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Escaping from Escape From L.A.

Posted by on November 9, 2006

Warning: This entry is chock-full of spoilers, but they’re spoilers about an old and ridiculous movie.

Last night the Lad and I rented Escape From L.A., the ill-conceived sequel to Escape From New York. Like New York in the original, L.A. is now designated a prison for undesirables after an earthquake turns the city into an island. Kurt Russell plays Snake Plisskin, a war hero-turned-criminal who is sent in to L.A. to rescue a boring Doomsday device. (This is a global EMP machine that can and does shut down all the electrical current in the world. “Everything we’ve accomplished for the past five hundred years will be gone!” one character cries in horror, and I cried in horror “Hello, books?“)

The filmmakers don’t fuck around: they let you know right at the start exactly what kind of movie this is going to be when Snake jumps the shark — the shark from the Jaws ride at the now-underwater Universal Studios, that is, which he jumps over in his fancy-pants Submarine Of The Future.

In Escape From New York Snake is forced to overcome difficult challenges such as battling a great big enemy, but the sequel takes a lighter, sportier approach. Challenges Snake must overcome in L.A. include surfing a tsunami, playing really difficult basketball, escaping from a band of psychotic plastic surgeons determined to harvest his body parts, and — my personal favorite — walking slowly on a treadmill for about five minutes. You know the film was made in the ’80s when a treadmill is used as a torture device.

There are two — and I use the term loosely — love interests, unusual for an action film. The first, who does nothing to further the plot or Snake’s character development in any way, claims she was banished to L.A. for being Muslim, although obviously her real crime was her Elvira-ish wig. She offers to show Snake a good time, holds his gun for a minute, and is quickly shot to death (by someone else’s gun) for no real reason. The second interest, the President’s daughter, doesn’t even get the half-second teary-eyed glance Snake bestowed on his first special lady-friend; Snake spends the movie ignoring her, as do the other characters and the audience.

My favorite part about the movie is that Snake eventually teams up with a crook he worked with in Cleveland. (Cleveland is referenced throughout the film as a place Snake spent some hairy hours; the implication is that Cleveland is worse than New York or L.A. all on its own, without being designated a city-wide federal prison. I’ve never been to Cleveland but that’s sort of the impression I’ve always had about it.) The crook used to be a fellow known as Carjack Malone, but when Snake encounters him in this film he’s now a drag queen called Hershey — an interesting choice for an action hero’s sidekick. Two scenes later, Hershey the drag-queen is hang-gliding into a nest of baddies with Snake to save the day. Hershey was my favorite character, but I have to wonder how a bad-ass drag queen went over with this film’s demographic audience.

Me [as Snake hovers absurdly over four hundred machine-gun-toting extras]: Did this film basically end Kurt Russell’s career?

Lad: I think so.

Character in Film: Snake, don’t do anything stupid!

Lad: Whoa, too late.

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