Escape From LA – 1996
You can’t help but feel a bit sorry for Snake Plisskin, the one-eyed, leather-clad anti-hero who growled onto the screen in John Carpenter’s 1981 classic Escape from New York. In many ways, he set the blueprint for the plethora of 1980s Hollywood action films, and shades of Plisskin can be seen in the movies of Arnie, Harrison F and Brucie (the Willis, rather than Forsyth version) that soon followed. However, whilst Kurt Russell went on to have a decent run of hits, poor old Snake languished in development hell.
He finally emerged 15 years later, long after any interest in a franchise had evaporated, in Escape from LA. The critics and viewing public collectively shrugged their shoulders and recouping barely half of its £50m budget condemned Mr Plissken to history.
This is a real shame, as the film is great fun. Set in a far-right, highly moralistic near-future USA, Snake has to retrieve a McGuffin from the island of Los Angeles, which is now populated with exiled criminals, non-conformists and degenerates who have had their citizenship revoked. If you can overlook the Commodore 64 quality graphics (I’m looking at you, killer shark!), there is a tight, interesting and enjoyable film trying to break out. Where else can you find a gang of killer plastic surgeons, an early Steve Buscemi appearance as a character selling Hollywood ‘maps to the stars’ and a whacked-out Peter Fonda as a surfing dude par excellence?
Often seen on late night TV, I’d recommend you search it out and wonder at the lost opportunity to explore the wider world of Snake Plissken.