Escape From L.A.(Blu-ray)(Paramount Home Entertainment, 5.4.2010)
Welcome to 1998! An earthquake has devastated the West Coast and the famed city of Los Angeles is no longer capitol of Coolsville, USA. In fact, it has been dislodged from the rest of California and, fifteen years later, it has been transformed into a large-scale castaway island for unwanted criminals. After escaping New York -- not to mention rescuing the U.S. president –- one-eyed hero Snake Plissken (the indelible Kurt Russell) is back on the government’s shit list and he's headed to L.A. to serve some hard time... again. That is, unless he can retrieve a world-threatening black box from a maniacal inmate. Oh, and he’s got a ten-hour window before a nasty virus kills him. Snake accepts the offer and makes way for a sillier and far less convincing adventure than his last.
Weaknesses aside, this pseudo sequel to John Carpenter’s infinitely superior 1981 cult classic, Escape From New York, is a hoot to revisit with friends over drinks. The fact that its script had been in development for over a decade is fairly ludicrous considering the end result, but had Carpenter, Russell and Carpenter's frequent collaborator/ex-wife Debra Hill (who sadly died in 2005) not all been involved, things could have gone much worse. What we do get is an entirely watchable, albeit second-rate follow-up that replaces the original's post-apocalyptic dread with post-apocalyptic goofs (consider: gladiatorial basketball and tsunami surfing).
Snake and Pipeline (a name that Peter Fonda was born to play) actually surf the streets and there is even an awkward high-five. Also on the cameo front, Pam Grier shows up as a tough transsexual and Bruce Campbell appears as a disfigured surgeon general. In a more substantial role, a bug-eyed Steve Buscemi attempts to bring comic relief as a guy named Map to the Stars Eddie. Yes, the film oozes cheese, but more often than not, this is to its own bizarro advantage. Gaudier and altogether stupider than its predecessor, Escape From L.A is an enjoyable dud that you'll want to revisit every now and then, just to reconsider your love/hate relationship with it.
Paramount’s Blu-ray release looks and sounds a lot better than one would expect -- which occasionally draws attention to its TV movie-level special effects -- but they kind of dropped the ball in the extras department. The only extra on this disc is the film's pretty rad theatrical trailer (see above).
A critical and commercial flop upon its release (Ebert notwithstanding), Escape From L.A. remains a confused action romp made slightly more bearable in HD. At the very least, it should please fans of Carpenter/Russell collaborations, particularly Big Trouble in Little China, which it bears a strong, cartoonish resemblance to. -- Neil Karassik