The year is 2013, thirteen years after an earthquake which devastated Los Angeles and rendered it an island off the coast of California. Now the President (Cliff Robertson), who has changed the Constitution so that he can be in office for the rest of his life, sends the undesirables of the country to what has effectively become a dumping ground for everyone who does not fit in to his conservative, God-fearing vision of what he and his allies believe the United States should be. However, there's a problem: his daughter Utopia (A.J. Langer) has stolen a device which can set off a powerful satellite weapon and is now the partner of revolutionary Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface)...
So who do you think the authorities could send in to save the day, or at least the black box that everyone wants? As this is a sequel, however belated, to Escape from New York, you will not be surprised to learn that a certain Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is pressed into service, and as with the previous film he does so under duress. In fact, there's a lot here that is very similar to the first instalment, as if the creators - orginal director John Carpenter, producer Debra Hill and star Russell all wrote the script - fashioned it so that the L.A. version could almost be seen as a remake.
In its favour, they do a lot more with their setting than they ever did with the more anonymous New York City from before, with satirical jabs at the obsessions of Los Angeles much in effect, from plastic surgery to drive-by shootings. All of this is amusing enough, but doesn't eradicate the sense of watching something second hand; if you know the first film well then you'll be all too familiar with its twists and turns because they don't appear to have come up with anything new. Snake is apparently Russell's favourite character, and he does have fun, but his grumbling tends to make him less the rebel, more the grumpy old man.
There was a cast of notable cult actors assembled, and part of the entertainment can be wondering which well-kent face will turn up next. Some of them turn up for a couple of minutes at most, with skinhead Robert Carradine barely getting out a few lines before he is shot, and Bruce Campbell in a great role as the head plastic surgeon leading a gang of over-operated-on body part stealers which unfortunately is over with before it has even begun. If the script was willing to throw little gems like that away, then the meat of the plot must be something special, right? Not really, as its only the superficialities that keep this novel.
Snake has been given a slow acting poison which gives him the reason to help the government as if he does not escape with the black box in under eight hours then he will be dead, but as the original film set out the template for eighties action heroes so clearly, we never expect him to be anything more than victorious. What unexpected elements there are, such as the death of a character who looked to be the perfect sidekick, hardly register, and too much of Snake's skill relies on luck: that the surgeon will accidentally cut his bonds, that there's an earth tremor which disrupts Jones' aim as he flees a deadly basketball game. The final scene sees a strike against political correctness which has apparently taken the vitality out of living, yet Snake's solution is too drastic to be taken seriously, and besides the evils of the President here have far more in common with the Ronald Reagan era than the Bill Clinton one. Music by Carpenter and Shirley Walker.
Skillful American writer-director of supense movies, often in the science fiction or horror genres. Comedy Dark Star and thriller Assault on Precinct 13 were low budget favourites, but mega-hit Halloween kick-started the slasher boom and Carpenter never looked back.