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"The name is Plisskin.",
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This review is from: Escape from New York (Special Edition) (DVD)
Back in 1981, John Carpenter released a film, set in 1997, that depicted a somewhat bleak future for the United States in that the crime rate had risen to the point where it was necessary to turn New York City into a maximum security prison by enclosing the island in giant, concrete walls, installing landmines on the access bridges, and providing constant surveillance with the threat of death for any that try to escape. Felons convicted and sent to this prison are given the option of execution rather than being forced to try and survive in this hellish, nightmare environment. Truly only the strongest and most ruthless survive behind these walls. The female narration, done by Carpenter favorite Jamie Lee Curtis, at the beginning ends with the ominous line, "Once you go in, you never come out."
After this is set up, we learn that, while en route to an extremely important conference, the president's plane has been hijacked, and is crashed inside the prison. The inmates recover the president, and threatening to kill him if any attempt is made to release him. A plan is formulated, one including the recently captured, ex-military, now convicted, criminal Snake Plisskin (Kurt Russell) to send him in, alone, and try to bring the president out alive, offering him a full pardon should he succeed. Only problem is, due to time constraints, of the conference, Snake only has 24 hours to complete this mission, if he accepts it. Another minor glitch...without his knowing it, microscopic implants are inserted into Snake's neck in case he decided to skip out, and are set to go off unless Snake can recover the president and return him safely within the time allotted.
This has always been one of my favorite movies. It brings to life the perfect anti-hero, the outlaw. We've seen and loved this type of character before, like in the Clint Eastwood western movies of the 60's. America loves an outlaw, and John Carpenter has brought the character into the future. Escape From New York is an excellent example of a low budget movie that is really well made, from the realistic sets and scenery, characters, casting, scripting, direction, and music, all of which was composed by John Carpenter himself. Kurt Russell plays Snake so perfectly that you'll never picture anyone else in the role. Other actors that provide wonderful performances, many of which Carpenter uses in his later films, are Harry Dean Stanton, Donald Pleasance, Adrienne Barbeau, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, and Tom Atkins. And let's not forget Isaac Hayes as The Duke of New York, leader of the most powerful gang within the prison, and the one holding the president in hopes of using him to escape. Another thing is that this movie moves. There is no plodding, the plot is clearly defined and drives the movie to its' satisfying conclusion.
The special features included in this special edition DVD are many, and listed thoroughly on the product page. Included is the eleven-minute sequence involving Snake, a bank robbery, and subsequent capture that led him to be sentenced to the prison. This was only available before on the laserdisc version, so I am really glad it made it here. After watching it and listening to the commentary, you'll understand why it was cut from the movie, but the gist is that it humanized the character of Snake too much. Also included from the laserdisc version is a full-length commentary by John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. Many commentaries I watch tend to be dry and boring, but it was wonderful listening to these two talk about scenes and reminisce. They go into great detail, all while keeping it interesting. Some of the other extras are nice, but probably not for everyone, like the mini comic book and the additional commentary by producer Deborah Hill and production designer Joe Alves. It's a bit dry and boring, and probably only would appeal to the more hardcore fans. And last but not least is the quality of the picture. It looks beautiful and crisp, better than I have ever seen it. All in all, this release is truly befitting of the title 'Special Edition'. This movie was followed up in 1996 by a somewhat disappointing sequel called Escape From LA. The elements were pretty much there for that one, but the gritty edginess that made Escape From New York so wonderful just wasn't. Maybe too much time had passed between the movies.