Escape from L.A.

Escape from L.A. ★★½

Usually when you team director John Carpenter with action man Kurt Russell you can expect fireworks. Fifteen years had passed since Carpenter had given Russell arguably his most iconic role (until Stuntman Mike) as Snake Plissken, a one-eyed badass of biblical proportions. Escape From New York was a small budget film with a brilliant concept and the guile and vision of Carpenter along with Russell's star wattage made it a cult classic. Unfortunately this second run-out for Plissken is a bit of a damp squib.
If John Carpenter's vision of America's future ever comes true, god help them. After the totalitarian nightmare of Escape From New York, the surreal factor goes up a notch as we have Los Angeles, now an island after an earthquake, turned into another dumping ground for America's undesirables. Those include anyone who smokes, eats meat, swears, or has sex outside of marriage, the rest of the country are ruled by Cliff Robertson's Christian nutter of a President who just happens to need Snake Plissken's help.
The President's daughter has stolen a remote control to a super weapon and headed to L.A. to give it to revolutionary Cuervo Jones. Cue Plissken and yet another mission to save his own life. Gone are the talents of Donald Pleasence and Lee Van Cleef, replaced by the lackluster Cliff Robertson and Stacy Keach. That's the thing that you notice first about this film. It has a much bigger budget, but didn't spend it on the actors. Steve Buscemi, Peter Fonda, and fleeting turns from Pam Grier and Bruce Campbell don't quite make up for the likes of Harry Dean Stanton, Ernest Borgnine, Isaac Hayes, and Adrienne Barbeau. Even the set pieces and the stunts don't match up to the 1981 film and although it's unfair to keep comparing the two, as a huge fan of the first film I can't help it. The plot here is again nuts. There are all the usual loons thrown into the mix, but it's hardly a surprise that this just didn't work. Even Russell's Plissken lacks the intensity and sarcastic wit from NY, and although there is the odd laugh and clever use of satire, this is woefully short of what I expected.

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