Escape From L.A., 1996.
Directed by John Carpenter.
Starring Kurt Russell, Stacy Keach, Steve Buscemi, Peter Fonda, Georges Corraface, Cliff Robertson, and Pam Grier.
Escape From L.A. makes its 4K debut in an edition that’s lacking an accompanying Blu-ray, although there is a code for a digital copy. Unfortunately, the film’s trailer is the only bonus feature. Also, be aware that there’s an audio issue with the first printing; this review explains how to contact the studio to get a replacement copy, if you have one of those discs.
Sometimes a bad movie is so bad it’s good, in a way. Sometimes a bad movie is simply bad. I’d have to put Escape From L.A. in the latter category. I suppose the idea was to try to outdo the classic Escape From New York with some over-the-top sequences, such as having Snake Plissken ride a wave on a surfboard before jumping onto a car, but the end result is, honestly, just silly.
Released in 1996 and set in 2013, the film returns Kurt Russell to his iconic role in another adventure to infiltrate a lawless city and achieve an objective before a countdown clock hits zero. This time, he must retrieve a black box carried by the theocratic U.S. President’s daughter, who has shacked up with Cuervo Jones, leader of the Shining Path revolutionary group. He has been infected with a virus that will kill him in ten hours, unless he can return in time to get the antidote.
This time, Los Angeles is the setting. A massive earthquake has separated it from the rest of California, leading the President to declare it a lawless zone where “undesirables” are sent after being convicted of immoral crimes. Snake arrives in the city and soon meets “Map to the Stars” Eddie (Steve Buscemi), a swindler who promises to help him but has other ideas in mind.
As Snake pursues his objective, he also meets “Pipeline” (Peter Fonda), a surfer who helps him out when he needs to catch a wave, Hershe Las Palmas (Pam Grier), a trans woman who was formerly Snake’s associate, Carjack Malone, and Taslima (Valeria Golino), a loner who helps him navigate the ruined city. Bruce Campbell also makes an appearance as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills, who extracts body parts from captives to help out people whose plastic surgery is going bad.
The cast is rounded out by Cliff Robertson as the President and Stacy Keach as Commander Mac Malloy, who guides Snake from afar much like Lee Van Cleef’s character did in Escape From New York. The cast is solid overall, which makes me wonder if some of the folks who agreed to do it were just looking for a paycheck.
My main issue with Escape From L.A. is its outright silliness. Sure, Escape From New York has its moments that veer into campiness, but everything Snake does in that movie at least feels pretty plausible. In this film, whether he’s playing basketball to avoid execution or surfing a wave with Pipeline, the action just feels outright goofy. I’ve seen some critiques of the movie that laud it as a satire, and if it works that way for you, great. It just didn’t do it for me.
The film has now arrived on 4K disc from Paramount, but it’s not clear that any kind of restoration work was done for this release. The picture looks soft overall, and the shadows are a bit pixelated, which isn’t good for a movie with a dark color palette. I have to assume the studio used the same transfer found on the 2010 Blu-ray, but I don’t have that previous edition to make a comparison.
I should also note that the studio has said there’s an audio issue with this disc, so if you buy it in a store, make sure there’s a yellow box around the UPC code. If the box is white, then it’s the first printing. If you already made the purchase, you can email PHE_CustomerService@Paramount.com to get instructions for receiving a replacement disc. I emailed that address and received an auto response saying that they’re very busy right now, so keep that in mind; it might be a few weeks before they reply to tell you how to get the replacement disc.
The only bonus feature on this platter is the film’s trailer, and there’s no accompanying Blu-ray, like many 4K releases have these days, although you do get a code for a digital copy. It’s a shame that the studio didn’t put any extras on this disc, but I guess you can’t blame them since the film failed at the box office and hasn’t resonated with fans in the intervening years, the way Escape From New York has.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★★ / Movie: ★★