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Escape from L.A. Reviews

Escape from L.A.

A hoot and a half

Posted : 6 months, 1 week ago on 13 October 2013 03:45

"I shut down the third world, you win they lose. I shut down America, they win, you lose. The more things change, the more they stay the same."

Arriving fifteen years after the low-budget cult classic Escape from New York, 1996's Escape from L.A. is the very definition of fun, trashy entertainment. See, whereas the original 1981 movie was a bleak, gritty post-apocalyptic tale, this follow-up is a campy, deliriously over-the-top actioner, and the result is better than most critics are willing to admit. Unfortunately, the movie entered cinemas to little fanfare, and earned only $25 million at the box office, a disastrous amount considering its $50 million budget. Even though Escape from L.A. is far from perfect, it's enjoyable enough, and action fans should find it worth at least a rental.

In the year 2000, a gigantic earthquake desecrates Los Angeles, severing it from the mainland and reducing it to an island. The President of the United States (Cliff Robertson) declares that L.A. is no longer part of the country, turning it into a deportation region for the country's least savoury citizens. Hence, L.A. becomes a lawless zone populated by murderers, psychos and criminals, and a one-way trip to the island is equal to a death sentence. In the year 2013, the President's daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), steals a remote control unit for a doomsday device, and absconds to L.A. to hand the device over to a guerrilla leader. Criminal Snake Plisskin (Kurt Russell) is captured by the government, but offered a full pardon if he agrees to enter Los Angeles and retrieve the device. Although he refuses the assignment, he's forced to do it - he has been injected with a virus that will kill him in ten hours, and he will only be given the antidote if he completes the mission.

The screenplay by Russell, Debra Hill, and director John Carpenter essentially rehashes Escape from New York, following an almost identical narrative trajectory, right down to Snake having his cooperation forced by being injected with a virus (as opposed to a bomb, like in the original) that will kill him in a matter of hours. The difference is, this time the action takes place in the City of Angels. Luckily, Carpenter takes full advantage of the change of scenery. Escape from L.A. takes satirical jabs against L.A.'s entertainment industry, and sets its sights on plastic surgery too. Moreover, the fact that this is a typical copycat sequel seems to be a sly act of satire in itself. Well played, Mr. Carpenter. Luckily, the film is full of killer dialogue, with Plisskin again having a field day with one-liners (after being told that the United States no longer permits smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, guns, foul language or red meat, Plisskin sarcastically quips "Land of the free..."). Meanwhile, the ending is absolutely kick ass, as it's unexpected and shocking in all the right ways.

Whereas Escape from New York was a low-budget movie, Escape from L.A. was produced for $50 million, no small chunk of change in 1996. It's therefore bewildering that the visual effects are so astonishingly inept, often going beyond cheesy to become outright embarrassing. The CGI is obvious and lacking in detail, not to mention the integration into the live-action elements is completely slipshod. Production values are otherwise strong, however, with expansive set design which makes the most of the Los Angeles setting. Indeed, Carpenter gives us a tour of L.A.'s ruins, showing changed geography and the desecration of recognisable sites. The action set-pieces are frequently solid here, too. As good as it was, Escape from New York does suffer from pacing difficulties, a flaw that Carpenter himself has even acknowledged. Escape from L.A. rectifies that flaw, as Carpenter fills the movie with big, colourful action sequences. It's a lot more fun than its predecessor as a result, but it does lack the enthralling atmosphere of New York. Also worth mentioning is the terrific music. White Zombie contributed a song to the soundtrack, and there are some enjoyable compositions courtesy of Carpenter, too. The main theme is very catchy indeed.

Russell has publically stated that, out of all the characters he has played during his career, Snake Plisskin is his favourite. Luckily, he slips back into the role with ease here. Russell is again a muscular badass who accepts no nonsense, speaks in a raspy Clint Eastwood-like voice, and shows complete disrespect for authority. If anything, the fact that Russell is fifteen years older here is a benefit, as he looks even more badass. He's a huge asset to the film, and the reason why Escape from L.A. is as entertaining as it is. The supporting cast, meanwhile, is pretty packed, though none of the actors actually appear for very long. Most notable is Steve Buscemi, who's as strange as ever playing the role of "Map to the Stars" Eddie, while Bruce Campbell shows up for a single scene as a big-shot plastic surgeon. It's unfortunate that Campbell was not given more to do, but he does get a few laughs. Also present here are Peter Fonda, Pam Grier, Stacy Keach, and several others, but this is really Russell's show.

Taken as a film, Escape from L.A. is pretty bad, littered with cheesy effects and driven by a corny screenplay. Taken as pure beer-and-pizza entertainment, though, the movie is good enough. It's not even a classic in its genre, but it is a fun watch with its low-rent CGI and deliriously enjoyable action. Reportedly, Carpenter and Russell had planned to create a third Snake Plisskin adventure, Escape from Earth, after completing Escape from L.A., but the film's staggeringly low box office numbers unfortunately spelt death to that plan. It would have been very interesting to see further adventures of Plisskin, especially due to the way this film closes, but at least we will always have the first two movies to enjoy. Taken in the right mindset, Escape from L.A. is a hoot and a half.


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An average movie

Posted : 2 years, 2 months ago on 2 February 2012 08:45

Snake Plissken is one of the most badass characters ever created and it is not a surprise that, after all these years, the finally decided to make a sequel to his first adventure. It is probably the most charismatic character in Kurt Russel's career and, once again, he delivered a solid performance. The main issue is that, unfortunately, the plot is way too similar to the first installment. I mean, you could almost consider it a remake instead of a sequel, seriously. I guess the die-hard fans must have been very glad but, honestly, I thought it was rather disappointing. I mean, it could have been awesome to see Snake Plissken in some new adventures in this doomed futuristic world but I guess, it wasn't meant to be. By the way, in my opinion, it was also the last decent flick directed by John Carpenter. After that, he made only 3 movies ('The Ward', 'Ghosts of Mars, 'Vampires') and all were rather worthless, if you ask me. To conclude, it is a rather disappointing sequel but it is still pretty entertaining and it is definitely worth a look, especially if you missed Snake Plissken.

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same story different city

Posted : 6 years, 5 months ago on 29 October 2007 04:48

John carptenter's Escape from L.A. has a parallel story to that of his earlier film "Escape from new york". Kurt Russell is back as the Badass he was in New york just this time theres new co-stars and a diferent city. This time steve Buscemi is Ernest Borgnine's shoes this time around instead of being the cab driver he's Hollywood ED the guy who knows the street. The same could be said about Peter Fonda's character who is the surfer dude who wants to catch the big wave. Stacey Keach is the guy who tells Plissken whats up and what he has to do. Michelle Forbes is basically just a supporting actress getting a paycheck. Pam Gier and and A.j Langer make up for the female lead because there really is no female lead act. when langer dies off Grier is there to cover. The story is so similar that even Carpenter's cool and fun score in the begining of the film is the same as the opening in New york. Not to mention the same female voice over is almost the same. But, no matter how the story is told it's till a classic movie.

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