Escape from New York (1981) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
306 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
Classic anti-hero
grendelkhan17 December 2003
Snake Plissken is the classic anti-hero, ala Clint Eastwood's Man-with-no-name. Plissken is an ex-soldier turned criminal, recruited/blackmailed into rescuing a hostage president from the prison of New York City. Plissken is a walking ball of anger and a survival machine. He fought for his country but had everything taken from him, so he started taking back. Now, he has to rescue a man he doesn't care about, if only to survive long enough to take his revenge on Hauk and the government.

John Carpenter's film is a masterpiece of dark humor, suspense, and great characters. The film channels the anger and distrust of the post-Vietnam/Watergate era, as well as the then-current Iranian Hostage crisis. Plissken represents, in a fashion, the Vietnam vets who did their job, even if they didn't agree with or understand their war, but came back to nothing. The film's novelization explores these themes better than the movie, but it is hinted at in Hauk's briefing. It also depicts a fascist police state, one that some would say is not too far from reality.

Kurt Russell is excellent in what was a breakout performance for him. Up to this point, Russell had been stuck in low budget comedies, following the end of his Disney days. This performance, coupled with another collaboration with Carpenter, Elvis, led to bigger and better roles. Russell channels Clint Eastwood to give Snake a menacing, if laconic quality. Much like a real serpent, Snake watches and strikes when he is ready; with speed and impact. Russell is able to say a lot with little dialogue, through his body language and facial expressions.

The supporting cast is wonderful. Adrienne Barbeau is the beautiful, but deadly Maggie. She is partnered with the intelligent, but slimy Brain. Their's is a symbiotic relationship; each provides something the other needs. Harry Dean Stanton, a great character actor, presents a Brain that is smart, but ruthless, and more than a bit cowardly. Isaac Hayes is The Duke, ruler of the prison. Hayes is a bit uneven, as he wasn't an experienced actor (he had at least one movie before this) but he is a charismatic performer and ultra-cool. Donald Pleasance is the consummate politician, a big man in his controlled environment, but lost in a world outside his; one he had a hand in creating. Ernest Borgnine is tremendous as Cabby, the answer man and link between Snake and the rest of the cast, as well as to the past of New York. Finally, Lee Van Cleef brings some of that Angel Eyes magic as Hauk, the prison Warden. Hauk is an ex-soldier and identifies with Snake. The difference is, Snake rebelled against the system that betrayed him; Hauk joined it. This was Van Cleef's last good role, before he was saddled with mediocrity in his tv series, the Master, and became the butt of jokes on MST3K.

The film moves at a brisk pace and the dark lighting carries the sense of mystery, isolation, and destruction. Carpenter is able to convincingly hide the fact that he shot this film in St. Louis and LA, and make you believe it is New York. Although there are gaps in logic and missing information, the pace doesn't let you dwell on it. There is a constant feeling of the race against time. If there is any complaint, it's that the budget sometimes holds back some of the action, but characterization makes up for it. Also, the dark lighting is sometimes too dark, and details are obscured.

The new special edition dvd brings a treat to long-time fans: the deleted opening bank robbery and capture of Snake Plissken. Since I had read the novelization before seeing the film, I had long wondered what this sequence had looked like. Although it does explain why Plissken is on his way to the prison when Hauk intercepts him, it doesn't really work in context with the rest of the film. The sequence worked well in the book because of Snake's inner monologue and memories of his mission in Leningrad and the loss of his parents to government action. We understand Snake's hatred of the government and his nihilistic nature. In the sequence, as shot, we don't really get a sense of who Plissken is; just that he has apparently committed a crime and is on the run. We don't really get a feel for his relationship with his partner, which affects the emotional impact at the end of the sequence. Ultimately, the film works better without this footage.

A note on the commentary track: Ox Baker was not seven feet tall. He is probably closer to the 6'6" to 6'7" range, although he was over 300 pounds. His bulk makes him appear larger than he really is, especially in a wrestling ring.

One used to wonder what this film would have looked like with a bigger budget. Carpenter sort of answered that with the sequel, Escape from LA. It was essentially the same film, with better effects and a West Coast sensibility; but, it doesn't hold a candle to the original. The lower budget caused the cast and crew to be more creative and they succeeded far better here. It would be good to see Snake again, but in a new environment, with a different plot. Russell's age could be an asset, as Carpenter could examine an older Snake, who must rely more on cunning than physical skills.
99 out of 111 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A classic film John Carpenter's the best Action Sci-Fi flick
ivo-cobra815 October 2015
Escape from New York is a 1981 American dystopian action film co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter.A classic film.

Escape From New York (1981) Is also one of my personal favorite classic Action Sci-Fi John Carpenter movies. It was also the first movie I ever saw from John Carpenter as a child and It I still the best movie in my opinion. I love this movie to death I own it on Blu-ray tough it doesn't have great video quality like it should have I still love it to death. Kurt Russell is Snake Plissken period! Also Lee Van Cleef Is also in it from a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly I just love those Western movies to death. Adrienne Barbeau from The Fog is also in it and she is the beautiful, but deadly Maggie.

