I’m off to a sneak preview of the new sci-fi actioner Lockout this evening.
When I first saw the trailer, the only thing I could think was that it looked like a John Carpenter/Kurt Russell film without either of them (though some of the dialogue looks even cheesier) and more importantly, it looked like a Snake Plissken film, without Snake, or rather with Guy Pearce in the Snake role, now calling himself Snow.
So I thought before I watch it, I’d revisit the New York of 1997 and the Los Angeles of 2013.
I love John Carpenter movies.
Even his less than critically acclaimed ones I enjoy. I think he enjoys his craft, and likes making movies that he would like to see. His work with Kurt Russell, over the course of four films, I’m so hoping they do another one, are some of his most enjoyable.
If you don’t know what they are, here they are The Thing, Big Trouble In Little China, Escape From New York, and my least favorite of them, but still willing to sit through it, and admit that I enjoy a lot of it, Escape From L.A.
New York, set in the distant year of 1997 (it was distant in 1981), is sealed off, and is now nothing more than a prison island. In an act of terrorism, the President’s plane, Air Force One (sans Harrison Ford) is seized, but the president, wonderfully played by Carpenter alumnus Donald Pleasance uses an emergency escape pod.
Unfortunately, he lands in New York.
So recently captured scoundrel, anti-hero and all-around bad-ass, Snake Plissken (could Kurt Russell be ANY cooler in this movie?) is blackmailed by Lee Van Cleef into rescuing him. He’s implanted with an explosive device, and given 24 hours to recover the President and the tapes he’s carrying or his life is forfeit.
The film is filled with great lines (“I heard you would dead” is repeated almost every time Snake meets someone) and there’s a sense of backstory to Snake’s character, as well as referenced incidents that I would just love to know more about.
Aided by a cabbie played by Ernest Borgnine, and aided by Brain and his moll (Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau) Snake has to take on the Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes) and get the president out before time runs out.
The film has some sweet sequences, including Snake’s flight into New York in a glider, whose data screens look like computer images, but all had to be hand-drawn, the gladiator fight, the really creepy character of Romero (Frank Doubleday). New York is a lot of fun, and like I said, I love watching Kurt be such a bad-ass in this movie.
In 1997, Carpenter and Russell brought Snake back to the big screen with Escape From L.A. In the years leading up to and beyond the millennium an earthquake shatters California, causing the formation of Los Angeles island, which now serves as a deportation site for America to send it’s undesirables, banishing them once and for all from the new police state that is America.
Plissken has been caught by police forces (again), and is on his way to the deportation site when, once again, he’s blackmailed and coerced (via a lethal drug injection) into going into L.A. to execute the President’s daughter, an insurgent, but more importantly to reclaim a black box from her and Cuervo Jones.
This time he only has 9 1/2 hours (8 hours by the time he finally makes his insertion), and L.A. seems to be more dangerous than New York.
Some of the effects aren’t as good as those in New York, though the scope is wider, and some of it descends into pure cheese with Snake surfing a tsunami with Pipeline (Peter Fonda).
The one line callback that gets used instead of being dead, is “I thought you would be taller.” Once again, they make reference to other incidents and adventures that I would love to see, it sounds like he gets screwed over on a regular basis.
Steve Buscemi, Stacey Keach, Michelle Forbes, Cliff Robertson (as the president), Valeria Golino, Pam Grier, Leland Orser and Bruce Campbell all make appearances this time around.
There is some fun sequences, the Bangkok Rules bit, Campbell’s scene as the Surgeon General, the basketball court, the pure anti-hero moment that Snake pulls at the end of the film.
The film is fun, but New York is the stronger film.
I have to tell you though, I would love to see Kurt and John make another Snake story. Plissken is just so cool.