Retrospective: Escape From New York

Posted on: November 7th, 2011

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Have you ever noticed that when you watch film or TV, read a book or play PS3, that the straight up do gooders don’t hold a candle to their slightly more unscrupulous counterparts when it comes to the likeability stakes. Isn’t it interesting that while we all like to see the good guy win, we like him or her have to peel away a few layers of clean cut white credibility before the credits roll. Isn’t it interesting that the good guy, appeals to us so much more, if he or she is not all together that good.

“Everyone loves a Bastard” – Arnold Rimmer

The above goes some way to explaining how we feel towards characters, that unlike the traditional heroes, are fraught with the frailties that we too possess. The moral ambiguity, the selfish agenda, the desire to do what pleases us, rather than do the right thing. In this vein anti-heroes are very appealing because, they much like us, malinger in the shades of grey as opposed to straight up white knights, or dark dwelling villains.

When it comes to StarWars we would all rather be Han Solo or Boba Fett than have the lofty aspirations of Luke “goody two shoes” Skywalker. And Dirty Harry has more appeal with his Magnum 44 than an army of badge toting wannabes. Anti-heroes make you feel good about being bad, or at least watching them being bad, and wearing deserving scumbags on their foot like a badly fitted shoe.

At their best, Anti-heroes are all of the aforementioned bum notes, and bastardly to boot. The sort of guys or gals who do the right thing by default, use questionable methods to get there, and are only too happy to deal you a slug for spilling their beer.In real life, none of us could ever lay claim to such adulation for this squad of often terrible rogues, but on celluloid we love them like fat kids love cake.

Far from a modern concept such shady characters have been around in literature since the turn of the century and beyond, in everything from battered PI’s in Hammers pulp noirs to Bob Kanes Batman. But it’s in cinema that we find some of the finest examples of the genre. Clint Eastwoods “Man with no Name” is maybe one of the baddest men to ever strap on a set of irons, and Lee Marvins “Porter” in Point Blank pursues his vendetta with a relish that would make a Mafioso blush.

When it comes down to it though, perhaps one of the best, if not one of the most popular embodiments of all things awful but appealing, comes undoubtedly with an homage to such classics in mind. So I ask you to take for your consideration John Carpenters B-Movie masterpiece and unstoppable cult juggernaught; Escape From New York.

“Escape” centre’s around Ultimate Bad-Ass and anti-hero par excellence Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), ex special forces hero, turned embittered renegade, making his living as an outlaw following a betrayal by his own bent government.

Now, corrupt governments and two faced politicos is no big news, but throw in a Post world war three America, a crumbling dystopian nightmare, where Manhattan island has been cordoned off by an impenetrable wall and used as a containment facility for the mass criminal population who run wild within, and you have the foundations of post apocalypse WOW!!

The de facto Duke of New York (Isaac Hayes) has the American President (Donald Pleasence)trussed up as a bargaining chip, having been shot down in Air Force One over bad old Gotham.

Carrying information that could make America the dominant superpower, big cheese Robert Hauk (Leone alumni; Lee Van Cleef) needs the Pres back in twenty four hours or the deal goes south, so offers Snake an unconditional pardon if he’ll go in and reclaim the goods.

To ensure Snakes on board, he’s injected with nano bombs in his throat so he doesn’t spend too much time thinking on it, and with that, the deadlines set for Snake to break into the maximum security pen that is NYC and bring out the Pres before his head goes BOOM!!

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  • MJ Preston

    Kurt Russell’s transformation from Disney Heart throb to Carpenter’s anti-hero was definitely a delight.
    Along with Pliskin, his portrayal of RJ MaCready (THE THING) and Jack Burton (Big Trouble in Little China) are also worth a look.

    Great article Bad Man. I am a huge fan of both Eastwood and Marvin.

    • Bad Man

      I love Eastwood & Marvin. After those guys they definitely broke the mould! Glad you enjoyed the article bro. Escape from NY is my all time favourite movie and I hope it shows :D