Picks and Pans Review: John Carpenter's Escape from L.a.
The best thing about this dark, obscure action sequel is that Carpenter has used up his two best cities to escape from, New York and Los Angeles. Escape from Detroit? Maybe. Escape from Las Vegas? Sure. But Escape from Des Moines has a puny ring. And Escape from Secaucus seems obvious.
In this followup to 1981's Escape from New York, Russell is again Snake Plissken, a sleazy but resourceful career criminal who is sent by a tyrannical U.S. President (Robertson) to earthquake-ravaged L.A. The city is now an island and is being used as a prison. Robertson orders Russell to find his rebellious daughter (Langer), who is trying to overthrow her dad and has stolen a doomsday device. Also in town is Peter Fonda. As a residual surfer who calls everyone Dude, he lends L.A. its only splashes of humor.
Director Carpenter, who wrote the film with producer Debra Hill and Russell, veils the story in dim lighting and loud peripheral noises that drown out dialogue. While the general murkiness creates an appropriately somber mood, it also makes the proceedings hard to follow. Whatever city Carpenter uses for the next sequel, let's hope he at least leaves the lights on. (R)