Awfully Good: Escape from L.A.

For a while I had decided my potential firstborn son would be named Kurt Russell Adams. After much feedback deeming that too silly and/or cruel, I've decided to go with Jack Burton Adams. Thanks for all your support

Escape From L.A. (1996)

Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Kurt Russell, Steve Buscemi, Cliff Robertson

Is there a plot?

Snake Plissken is back and apparently in the 15 years since he left New York he's spent his spare time surfing, playing basketball and hang gliding.

What's the damage?

It's only recently that I've been able to come to terms with the fact that ESCAPE FROM L.A. isn’t a very good movie. I grew up on John Carpenter and Kurt Russell flicks (literally… I think I was 4 the first time I saw BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA) and the second ESCAPE movie was the first new film of theirs that I saw in the theater. At the time, I thought it was awesome. Don't get me wrong; it is fantastic just to see Russell back in the eye patch and kicking ass on celluloid. But the movie is bad. So bad.

  Though they were warned by John Carpenter ahead of time, the actors on set were never ready for Kurt Russell's surprise bear hugs.

There's still some stuff to like here, mainly Russell in a role that he obviously loves and an apocalyptic Western vibe and social satire that Carpenter equally adores. But there's also a lot of stupid. Fans waited 15 years for the return of Snake Plissken and this is what they got:

  Oh, how different Spider-Man would've been if instead of "With great power comes great responsibility," Uncle Ben had been a Nazi.

  • Snake Plissken playing a game of HORSE to the death
  • Snake Plissken hang-gliding as a means of stealth attack
  • Snake Plissken surfing a tsunami alongside Peter Fonda's stoner surfer criminal Pipeline
  • Peter Fonda playing a stoner surfer criminal named Pipeline
  • Unbelievably bad CG, even for 1996.  There's poorly rendered helicopters, a submarine, and the infamous shark, which, in a clear warning of things to come, Snake actually jumps.
  • Perhaps the most pointless torture device ever, the Treadmill of Death! "Oh no, Snake has to do cardio!"


Production Design by John Wayne Gacy

  • Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson) as a right-wing President who uses a national tragedy to push his own religious agenda. Wait, what?
  • Steve Buscemi stretching his acting chops as a slimy character who has no loyalties
  • Pam Grier as transsexual former colleague of Snake Plissken named Hershe Las Palmas
  • HOT SHOTS hottie Valeria Golino as a Muslim from South Dakota who gets killed off at hilarious speed
  • Stacy Keach as some guy who is constantly ignored by Snake Plissken
  • Bruce Campbell under heavy prosthetics as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills, who leads a cult of plastic surgery addicts

Keep in mind this is all in addition to the main plot of Snake trying to rescue the President's daughter and bring back a rogue weapon (which is pretty much just a remake of the first movie).

"Pardon me, have you seen a Giant Octopus around here anywhere?"

The one thing that actually works well is the final ending. It's silly in every way (…exactly how many people would die when all electrical devices around the world shut off?), but in the anarchic spirit of the character and the franchise it works, and unlike the rest of the movie, is memorable in a good way. It also reeks of Carpenter and Russell sitting around in 1981 throwing around cool ideas for sequels. "Hey, wouldn't it be badass if Plissken turned out all the lights and reset the world back to the Stone Age?" "Sweet! Let's write a whole movie around that!" And that's exactly what ESCAPE FROM LA feels like—ridiculous filler leading up to an interesting finale.

"Honey, I got reeeeeal ugly!"


"Best" Line

Only Kurt Russell could make this exchange work so well.

"Best" Parts

1) Five of the film's most ridiculous scenes, including surfing, hang gliding, motorcycle vs horse, a CG submarine, and the infamous basketball game.

2) The best death, by far.

Nudity Watch

Nope. Though is it wrong to still be turned on by tranny Pam Grier?


  Regardless, this movie has Bruce Campbell in it! Buy it here!

Play Along at Home!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • Someone tells Snake they thought he'd be taller
  • Somebody brings up Cleveland
  • There's western music
  • Snake jumps the shark
  • Bruce Campbell cops a feel
  • A helicopter gets hit by a missile, but the fire only hits the backseat and Snake is okay

Double shot if:

  • The great Al Leong makes an appearance


Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email and give him an excuse to drink.

Source: Digital Dorm



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