Escape from New York | Chicago Reader

Escape from New York

It's a rare film that has so many ideas and yet fails so consistently to make use of them. John Carpenter has marshaled a warehouseful of surefire action concepts in this futuristic adventure (1981) about one man's attempt to rescue the president, who's crash-landed in the middle of Manhattan, now a prison complex. The movie is never less than entertaining, but it fails to satisfy—it gives us too little of too much. Oddly, much of its pleasure is in the acting, which up to this point hadn't been Carpenter's strong suit: Donald Pleasence, Adrienne Barbeau, and Harry Dean Stanton offer excellent turns. It's less than you'd expect from Carpenter, but what the hell: who else ever knew how to light Lee Van Cleef? With Kurt Russell, Ernest Borgnine, and Isaac Hayes.


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