Friday, November 2, 2012

Escape from L.A. (John Carpenter)

A Snake in Hollywood.

After rescuing Blofeld, oh, I mean the U.S. President and escaping from the madhouse that is New York city in the first film, Snake Plissken (reprised by Kurt Russell), in a logic applicable only to action movie sequels, gets drawn back yet again to this little parlor game of rescue and escape. This time, the place of choice is the city of angels. 
Although this film is not that successful in recreating the unique atmosphere of "Escape from New York" and may also be accused of having one action scene too many, this is still one hell of a ride. Plus, it has also solidified Snake Plissken's status as perhaps one of the greatest cult anti-heroes ever. 
With this film being almost identical to its predecessor's story and premise, "Escape from L.A." has also re-introduced us to Snake in very much the same manner as in "Escape from New York": In cuffs, escorted by armored guards and wearing that perennial frown. 
As usual, before he was even officially incarcerated, he was greeted yet again with another potential pardon riding on the shoulders of another dangerous mission. Oh, the bars were raised a bit high this time too; if Snake was given a full 24 hours to save the President in "Escape from New York", here in "Escape from L.A.", he's only given nine hours to successfully recapture a doomsday device brought into the Los Angeles wastelands by none other than the President's daughter. And to up the ante and heighten Snake's sense of urgency even more, a toxic substance was once again put into his system. These bureaucratic people know that Snake is a dangerous man yet they are also aware that he always gets the job done. But what they are not aware of is that Plissken is not named after a predatory creature for nothing. In the end, you'll laugh at the world and smile with Snake.      

Tone-wise, "Escape from L.A." is very, very different from the first film mainly because of the generational gap between the two. Made during an era (the mid-'90s) when the MTV culture is the 'thing', John Carpenter has dropped the visual aspects that have made "Escape from New York" so fascinatingly atmospheric (the slow pacing, the dark renditions of graffiti-laden street corners and whatnot) and has instead chosen to conform with what is in-demand at the time (abundant action scenes and some heavy doses of rock music); the result was definitely a hit and miss. 
It's a 'hit' because we are given the fun chance to see Snake play some life-threatening hoops, surf his way through a tidal wave alongside Peter Fonda and hang glide with a male-voiced Pam Grier amid the ironic ruins of an apocalyptic Los Angeles. But then again, it's also a 'miss' because we're not given enough time to absorb Carpenter's visualization of a Los Angeles gone mad quite enough because the film itself is much more concerned with the progression of the film's MacGuffin-furthered plot and how action scenes may fit into it more than anything else. But despite of that, I have still enjoyed the film well enough, particularly its overall campy tone and clever ending (written entirely by Kurt Russell himself). This is pure escapist fun right here.


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