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Monday, 16 December 2019

Retro Review: Escape From L.A. (1996)

Escape From L.A
Cast: Kurt Russell, Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, Pam Grier
Genre: Postapocalyptic Action 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $25 million 

Plot: Snake Plissken is once again called in by the United States government to recover a potential doomsday device from Los Angeles, now an autonomous island where undesirables are deported 

'Tad More Accessible & An Enjoyable Mess'

Released during the mid-1990s, Escape from L.A. is the affirmed sequel to 1981's Escape From New York starring Kurt Russell and it has become one of the most shunned and denounced movie follow-ups, alongside notable Hollywood flops, Ghostbusters II, Robocop 3 and Rocky V to name.  

Escape from L.A. takes place in the year of 1998: the city of Los Angeles has been turned into an island and red meat, smoking, alcohol consumption and sex before marriage are all outlawed. L.A is now a post and clean -apocalyptic society. The president is a loony, but thankfully there is still good ol' Snake Plissken, who is one of the few people fighting the good fight. Plus, it seems the Black box has fallen into the hands of Cuervo Jones: a bad guy, who bears a slight resemblance to the real-life Argentine Marxist, Che Guevara. 

Snake gets injected with a neurotoxic serum and thus, he is given only 10 hrs to complete the mission the Feds have sent him on, which is to retrieve the box and kill the President's daughter, who has stolen a device and disappeared-, or else he dies. 

Now, I tried to watch the original classic from a month ago- and Escape From New York is a film I will revisit again. But on its first watch, it seemed very bleak, gritty, dark, I notice that it has its pacing issues and I couldn't get into it, as much as I tried. 'L.A.' is silly, yes, but it also tries to be entertaining, it definitely feels recent and one I got into more. & the wacky moments made the film refreshing: from Snake in a submarine hitting a shark, Snake playing basketball, Snake pursuing Cuervo Jones on a stolen motorbike and even managing to do a wheelie on two-wheels (which was cool to see), the botox minions who wouldn't look out of place in Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall. & the support from other B and cult movie players, Steve Buscemi, Pam Grier - in an even stranger role as a transexual/drag hustler or gender-bender with an odd vocoder voice -, Bruce Campbell and Peter Fonda as a hippie surfer dude, who round up the main cast, was all right. 

Kurt Russell still owns eye-patch wearing Snake, who wrings wit and personality, as he shoots, snarls and battles his way to victory. & donning the same outfit, he also has slightly longer hair resembling that in Big Trouble in Little China & Tango & Cash. Not that I am complaining, anyway: he looks the part, and long-haired Kurt Russell is still my favourite Kurt Russell. So there. :-)

This sequel to John Carpenter's Escape From New York has been derided for recycling the same old narrative beats and whilst it is argued that it doesn't hold a candle to the prequel and it's a little messier in places, Escape from L.A. was a lot easier to follow, as far as the narrative is concerned; that, and its looser, fantasy cartoony, lighter feel makes this an interesting companion to Carpenter's 1986 cult classic, Big Trouble In Little China in that respect. The fact that it chooses to veer in the opposite direction to Escape From New York's serious tone, as dumb as it can be and is and for what it is worth, its goofy and spoof-like approach makes Escape From L.A. a film that doesn't try to be too clever for its own good. & that is a plus. 

Final Verdict:

Whilst in Ghost of Mars and Vampires, they were infinitely John Carpenter's worst offerings, this effort is far from diabolical and that despite its similar plot to its predecessor, this still managed to entertain in places with its far-fetched moments of absurdity, which may irritate others, but would otherwise, puts a smile on my face. Although the CGI effects here aren't good, besides that, and that it can be a little dull in places, Escape From L.A. is still watchable. It's more action reliant, it tries to be broader in scope & makes attempts to be accessible to audiences. 

It was a flop when it came out on general release, but I still had a relatively good time with Escape From L.A. It's a nuttier- & a little messier version of Mad Max mixed in with Big Trouble In Little China, which is no bad feat.


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