Escape From New York Screen 6 articles

Escape From New York

1981

Escape From New York Poster
  • Shot mostly in darkness, Carpenter succeeds in creating a closed-off atmosphere that is both somehow dingy and futuristic. These touches, along with several solid performances, breathe life into the rote barrel fire-pocked landscape, and Snake himself.

  • Unlike its spoofy, punch-drunk sequel, Escape from New York is one of Carpenter's more subdued films—a close relative to the still-extraordinary Assault on Precinct 13, which similarly exploited the possibilities of shaking the audience up with carefully planted, obtrusive noise in a sea of uneasy silence. Most of the images are elaborate confections of urban blight, etched against a nearly unlit soundstage...

  • Carpenter doesn’t mess around: Escape is a crackling relic from the days when movies didn’t need heaps of expository dialogue, plots layered with overcomplicated details, and elaborate multiple endings. So many action movies today seem desperate to prove how many ideas a filmmaker has; Escape is whittled down to the crude essentials, and its visuals are key.

  • Return to the movie now... and Escape from New York works a lot more suggestively than you remember. It feels perfectly positioned between Hollywood’s ’70s-era political cynicism and the dawning age of the blockbuster. (Far down in the credits, “Jim Cameron” is listed as a matte painter.) The movie proudly wears its affection for crusty Sergio Leone archetypes and countdown-clock suspense sequences; Carpenter was Tarantino long before Tarantino was.

  • Though John Carpenter amassed several classics to his name by the time he made Escape from New York, the 1981 film feels in many respects like the director's quintessential work. A genre mash-up of action, suspense, black comedy, and science fiction, the film demonstrates Carpenter's capacity to juggle multiple styles and tones with his minimal aesthetic. Economy is the director's trademark, and it's this film, his first large-scale work, that truly demonstrates it.

  • With economy and simplicity, Carpenter creates the indelible, and in Russell he found his best collaborator. Michael Myers remains Carpenter’s most identifiable creation, though it’s The Shape’s utter lack of eccentricity that defines him. Snake is the first of Carpenter’s muscled, masculine heroes, an archetype the filmmaker would manipulate to satirical effect with Russell’s Jack Burton and Roddy Piper’s unnamed blue collar bruiser.