Escape from L.A. (1996)

(On Cable TV, June 2017) I’m normally a forgiving viewer when it comes to over-the-top comic action movies like Escape from L.A. Throw in an enjoyable action set-piece and I will normally forgive most of the nonsense required to get there. For the first half-hour of the movie, I was certainly willing to play along: It was almost a relief to see Kurt Russell back in character as Snake Plissken, all attitude and tough-guy moves. Even the dodgy CGI work required to do justice to the script on a relatively modest budget didn’t bother me too much. But even as the good cameos unfolded (Bruce Campbell as a plasticized surgeon, Pam Grier as a transsexual, Peter Fonda as a surfer!), the film lost its flavour and became bitter. At some point, the adolescent thrills of relentless post-apocalyptic nihilism became tiresome. Plissken’s posturing became hollow, and a reminder that there’s only so far to go when fuelled by cynicism and anti-heroic amorality. When the anarchic ending came, I was more annoyed at the wanton destruction than overjoyed at seeing authoritarianism being kicked over along with much of civilization. I guess I’m not a brooding sixteen-year-old anymore. While writer/director John Carpenter clearly had fun poking at Los Angeles’s pretensions with Escape from L.A., the result is curiously dark and meaningless … and I’m the one not having fun with the result.

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