“I Heard You Were Dead.”

The thing you have to know about me is, I’ve seen Overboard about 876 times. It’s one of my mother’s favorite movies, and I grew up with it the way other kids might have grown up watching E.T. or The Dark Crystal. I know every single word of that movie. I could perform my own one-woman Overboard show.

So, when someone mentions Kurt Russell, my mind automatically goes to an Elk Snout Mountain Man working on a closet and sweating all over the place.

Other people, quite understandably, think of this guy instead:

Snake Plissken . . . so badass he doesn’t need depth perception.

I watched Escape From New York for the first time as part of my ongoing sci fi movie effort, and I have to say . . . I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. Parts of it were pretty awesome. I was definitely into some of the movie. But I had issues with the film as well.

It occurs to me that I might just be a picky bastard.

SUMMARY:

It is the year 1997. The crime rate has gone up to ridiculous levels, so the Man has decided to empty out New York and turn it into one big unguarded prison where they can just dump convicts off for life sentences. It’s not exactly a bad plan, except for the fact that the President has just crash landed smack in the middle of the city, and the government is left with no other option but to send one guy, motherfucking Snake Plissken, in to rescue him.

And who is Snake Plissken, you might ask? Well, he was once a decorated soldier because of course he was, but now he’s an infamous criminal. In exchange for his cooperation, Snake will be pardoned from all his crimes. Also, his neck won’t explode.

With a generous offer like that, it’s hard to imagine how Snake could refuse.

NOTES:

1. For whatever faults I find in the film itself, I really do enjoy Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken. After the slew of cheerfully inspirational films he chose to do in the early-mid 2000’s (read: Miracle) it’s nice to go back and watch Russell be a badass for awhile. It’s a good look on him. The man’s got good arms. I’m just saying. Any movie can be improved (at least marginally) by more attractive men showcasing their sculpted arms.

2. Although . . . I must point out here that the snake on Plissken’s stomach? At first glance, I actually thought it was a question mark.

Riddle me this, audience: how far down, exactly, does this tattoo go?

3. I also really like the look of New York. Honestly, there’s just nothing better than the 80’s version of dystopian and/or apocalyptic futures. The hair alone is just mindblowing. Plus, there always has to be that crazy, right-hand man. In The Road Warrior, for instance, he’s this guy:

While in Escape From New York, he’s this guy:

See what I mean about the hair?

I also like the idea of a city gone wild, the different kinds of groups that pop up and the hierarchy that emerges in the lack of normal social order. I particularly like the crazies who live underground. There’s something totally creepy about this gang of psychos that can get at you from under the floorboards.

4. I do, however, have some problems with pacing. The film is slower than I was expecting, not completely boring, mind you, but definitely slower. I think I actually wanted a little more action. (The fight scene between Plissken and the giant guy in the ring, though? Awesome!) Not to mention, there’s a segment of the film where Snake is knocked unconscious, and we’re forced to watch these other people that no one cares about for ten to fifteen minutes. I kept snapping my fingers, going, Okay, Snake, time to wake up and kick the shit out of people, please. I can only deal with Harry Dean Stanton for so long, thanks.

5. In fact, possibly the biggest flaw I have with this whole movie is the side characters. Which is interesting because it’s very common for me to be ambivalent about the title character/main hero and love all the sidekicks, but here it’s the other way around. While I’m all on board with Snake Plissken, I don’t give a damn about anyone else: Cabbie, Brain, Brain’s chick. There’s a scene with Brain’s Chick (Maggie—played by Adrienne Barbeau) near the end of the film that should be awesome . . . but it just isn’t because I just don’t care about her. I think a stronger supporting cast—or at least more time spent on character development for supporting roles—would make this a more interesting film to watch. Seriously, what the hell is a guy like Cabbie even doing in New York?

6. Despite these problems, though, I still had a good deal of fun bopping out to John Carpenter’s score, especially during some of the car chase scenes. Hee. More cowbell!

7. Also, you haven’t seen a pimped out car until you’ve seen a car with chandeliers.

8. This is one of those films that’s a little strange to watch after 9/11. I was fifteen when the Twin Towers fell, and I didn’t even know what the World Trade Center was. To see a movie now that starts with terrorists taking over a plane and crashing it into a building . . . followed by Snake landing his freaking glider on top of the Twin Towers . . . I’m not saying it’s bad or anything, just strange to see.

9. I definitely like the end of Escape From New York. It totally makes the whole film. Have I mentioned that Snake Plissken rocks? I want to see the continuing adventures of Mr. Plissken—although, from what little I remember of the sequel (I saw it once when I was like nine or something), the plot is almost exactly the same, isn’t it? I’m not sure if it’s worth watching, but the supporting cast of Steve Buscemi, Bruce Campbell, and Michelle Forbes might inspire me to try it out sometime.

10. Finally, I understand that when your commander-in-chief goes down, you want to be able to find him quickly. But maybe, just maybe, creating an escape pod for him that looks like a giant red egg with a huge presidential seal affixed to it might not be the smartest plan in the long run.

It’s just a thought.

TENTATIVE GRADE:

B

MORAL:

Politicians suck. Anarchy rules.

Also, don’t piss off any guys named Snake.

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5 Responses to “I Heard You Were Dead.”

  1. Kat says:

    I love love love Escape from New York. I’ll say this about Escape from L.A.: you should watch it once, just to do it, but keep in mind that it’s far inferior to the original. Ensign Ro fills the same role as Lee van Cleef did in the original, and she’s in it about as long. Steve Buscemi has a decent role, and Bruce Campbell is amusing, although he’s only in it for a little bit. Pam Grier is also amusing as Carjack Malone…excuse me, I mean Hershe Las Palmas.

  2. Fatpie42 says:

    the plot is almost exactly the same, isn’t it? I’m not sure if it’s worth watching

    Escape From LA is ONLY worth watching if you’ve seen Escape From New York first. It’s pretty much a spoof of its predecessor. Considering that Escape From New York could have done with being a little more over the top and exciting, I’d actually say that I preferred Escape From LA. But you really need to see Escape From New York first because there are so many in-jokes.

  3. Polly says:

    I guess you have to look at any movie in it´s original historical context- when Escape first came out, it was original and simply awesome!!Of course, you can look at it through todays looking glass, but it won´t do you any good.Cabbie is a reference to film noir and Forties/Fifties New York i would say.A reference to better days…. The snake tattoo looked good to people because fewer people had tattoos of that size and you never saw “film tattoos” yet. The concept of of terrorism in this movie is also pretty groundbreaking in hindsight. In fact, many movies and later, games drew from Escape, it was that far ahead of it´s time. It´s pace is very different from todays action movies, i agree.But i like that about it. The film score is one of the best ever imho….

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