1981’s Escape from New York was a large change from the Fog and Halloween. There were no supernatural elements and it was not a slasher. Instead, it was a straight up action film set in the distant future of 1997. Reagan married Thatcher and they had a kid who became President. Or something. Anyways, the president gets stuck in the worlds largest maximum penitentiary. Also known as New York.
Snake Plissken is coerced into slipping into Manhattan and saving the president. A pardon is promised. Of course, nothing turns out to be easy. Snake ends up with a small band of folks who help him save the President as well as a cassette tape with top secret intel.
This marked the second of several films John made with Kurt Russell. At the time, Russell was known for a string of Disney films. The character of Snake Plissken was rugged. He had an eye-patch, wore a trench-coat…he was a badass anti-hero. In the end, Plissken is basically an opportunist and an anarchist. He is not saving the president because he cares.
Carpenter gets action, and has Plissken face several jams, cunningly escaping each one. His accidental team include a cabbie (named Cabbie, played with dopey charm by Ernest Borgnine), former partner Brain (Harry Dean Stanton) and his girlfriend Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau). Their biggest impediment is the Duke (Isaak Hayes) who rules Manhattan.
I would say the weirdest thing is that some of the technology seems like it lacked creativity. Seriously, cassette Tapes??? On the other hand, the create computer graphics with models that create an impressive effect.
For a lower budget action film, Carpenter keeps the story moving as Snake runs a gauntlet of trouble. It is an exciting and entertaining film. This is one of Carpenter’s great films, and in the early eighties, he was on a real role.