Escape from L.A.

Escape from L.A. ★★½

Aggressively idiotic, childishly bombastic, and more a parody of its predecessor than a proper sequel, Escape from L.A. is a misguided misfire that forgets nearly everything that made the original film a cult classic, while being mired by painfully amateurish CGI, whose few redeeming qualities are the performances from lead Kurt Russell, Stacy Keach, and Pam Grier.

I watched both of the Escape From flicks back to back and was struck by the degree to which Mr. Carpenter really phoned in this unnecessary sequel. A guy known for his ability to make cult movie magic on tiny budgets and for his mastery of integrating practical effects to the gut-wrenching delight of his audiences, in this film Carpenter forgoes his roots and his better judgment as he embraces some of the worst CGI you'll ever see outside of a cut-scene from an early-2000's video game. Sometimes shitty old special effects can be charming and endearing to watch through today's lens. Not here. The lack of attention to detail and overall sloppiness is astounding, especially as this film was released five years after Terminator 2 revolutionized CGI effects, and had the benefit of a hefty (for its time) $50 million budget. Where did the money go? Maybe into co-writer Kurt Russell's pocket, but definitely not up on screen.

In this go-around, Snake has to infiltrate Los Angeles, which is now a self-governing island floating off the coast of California, to retrieve a MacGuffin brought there by the President's daughter that's going to stop an invasion of the good old US of A by an alliance of 3rd world nations. Instead of a glider, he rides a computer-generated submarine into the city. Armed with a bevvy of devices that would make 007 jealous, he meets a few people and eventually gets out. Fortunately he stays true to character and never really gets a soft spot for any of the supporting players that help and hinder him along the way. And his disrespect for anything and anyone not named Snake Plissken is on full display, as he kicks his anti-authoritarian nihilism up about 12 notches in the film's final frames.

Besides the rotten special effects that just take you right out of the movie, what I didn't care for this time around was how the goofiness meter was turned to eleven. Last time around, the movie was silly and campy, but everybody took themselves quite seriously. Here, it seems like everybody's in on the joke (on the audience) which detracted from my enjoyment of seeing Snake back to his antics again. In the original, he was the preeminent badass. Here he's playing a parody of Snake.

Bottom line, this flick is a forgettable little romp that didn't need to happen but at the same time wasn't entirely offensive. I suppose it might fall into "so bad it's good" territory and its sins can be easily forgiven since the whole concept behind these films is so silly to begin with. I suppose I might recommend it if you're in the mood for something entirely ridiculous or maybe if you are just hankering for just one last dose of the old Snake Plissken.

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