The plot is set more in the future American by the late 90's. In 1997, when the US President crashes into Manhattan, now a giant maximum security prison, a convicted bank robber is sent in for a rescue. In a world ravaged by crime, the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a prison which houses the world's most brutal inmates. And when the President of the United States crash lands inside, only one man can bring him back: Snake Plissken, a notorious outlaw and former Special Forces war hero who, in exchange for a full pardon, descends into the decayed city and wages a blistering war against the captors. But time is short: in 24 hours, an explosive charge planted inside Snake's body will end the mission -- and his life -- unless he succeeds.

You've got Kurt Russell, wearing a freaking eye patch and toting a massive assault rifle, squatting in the middle of a fire. You know, just taking it easy, popping a squat while the city burns around him. Non-plussed. Chillaxed. In the background, Lady Liberty's decapitated head lies in the middle of the street, her copper-green eyes staring vacantly up into a crowded, off-kilter skyline. What the hell happened, I wondered. I'd have to wait for Cloverfield to find out, because, as it turns out, that nifty piece of poster art-while summing up the film's nothing is sacred attitude and permanently establishing Kurt Russell as an icon of badass - has no relation to the film's plot. When I finally managed to see the movie, I kept waiting for Lady Liberty's head to get blown off, but it never happened. I was a little disappointed. And in a way, that's still how I feel about Escape From New York. The premise is a near-perfect action movie set-up, and the world that John Carpenter creates has so much potential for edge-of- your-seat storytelling, but the end result doesn't fully deliver on its promise. But that's not to say that it doesn't have its moments of undiluted awesomeness. Long proclaimed as an action film cult classic, there's surprisingly little action in Escape From New York, at least, not of the Michael Bay, in your face, two explosions per minute variety, the kind to which today's Rockstar-infused audiences are acclimated. Watching the film now, nearly thirty years after it hit theaters in 1981, EFNY seems curiously slow-paced. Snake limps through the city, occasionally bopping a guy in the face, occasionally busting a cap.

The film is John Carpenter best work I have seen, there are some other films I don't like, Escape From New York (1981) is one of the best cult classic films from John carpenter and Kurt Russell. Kurt Russell's iconic character of all time Snake Plissken is his best roles of all time on the screen, I have ever seen. I also love the sequel to death the same as I love this film. Snake Plissken is an ex-soldier turned criminal, recruited/blackmailed into rescuing a hostage president from the prison of New York City. Lee Van Cleef as Bob Hauk New York Police Commissioner did a great job portraying one of the most memorable characters. I wish he would return in the sequel but he couldn't because 8.later the actor died. Rest in peace Lee.

I love main theme music from John Carpenter and Alan Howarth and I enjoy some action scenes performed from Kurt Russell in the film.

I love this film to death and It is my favorite action science fiction flick of all time I love it. 10/10
14 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A rough and enjoyable film built on a great character in Snake and a great performance from Russell
bob the moo13 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
On his way to an important conference that will determine the fate of America, Air Force One is crashed into Manhattan island - leaving the President and vital information trapped within the single largest prison in the world. With very little time and no way to mount a full on attack, Chief Hauk forces the newly captured ex-war hero Snake Plisskin to launch a covert rescue mission - adding the extra incentive of timed bombs implanted in his body. Snake, with little other choice, accepts the mission to save his own neck (literally). If the remake had any value, hopefully it's value was in bringing a new audience to the original film and watching it for the first time. The film opens with that very distinctive electronic theme music that gives it such a cool feel from the very getgo. This is followed up by a great rough energy as we are introduced to this future (which is now the past!). This story continues quite well but, once all the main players have been introduced, the film falls back on the expected series of 'running away' and fighting. This is not to say that it still isn't quite fun and cool because it is. The effects, music and even the use of tapes make this film feel very old and dated but it actually goes hand in hand with the very rough feel that Carpenter gave to several of his films at the time (whether deliberately or budget influenced I don't know). The plot is full of silly moments and sheer gaps in logic but, if you buy into the mood of the film, you can get by these and enjoy it - though I define you to call this a 'great' film, maybe good. The casting of Kurt Russell is a major thing. He is iconicly cool and his performance and his character are the two main things that have kept this film well known down the years. He looks tough and talks tough and is a great homage to the Clint Eastwood character from the old westerns (a fact made clearer in the sequel). Cleef is a good foil for him as he is tough too but lacks screen time for the majority. It is very clear what Barbeau brings to the party - and the costume selected for her makes no secret of it! I am a man and I'm not proud of it, but she is very easy on the eye here - just a shame that that's all I remember about her performance. Borgnine and Stanton are both good and, along with Hayes, all serve to increase the cult appeal of the film to this day. Overall this is a cult film that looks cheap, has dated effects and a plot that starts to crumble after the first half. However it is cool fun with some great tough dialogue. However, beyond all this it is the iconic character of Snake and the great performance from Russell that will mean that this film continues to get cool points with new audiences.
48 out of 60 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Snake, a Brain, a Cabbie, a Duke and the President Of The USA,
Spikeopath16 October 2008
It's 1997 and Manhattan Island is a walled off prison, during the flight of Air Force One, the president's plane is taken over by a terrorist and the president ejects out in the safety pod. Sadly for him he lands right in the middle of Manhattan Island, when an armed unit lands inside the walls they are told that the president has been taken hostage and they must get out of their prison ASAP. At a loss what to do, the authorities decide to send one man in alone, ex war hero turned criminal, Snake Plissken, not only does he have to contend with surviving the incredibly hostile prison, he also has a time bomb implanted in his body that, should he not get the president out safely within 24 hours, will explode and mean no more Snake Plissken!.

