Review: Kurt Russell Is Snake Plissken In John Carpenter’s ESCAPE FROM L.A

3.5 out of 5 stars

Time is a great healer. John Carpenter’s Escape From L.A may not have set the world on fire when it was released back in 1996, but the film has aged incredibly well in the subsequent years. The follow-up to Carpenter’s 1981 classic, Escape From New York may have felt slight when it opened, but the film now feels fresh and energetic – an amazing feat for a movie which is now more than a quarter of a century old. 

Escape From New York was a beautifully crafted piece of low budget action cinema which offered a dystopian future and a bizarre selection of supporting characters played by an amazing cast: Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Isaac Hayes, Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbeau. The pic saw Kurt Russell‘s Snake Plissken rescuing the U.S. President (Donald Pleasence) after he is shot down over New York City – an area which has become a prison. In Escape From L.A. Plissken is forced to infiltrate the now isolated island of Los Angeles so that he can recover the remote control to a device which can wreck havoc around the globe.

As with the original film, Escape From L.A is loaded with interesting character actors – with  Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, Pam Grier, Cliff Robertson and Peter Fonda all putting in an appearance. But this is Kurt Russell’s show and he once again delivers the goods as the eye-patch wearing anti-hero Snake Plissken. 

The visuals in Escape From L.A. pop so much that you would swear cinematographer Gary B. Kibbe shot the whole thing on digital – an non-exinsistant format at the time. Everything is so bright and vibrant – a far cry from the first film’s muted colour palette. The score by Carpenter and Shirley Walker perfectly matches the action and it really helps the piece feel like a late-period John Carpenter film. 

Yes, the plot is essentially a remake of Escape From New York and some of the digital effects are a little wonky (they were even back in 1996) but that doesn’t stop Escape From L.A from being prime entertainment from of the great genre film directors and his favourite leading man. It’s obvious that Kurt Russell loves the Plissken character and he appears to be having a blast returning to what has become his signature role. 

While it may lack the freshness of its predecessor, there’s no denying that Escape From L.A  is pure fun. You could argue that it’s more of a satire than an action film – but you it’s a movie which plays by its own rules – and you can’t fault it for that. 

John Carpenter’s Escape From L.A is out now on 4k Ultra HD.