Escape From L.A. (1996) – John Carpenter

I love me some John Carpenter, and his work with Kurt Russell is always enjoyable, but this next stop in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book isn’t as good as it could have been, but I still enjoy parts of it, I mean there’s Kurt as Snake Plissken, again.

This time the year is 2013, L.A. has become isolated from the rest of the coastline through a series of earthquakes that has turned it into an island, a refuge for the damned, where undesirables are sent. But it seems the President’s (Cliff Robertson) daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer) is now on the island, having been used by a terrorist and her would be lover, Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface), with a terrible weapon that could send the world into a new dark ages.

So Snake is sent in. To stop things. Again.

Shirley Walker joins Carpenter in scoring the film, while in front of the camera Jamie Lee Curits delivers the opening narration, as she did for New York, as well as Stacy Keach, Pam Grier, Peter Fonda, Bruce Campbell, Michelle Forbes, Steve Buscemi, and Valeria Golino.

There are little asides I like, the fact that there are moral crimes, and that atheism is one of them. You have to wonder if the tea-party republicans got into office and ruined everything for everyone all the time. I also dig the constant references to events outside of the film, like some thing terrible happening in Cleveland.

It’s almost a rehash of the first film, without much new to offer us, and some of the visual effects are truly horrendous. But it is Russell being absolutely bad-ass.


There are pointed comments about Hollywood ‘society’ from plastic surgeons to agents and maps to the stars, but a number of the cameos, if that’s what we want to call them are sometimes a little too on the nose and instead of being sly nods and winks, they are just beyond camp.

That doesn’t mean that Russell isn’t awesome as Snake, he’s awesome period. And it’s still a Carpenter film, but it’s almost too studio looking, and doesn’t have the independent edge that the original has.

The anti-hero ending is perfectly in keeping with Snake’s character, and could almost, almost, make you forget the ridiculous surfing scene.

Of all of Carpenter’s films this is probably one of my least favourites, and seems like a bit of a mistake, which is too bad, because Snake, and Kurt’s portrayal of him, is one of the greatest anti-heroes of all time. At least as far as I’m concerned.

I really wanted to love this one, when it first came out, and when I come back to visit it every few years, bur nope, just doesn’t seen to realise it’s potential and also is a little too much like the first to make it exceptional.

Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to see Kurt saddle up as Snake one last time…

Or at least work with Carpenter again!




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