Made in 1981 and set in 1997, it's safe to say John Carpenter is not the best predictor of the future around. However his vision of a future where America has thrown all it's criminals on one island, where they create their own society out of harms way, has to rank as an incredibly adroit piece of work. This place is grim and deadly, the flotsam and jetsam of society thrust together in this bleak and desolate place of class separation. What Carpenter has achieved with his usual minimal budget allowance is a smouldering sci-fi classic that may be as daft as they come, but it pulses with cool and cheekily slaps you round the face with its cheeky satirical edginess. I must give kudos at this point to the great production design from Joe Alves, who along with Carpenter has crafted this brilliantly dirty netherworld of crime.

Our anti-hero of the piece, Snake Plissken, is superbly played by Kurt Russell, the original choice interestingly was Tommy Lee Jones, but Russell fuels Plissken's mantra to make him one of the eighties coolest grumpy bastards!, and his work here is first class in terms of the films apocalyptic structure. Surroundning Russell is a wealth of quality performers each adding their personal bits to this tick-tock stew, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasance, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau and Isaac Hayes all earn their money and flesh out the story to the end.

Calling Escape From New York an action picture would be setting first time viewers up for a real let down, what action there is is minimal but highly effective, the machismo flourishes acting more as a point of reference to the pictures time bomb urgency. I like to think of the film as more a sci-fi adventure yarn laced with darkly comic humour, with of course machismo thrown in as a side salad to accentuate the bleakness of it all, wonderful. 9/10
35 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
SF action classic!
Infofreak8 July 2002
'Escape from New York' ties with 'Assault On Precinct 13' as my second favourite John Carpenter movie (#1 being 'The Thing'. Of course.) I find it hard to be objective about this movie. Like 'The Omega Man' you either love it or you don't. Kurt Russell rocks as Snake Plissken, a cross between Roger Zelazny's Hell Tanner and Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name. He is one cool dude. Spaghetti western favourite Lee Van Cleef is well cast as Snake's nemesis, and b-grade fave Tom Atkins ('Maniac Cop') and Carpenter semi-regular Charles Cyphers ('The Fog') are excellent as his sidekicks. The rest of the cast is equally impressive, and includes cult legend Harry Dean Stanton ('Repo Man'), veterans Ernest Borgnine ('The Wild Bunch') and Donald Pleasance ('Halloween'), soul singer Isaac Hayes, and the buxom Adrienne Barbeau ('Two Evil Eyes') to name a few. 'Escape from New York' is an SF action classic from an era when ideas and character were more important than big budget FX. Personally I'd take this over the Star Wars series any day of the week. Beware the sequel though, it's a major disappointment...
56 out of 76 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
" Hi Snake, . . . I heard you were dead!"
thinker169130 June 2007
Many fans of Kurt Russell were extremely surprised he emerged from his years as a child actor to evolve into a believable, hard hitting, action hero. True, he was traditionally recognized to many for his whimsical, good-looks and high school persona. Thus when movie-goers saw him in this film, many stood aghast at his mature tenor. This futuristic story begins with the President's plane being high-jacked by rebel extremists and flown into the island city of New York which has been transformed into a maximum prison. The plane with the president (Donald Pleasence) on board crashes into the prison and it falls to the warden/Police Commissioner, one, Bob Hauk, (Lee Van Cleef) to rescue the chief executive. His plan? To send in a new convict, an experienced ex-soldier and special ops veteran, named, Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) with the promise of a presidential pardon if he can return him alive. To insure the clever criminal does not take the opportunity to escape, he is given a lethal injection which can only be removed by the commissioner's medical staff. Thus, begins a timely drama which means life or death for the hero, the president and ultimately the world. The success of this film owes much to the film's other characters like the talkative Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine, terrific acting), Harold ' Brain' Helman (Harry Dean Stanton), his 'squeeze' Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau) and Isaac Hayes, who plays the heavy, The Duke of New York. This a groundbreaking film for Russell and as expected, he carries it to it's rave conclusion with action to spare. ****
