"Escape from L.A."
Opened: August 9, 1996 | Rated: R
"Escape From L.A." is heartily self-mocking. It is gratuitous, high gloss crap in the best sense and it uses tacky B-movie plot techniques with such aplomb that even in the most far fetched scenes can't go wrong.
In the prison that is the partially submerged future Los Angeles, hero Snake Plisken surfs a cheap digital effects wave down a submerged Wilshire Boulevard and gets in a hang glider-and-machine gun dogfight with transsexual tough Pam Grier -- and none of it is over the top.
This is the pinnacle of sardonic, stupid fun.
The plot: The daughter of ultra-conservative President Cliff Robertson (tongue firmly in cheek) goes berserk and steals The Button for her boyfriend, the leader of a Third World terrorist army poised to invade the U.S.
Recently arrested for all kinds of unsocial behavior, Snake Plisken (Kurt Russell) is offered his freedom if he gets The Button back from the terrorist's headquarters on the prison island.
Of course the government fully intends to double cross Snake. Of course they've poisoned him and will only offer the antidote upon his successful return to the mainland.
The film is full of ironic pokes at L.A. and modern civilization. Bruce Campbell (from the "Evil Dead" movies) plays the "Surgeon General of Beverly Hills," who maintains what's left of that city's mutant populace ("Too many face lifts and implants over the years"). Valeria Golino is an L.A. kind of girl who tells Snake, "Once you figure this place out, it's really not so bad," and is subsequently shot dead on the spot.
"Escape" even has an occasional nod to Hollywood history including a dusty main street showdown complete with incidental music from a spaghetti Western.
This is a sillier film than "Escape from New York," and makes fun of some of the standards that film generated in the action genre.
Snake is so deeply ensconced in his 1980 rock start image as the first devil-may-care, self-serving hero that one character comments "That's Snake Plisken? He looks so retro."
Director John Carpenter and Kurt Russell wrote the script with producer Debra Hill, and they clearly wanted sarcasm to rule, even affording Snake an opportunity to end civilization as we know it.
Rounding out the cast, and exploiting their stock characters, are Stacy Keach as the president's tough-guy lieutenant, Steve Buschemi as "Map to the Stars" Eddie (Snake's L.A. guide) and Peter Fonda as the surfer dude who lives for earthquake-induced tsunami waves.
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