Although execution doesn’t quite live up to the fabulous premise, Escape from New York is a solidly satisfying actioner. Impressively produced for $7 million, it reps director John Carpenter’s biggest budget to date.
In the 1997 New York City neatly turned out (mostly in St Louis) by production designer Joe Alves, Manhattan is a walled, maximum security prison inhabited by millions of felons and loonies. The president of the US has the misfortune of crash landing on the island and being taken hostage by the crazies, who demand their release in exchange for the leader.
Into this cesspool is sent tough criminal Kurt Russell, who is charged with extricating the prexy within 24 hours.
Pic only falls a little short in not taking certain scenes to their dramatic limits. For instance, Russell is finally captured by Isaac Hayes and his cronies and thrown, like a doomed gladiator, into an arena with a hulking behemoth. Instead of milking the confrontation for all it’s worth, Carpenter keeps cutting away to parallel events elsewhere.
Model and matte work, executed at New World’s special effects studio in Venice, is obvious but imaginatively fun enough to get by.