16 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Cult monument with a dream cast!
Coventry11 August 2005
Nearly 25 years and an endless amount of viewings later, John Carpenter's "Escape from NY" still ranks high among the chosen few, quintessential cult films of the 80's. This is, simply put, one of the coolest productions ever with legendary characters, ingenious plot and pitch-black humor. Kurt Russell, with eye patch and nihilistic 'you-don't-like-it-go-to-hell' attitude, plays the role of his life as anti-hero Snake Plissken, recruited by his authority-nemesis Bob Hauk to bring back the American president who crashed with his plane in New York. One problem though; ever since crime rose with 400% in 1987, New York has become one giant and demarcated prison where criminals determine their own "civilization". Offered no other choice, Snake infiltrates NY for his mission …and for a personal race against the clock. Especially the first sixty minutes of this movie are terrific, since there constantly is the introduction of new and imaginative characters. Class-A actors play all these utterly cool characters, which makes it even more memorable! Apart from Kurt Russell, "Escape from New York" also stars icons like Lee Van Cleef ("The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"), Isaac Hayes ("Truck Turner"), Donald Pleasance ("Halloween") and Harry Dean Stanton ("Repo Man"). Even the smaller supportive roles are well distributed, with the underrated Tom Atkins as Van Cleef's sidekick and Adrienne Barbeau in a very sexy part. The downfall of America's number one city is atmospherically portrayed and Carpenter's own music score creates an excellent mood of despair. The action sequences are impressively photographed and John Capenter professionally camouflages that his film is, in fact, and independent production. My only slightly negative remark is that the story should have had a better, more explosive climax. Particularly because the first hour is so great, the ending seems quite tame. But, what the hell, this movie is a must for every film lover! In 1996, Carpenter also made "Escape from L.A." and even though it's good entertainment, it can't compete with "NY".
42 out of 56 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"The name's Plissken."
Backlash00714 January 2002
First things first, Kurt Russel is just plain cool. That said, on to the review. Escape From New York is a classic action movie with a great horror cast, including Donald Pleasence, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers, and who could forget Buck Flower. Buck, who has one of the best scenes in the movie ("Sure, I'm the president!"), is hilarious. John Carpenter proves that he is a versatile director and can make a hell of a film outside the horror genre. In Carpenter's classic, Kurt Russell plays the immortal Snake Plissken, New York has become a prison state, and the president has just crash landed there. Enter Snake Plissken. Freshly captured and about to be incarcerated in New York, he must save the President (Pleasence, who isn't even American but pulls it off well) from the clutches of Isaac Hayes in order to regain his freedom. It's all great stuff and you can't stop watching as Snake fights his way from one famous landmark to another (he even has to wrestle Ox Baker). But it leaves me with one unanswered question: What did happen to Fresno Bob?

Note: A couple of the Duke's cronies are credited as Romero and Cronenberg. Also, Jamie Lee Curtis does the opening computer dialogue.
44 out of 59 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
"Call me Snake..."
grolt13 January 2003
"Escape From New York" is a solid action noir by John Carpenter, although it lacks the punch of Carpenter's other three previous features ("The Fog", "Halloween", "Assault on Precinct 13"). Kurt Russell became famous for his Snake Plissken, and rightfully so, although the character seems to be only a more gritty version of Napoeleon Wilson in "Assault". What makes this film the cult classic it is is Carpenter's very apocalyptic and brash story. This is a very dark film, and it holds up especially well today when shown against the countless fluff films that Hollywood seems to be churning out.

Carpenter made the most out of his meeger budget and created a very convincing New York City. Not only is the set design fantastic, but so are the typically strong performances. Russell, Hayes, Barbeau, Pleasence, Stanton, Atkins, Cyphers and Borgnine are all cult legends, and seeing them all work together makes Robert Altman's casts look feeble in comparison.

