So much so that back in 1981 John Carpenter pictured a Manhattan so run down and chaotic that it was set in the dystopian future of *dramatic sting* 1997 when the U.S. decided to turn the whole island into a prison complete with big walls surrounding it, armed guards everywhere, mined bridges and friendly cabbies.
Unfortunately, when rebels send Air Force One crashing into the city and steal the president (who managed to land in an adorable red pod), Lee Van Cleef's intense police chief is forced to hire the help of a tough renegade called Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell in a career-defining role) who walks like a badass and speaks like Batman in order to find the president and bring him back safely for an important summit. Although Cleef doesn't so much "hire" him as he does inject him with a deadly serum and literally land him in one tricky situation to say the least with some fancy electronic bracelet and a walkie-talkie. There, he encounters rat-like cannibal hobos, the Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes) and his chandelier car, Harry Dean Stanton (aka Brain), and many more obstacles.
Everything about this movie screams cult classic, from the plot to the cast and John Carpenter's unforgettable score. Once again, the director delivered a B-movie so good it really was A-list. At the core, this is the typical Rambo type of plot with a little time-ticking urgency keeping things nice and tense and speedy. The film skilfully makes the most of its surprisingly low budget as Carpenter brings his usual brand of atmospheric, visually stand-out, dripping-with-cool rock n' roll greatness. Russell is having the time of his life as the brooding Snake, finally cementing himself as one of the top action movie stars from then on while the role of "Cabbie" remains one of Ernest Borgnine's most memorable performances. Donald Pleasence is also great as the American president and looks very fetching in a blonde wig, might I add.
Made at the peak of John Carpenter's career, Escape From New York remains a must-see for sure: it's moody, clever, exciting, cooler than ice and boasts a nifty twist. Many have tried to replicate this movie's brilliant concept, including Carpenter himself, but you just can't beat the original.