expensive B-movie with obvious blue screen and lots of bright colors. That made the movie look very cheesy, which for me, was a positive thing. It wouldn’t have worked if this sequel had retained the dark vibe of “New York” after all...this is L.A.
We got some slick tunes by Sugar Ray, Tori Amos, White Zombie and more! The kooler than kool “Escape” score by Carpenter and Alan Howarth also popped up.
You have to respect John Carpenter for making the films that he wants to make and not the ones people think he should make. No matter how much money you give the man, he’ll always deliver something that screams “Carpenter”. Here, he gives us a worthy sequel to “Escape from New York”, one that concentrates on camp and big fun. If you didn’t get the movie the first time around, give it another shot. If you still don’t warm up to it after that, what can I tell ya...maybe you need more Rum in your “Corn Flakes”.
At the beginning of the film, Russell wears the same Snake costume that he wore in "Escape from New York". It still fit after 15 years!