What limits this film from greatness is surprisingly lax direction by Carpenter. The film is not as tight as it should have been, and really fails to generate any sort of suspense during the action. Deaths just happen out of nowhere, with little to no build up, which is a shame. This movie could have really been amazing. The ending is perfect though, and easily makes up for the film's faults. See it for Kurt Russell and the great ending and you will come away a happy viewer. Watch "Escape From LA" though to see what this movie should have been.
72 out of 104 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The definition of a good B Movie
Daniel (TERMINATOR180)27 November 2001
Although not as fast-paced or well-lit as its sequel, Escape from LA, this movie works on the level that it is futuristic, without being TOO futuristic, and the main character is likeable, while being tough at the same time. Whether you like Kurt Russell or not, it seems that he was made for the part of Snake Plissken. One of its highest points is its theme song. It really gets your adrenaline going, and that is one of the most important factors of movies. Available on DVD. Sequel, Escape from LA, filmed 15 years after the original also available on DVD.
50 out of 76 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Why This Movie Works and Why It Never Grows Old
G-dog674 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
It would have been easy for John Carpenter to stay in George Romero's shadow or remain a cult figure with more "Dark Star"-type entertainment. Instead, JC catapulted his name and franchise into history with the release of EFNY. It contains all the classic elements: a no-compromise anti-hero (Russell), a cast of misfit cohorts who work both for and against his goals (Borgnine, Barbeau, Stanton), an enemy with real dimensions (Hayes), a fantastic and depressingly realistic setting (Manhattan turned into a prison), and an authority we can both respect (van Cleef) and despise (Pleasance). And all of it works extremely well with a no-nonsense plot and storyline. No part of this is so far-fetched that we can't relate to the situation (and who hasn't pictured NYC in this condition one day?) or sympathize with Russell's character Snake Plissken. The worse thing you could say about this cult favorite is the low-key climax. No, you don't get a major battle or explosions as the finale. What you do get is absolutely true-to-form with the rest of the film: Snake walks away after successfully completing his mission (and saving his own skin) and yet can still screw the authority and the society that put him in the situation to begin with...and you find yourself grinning in approval.
12 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Plain Average...
namashi_19 February 2011
John Carpenter's cult-hit 'Escape from New York' begins tepidly, gathers momentum in the middle, and culminates with some distractions. It's an average cinematic experience, that offers a solid idea, a fascinating, stylish protagonist, but suffers from below-the-mark writing.

'Escape from New York' takes place in a dystopian 1997, the near future in a crime-ridden United States that has converted Manhattan Island in New York City into a maximum security prison, where Ex-soldier and legendary fugitive 'Snake' Plissken played marvelously by Kurt Russell, is given 24 hours to find the President of the United States, who has been captured by inmates after Air Force One crashed on the island.

As said, the idea is truly super and there are genuinely some entertaining scenes. But the writing at most places, lacks the bite. Also, the inconsistent pacing leaves you unsatisfied. Carpenter's direction is sharp & note-worthy as ever, but his writing is far from his standards.

Kurt Russell has truly embodied 'Snake' Plissken in here, and he's marvelous from start to end. He stands out throughout, even when the writing lets him down. Without doubt, a cult-character and a cult-performance!

On the whole, though not bad at all, this sci-fi flick could've been better for sure. Nonetheless, watch it for Russell's memorable take on 'Snake' Plissken.
12 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Oudated and a bit too campy but for a movie from the 1980's it's pretty good
KineticSeoul7 June 2012
This movie is a cult classic to some movie buffs and inspired a some other movie characters including video game characters as well. One video that comes to mind straight off the bat is "Metal Gear Solid" the character Solid Snake is inspired by Snake Plissken who is the main protagonist and a bit of a anti-hero in this movie. This movie is probably Kurt Russell's big break in some ways and plays a character that sticks with him even today. This movie is outdated and not just because the special effects but it's just a really slow-paced action movie in today's standards. The plot is this in year 1988 crime rates go out of hand and thus the government decides to barricade and isolate the people of New York and no one is allowed to leave and those that enter aren't allowed to leave either. The movie takes place in 1997 and New York is now a isolated slum filled with bunch of homeless and crazy people or both and some of them are savage criminals in a ravaged wasted city. The president gets kidnapped and that is when Snake Plissken comes in, he has no other option but to go to New York and rescue the president or die trying. Despite the low budget this movie has some creativity going for it when it comes to the anarchic atmosphere and actions of the characters. So despite the linear story it mysterious and dark atmosphere that screams shady used in a effective manner makes it worth a watch even today. This movie can get really campy at times but for a movie made in 1980's it's not too shabby.

3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Had the potential for greater honours
amahlanand9 May 2012
The 'badass' action lead before 'Die Hard's' John McClane and 'Lethal Weapon's' Martin Riggs and post-Clint Eastwood, Snake Plissken is the subtle yet threatening action hero. But that alone could not make 'Escape from New York' the exciting race against time that it was supposed to be, even if director John Carpenter's conceptual basis behind the film creates as much intrigue as it does.

The storyline progression is not as good as expected despite a premise which could have involved something more daring rather than more linear. In spite of this linearity, it was by no means a laborious watch. Touted as a 'futuristic' sci-fi based in the late 90s, the sets and cinematography still gave a very 80s feel which undermined the film's futuristic ambitions, as hard as it might have been with the technology at the time.

The action, or inadequacy of it, was the most underwhelming aspect; Plissken's stealth exploits don't count as action. Nonetheless, the world within the film is made believable through the wide array of well played supporting characters from the 'means to an end' attitude police commissioner played by Lee Van Cleef to the intimidating 'Duke of New York' (Isaac Hayes) and his cronies.

Decent, but only scratched the surface of something which had the potential to be a mainstream action classic rather than a concealed cult film.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Frustratingly mediocre
Colonel Ted5 April 2000
Before 1981 and Escape from New York, John Carpenter had already scored huge hits and all time classics with Dark Star, Assault on Prescient 13 and Halloween. Why on earth he didn't opt for higher budgets is anyone's guess, because Escape from New York squanders a brilliant premise on shortages of budget, imagination and action. Kurt Russell impersonates Clint Eastwood as Snake Plissken: a convicted criminal who is sent into New York in 1997, which is now America's one and only maximum security prison, to rescue the President (Pleasence) whose plane has crashed. The film plays like a futuristic western, with Lee Van Cleef overseeing the operation from the control room, making the film's roots in Sergio Leone apparent. To be fair to Carpenter, he manages a lot on the $6 million budget: a great, dark look to the film, a panoramic cityscape, good special effects, impressive sets, a couple of effective action sequences, a script laced with black humour as well a great main theme. As a whole these elements make the film reasonably enjoyable. However it simply isn't enough. The film never fulfils its ingenious premise by not making use of Snake's time limit to complete the mission until the very end and as a result it spends a long time just not going anywhere. There's not enough action and the bad guys are a bunch of lacklustre convicts, lead by Isaac Hayes. Carpenter fans may lap it up as B-movie hokum, but for the rest of us, this should have been a serious slice of action cinema. 5/10
24 out of 41 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Cult film that does not stand test of time
iumma24 February 2012
I have to admit, I was expecting a lot more here, and as such I was disappointed. This movie does not measure up even to cult status, with a gruff, almost non-existent acting job by Russell, stupid bad guys, and terrible dialog. This would not even be a solid indie by todays standards. There are other sci-fi cult films from this period that translate well to modern day (ie, Road Warrior, also from 81'), this one does not IMO. Carpenter had a solid premise, but it gets lost with a insufficient budget, and bad acting. I cant understand why Snake became such a iconic character off this movie alone. I have not seen Escape from LA as of yet, but it would have to really be great to make up for the lackluster EFNY.
14 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Grungy, Dated But Entertaining
ccthemovieman-15 June 2006
"Grungy" and 'entertaining" are two words that perhaps might best describe this John Carpenter-directed box-office success from 1981. Kurt Russell made himself into a macho movie star by putting a patch over his eye and playing "Snake Plissken." His job is to get into New York City ,which in the "distant" year of 1997 was turned into a maximum security prison, and rescue the President of the U.S. who had crashed there.

The whole atmosphere of this is sleazy except for one character: a cab driver, played by Ernest Borgnine. Adrienne Barbeau is in here strictly to be eye candy. The grungy characters even included the President of the United States in a very unrealistic portrayal by Donald Pleasance.

This was somewhat "cool" when it came out but the special-effects are so bad the film is laughable right now. It almost looks a like a "B" sci-fi film from the '50s. The Manhattan skyline is a cardboard cutout! Oh, well, the story is still very interesting, so if you can overlook things it's still an enjoyable 99 minutes.
24 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
I like Carpenter, but this film's overrated
Leofwine_draca8 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
John Carpenter's science fiction film has long been regarded as a cult classic, but after finally seeing it I find it difficult to see what all the fuss was about. What starts off as an interesting premise is wasted in a film which goes nowhere and feels extremely disjointed, it's just one poorly-conceived action sequence after another with little to recommend it in terms of special effects, acting ability, even pacing. For movie fans, there are plenty of reasons to watch ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK as it's not all that bad. The first third of the film is rather good, but the rest just lacks in momentum and comes across as limp and lifeless.

Kurt Russell, as the hero, is extremely wooden even if he does look very "tough" with his eye patch and bulging muscles. It's a toss up between this and SOLDIER as to which was his most wooden role. The rest of the cast is exemplary, what a wonderful cast wasted in a so-so film. Mixing such old-name stars as Ernest Borgnine and Lee Van Cleef with more recent familiar faces like Harry Dean Stanton and Isaac Hayes, the whole cast really is something to die for. But...while Van Cleef is good as the chief guard, Borgnine is fairly annoying as a jovial taxi driver. Stanton is given little to do apart from walk around in a white coat and look moody, while the sole purpose for Adrienne Barbeau to be in the film is to wear a low-cut dress. Isaac Hayes is a charismatic but not-at-all fearsome villain, and Donald Pleasence is hopelessly miscast as the president (although he gives a nicely layered performance, sympathetic and unlikeable at the same time).

The action sequences, when they come, are fairly exciting, but not memorable. The best bit is in the opening where Russell is chased by a gang of mutants, this brings to mind Carpenter's earlier ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 with the grubby locations and faceless rabble of murderers (in this case cannibals). As a plus, the film does offer some excellent set design, with streets full of broken cars, rubbish etc. This kind of "barren wasteland inhabited by mutants" was the basis for many later rip-offs and cash-ins, especially by the Italians. The only sad thing is that while ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK could have been something brilliant, it's average at best due to a lack of ideas and originality. Not one to go out of your way for.
6 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
One of the better action movies ever
Philip Van der Veken16 August 2005
Normally I'm not too much a fan of action movies and John Carpenter has never been on my list of favorite directors. In my opinion he only made one good movie, except for this one of course, and that's "Halloween". But as I already said before, even though I'm normally not a fan of this kind of movies or of the man's work, I must say that I'm glad to make an exception when it comes to this movie. "Escape from New York" may well be seen as one of the better action movies of all times and even after 25 years it still gives me a good time when watching it.

Due to huge crime rates in 1997, the US government has changed New York into a maximum security prison where the toughest criminals are put away for life. All the bridges have been mined, a huge wall has been built around the city and a large police force army is stationed near the statue of liberty. Inside this prison it's the survival of the fittest. There are no rules or regulations, except for those made up by the prisoners themselves, making this one of the most dangerous places to be in. When Air Force One, with the President on board, is taken over by a terrorist and crashed into a building, the President is able to escape by ejecting in a pod. But he has landed in the middle of New York and someone needs to get him out of there soon. That's where Snake Plissken comes in. He's an ex-soldier and a new prisoner who is asked to save the President and to find a tape with some important information. In return his sentence will be canceled and Plissken will be a free man again. He agrees, but to make sure that he will return on time, they inject him with a small but powerful explosive that will only be destroyed if his mission is successful. So now he does not only have to take care of the President and try to stay alive in between all those criminals, he also has a lot of time pressure...

I must say that this movie reminded me a lot of the Australian "Mad Max"-movies, especially the second one. In case you are wondering if that is a good or a bad thing: I liked those movies and yes I like this one as well. Despite the fact that it was made in 1981, this movie still feels quite futuristic. OK, we know that 1997 wasn't like this, but that doesn't really matter this time. If they had set the date to 2097, this would still have been the same movie and then we wouldn't have know that this was impossible. And the fact that some details show the real age of the movie isn't a bad thing either. Take for instance the computers. They used a lot of flashing lights and stuff like that, but those are only some small details which shouldn't spoil your fun. The acting in this movie is OK as well. This may well have been one of Kurt Russell's best performances and I really loved Ernest Borgnine as Cabbie. I even appreciated Lee Van Cleef in this movie, despite the fact that I'm normally not a fan of the man. I guess I must say that all actors did a good job.

As a conclusion I would like to say that a good and still futuristic looking story, some good acting, several interesting action scenes,... make this movie more than just worth a watch. I really like it and that's why I give it a 7/10.
26 out of 49 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Far better Sci-Fi movies available from the period
samuel-8426 June 2010
I am not sure how John Carpenter gets the credit he does and pretty shocked to see an average review here of 7/10. I think you get an extra 3-4 stars just be putting "My Name Here" presents: "TitleName" on every movie you do.

I really enjoy sci-fi and in particular post apocalyptic still themes. Quite a few posts review this as a B movie, but it had a decent budget and known cast and don't think it was designed to be a B movie.

Personally I only enjoyed The Thing from Carpenter and was really disappointed with Escape from NY.

Kurt Russel was absolutely terrible and fumbled around from scene to scene muttering 1 corny line at a time.

The characters were weak and poorly directed. The sets were great and you could see that a great effort went into the construction.

Considering that movies like Alien, Mad Max & Mad Max 2 etc came from the same period and didn't feature cheesy dialog and poor acting I think there are better choices from the period.
10 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A Great B Movie
Gislef1 October 1998
Escape from NY is full of action and excitement, but about halfway through you realize it isn't going anywhere, and you're basically watching a live-action cartoon. When you watch a cab be blown in half, and four out of five passengers walk away like they're on a Sunday stroll, you're not sure if you're watching a parody or a serious action flick. And apparently, Carpenter isn't really sure either. The action sequences are so-so, and they are surprisingly involving. Even Plissken's fight with the gladiator bad-guy is curiously uninvolving. Basically, it's interesting on the surface, but not a movie you want to pay much attention to. The actors are all interesting to watch, but they're not really given much to do.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Taut, dangerous rescue of a high profile hostage.
Michael O'Keefe8 November 2001
John Carpenter takes part in the script writing, conducts the pacesetting score and directs this action thriller. In the late 90s, Manhattan Island of New York is a maximum security national prison. The President of the United States(Donald Pleasence)is forced to crash land inside the prison walls. Lee Van Cleef plays the head of the military that guards the prison walls and chooses the perfect man to rescue the President from the criminals that now run their own island world. Former honored war hero Snake Plissken(Kurt Russell)turned criminal/bank robber is offered a full pardon and release upon getting the President to safety.

This is not the greatest action movie you will ever see, but I doubt if you could forget it after watching it. Pretty intense when it needs to be and enough conflict and action to keep your interest. The fantastic score really inflicts the pace and action. Russell is not over powering as Snake, but comes across cool and in charge. I really liked his Clint Eastwood type whispering reply..."Call me Snake." And oh yes, the line "Get a new President." Russell's macho swagger and ruthless attitude defines Snake perfectly. Van Cleef clever and calm, could have called his part in over a cell phone. Pleasence to me is an odd choice to play the leader of the free world.

Visually watching the hero land a glider on top of the World Trade Center is now pretty awesome in the light of what has recently happened(September 11, 2001). Ernest Borgnine has a notable, but small role as the energetic cab driver. Look out for Issac Hayes...The Duke of New York. Adrienne Barbeau and Season Hubley are little more than decoration. The whole cast makes this film look effortless and it is worth yours. "Call me, Snake."
14 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Timeless Cult Adventure of the Badass Anti-Hero Snake Plissken
Claudio Carvalho17 July 2013
In 1997, Manhattan has been transformed in the New York Maximum Security Penitentiary, where criminals are sent in life sentence. When the Air Force One crashes in Manhattan with the president of the USA (Donald Pleasence) that is traveling to a summit with other leaders, the prison dean Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) proposes a deal to the convicted one-eyed bank robber Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell). If he rescues the president and his tape in less than 23 hours, he would be granted pardon. In order to guarantee full commitment of Snake Plissken, Hauk lures him and injects a lethal capsule in his blood that will dissolve in the scheduled time.

Snake Plissken uses a small plane to land one the roof of the World Trade Center. Soon he finds that the tracking device was removed from the president. When he meets the taxi driver Cabbie (Ernest Borgnine), he learns that the warlord The Duke (Isaac Hayes) has captured the president. Now Snake Plissken has to team-up with his former partner Brain (Harry Dean Stanton), who has double-crossed him in the past, and his squeeze Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau) to rescue the president and save his own life.

"Escape from New York" is the timeless cult adventure of the badass one- eyed anti-hero Snake Plissken by John Carpenter. It is amazing how this movie has not aged and even after watching it so many times, I do not get tired of it. Kurt Russell has a fantastic shape and is perfect in the role of the tough Snake Plissken. The president dressed with blonde wig and with cosmetics and his rage in the end against The Duke seems to indicate that something else had happened to him besides losing his thumb. The movie has a dream cast and also a wonderful music score. My vote is ten.

Title (Brazil): "Fuga de Nova York" ("Escape from New York")

Note: On 01/12/2017 I saw this film again.
13 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Call me....... Snake...... my name's Plissken.
stonedraim5 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
**** May contain strong spoilers ****

This is a review made by StoneDraim... and that means that if you want to read a probably different kind of review, keep reading....

This is my personal experience, my personal point of view/perspective and my personal opinion... and my opinion is just one of like 7 billions in this world.

Futuristic dystopia. President at large. Crimes everywhere. The worlds most vast prison; an entire island.

The elements that the specific synthesizer music creates is very evocative. The pulses within the music tend to get me on edge. It is like something is soon going to happen.... and at the same time an alarm to show that something is wrong. Brings the thoughts to another motion picture.... "The Thing". Also starring Kurt Russell. Evil lurks somewhere.... at some time.... get ready....... The motion picture about an almost apocalyptic future is highly entertaining.... such as Running Man. Theme songs such as in this motion picture only existed then and there, and that is a sad thing. In the same manner than Michael Mann sets the mood for pictures like Manhunter, this piece of art creates a good flick with help by the modern (of its time) sounds and music. Almost like an video game, with the touch and twist of a music video.

I really understand and grasp why this film has become an classic. There, in 1981, the entire production were of high class. The story follows through and keeps it interesting all the time. Could have called it slow paced and tense.... maybe it is just those things. Anarchy in a future "island prison" lays out the solemn history of the characters, showing the main characters how to survive at the same time as time is running out.

A masterpiece speaking of creating an atmosphere that reached out there and still to this day reaches out and make the followers create new things out of this one.

And....last and maybe the best part; the music....the soundtrack. Three letters: WOW!

Over to the movie as a product: - The production : Nice and dark. Enough to create the environment of an anarchistic prison. Once again; the music....oh, my....! - The actors : Kurt Russell. Lee Van Cleef. Ernest Borgnine. Isaac Hayes. All brings their characters to life... Good work! Snake Plissken.... THE Snake. - The story : Of its time; just plain and simple marvellous! - Entertainment : Keeping me on edge. What is happening....? Will they escape? Will the one eyed crusader lead them to a safe-house? - Age : 15. Raw and a couple of nasty kills and scenes.

7,9 out of 10. (The final rate is based most on my own entertainment of the movie.)

(Short elucidation of the rating: 8 Excellent and a solid production 7 Well made movie. Proper entertainment.)
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews