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4K Ultra HD Review: John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A.

February 22, 2022

By John Corrado

John Carpenter’s 1996 sequel Escape from L.A., a follow up to his 1981 cult classic Escape from New York, is being released for the first time on 4K Ultra HD this week.

The film sees the return of Kurt Russell’s eye-patched outlaw antihero Snake Plissken, who is brought back for another mission inside a walled off prison state, this time on the West Coast in the year 2013.

A 9.6 magnitude earthquake has caused Los Angeles to break away from the United States. A fundamentalist leader, President Adam (Cliff Robertson), has taken over as president for life and turned America into a theocracy, with all criminals and those deemed too immoral for his new “Moral America” having been banished to Los Angeles Island.

The president’s daughter, Utopia (A.J. Langer), has fallen under the sway of Cuervo Jones (Goerges Corraface), a Che Guverra-type revolutionary leader, and escaped to L.A. with a remote that controls a satellite weapon with the power to shut down all electronic devices. Snake is hired by the government to go onto the island (which has become a cesspool of crime and degeneracy), find the first daughter, and retrieve the weapon. His incentive to return is that he has been infected with a designer virus that will kill him in a matter of hours, unless he comes back with the remote and is given the antidote.

This isn’t Carpenter’s best film, and I personally think Escape from New York is the better movie. But Escape from L.A. has a gonzo, almost transgressive quality that has gained the sequel a cult following in its own right, despite being somewhat of a notorious box office flop. The screenplay (which Carpenter co-wrote with frequent collaborator Debra Hill and Russell) has a cynical, satirical edge to it that still works despite the film’s complete lack of subtlety, touching on similar anti-authoritarian themes as the first one and Carpenter’s (superior) They Live.

The 4K provides a noticeable upgrade. The image is nice and sharp, with good clarity on faces, costumes and onscreen text and graphics. It’s quite a dark picture, with most of the film taking place at night and in the shadows, and there is decent contrast as well. Some of the special effects are obviously dated (such as the infamous “surfing in a tsunami” scene), which becomes somewhat more apparent in the upgraded format, but this somehow adds to its appeal as a cheesy ‘90s action movie.

Yes, the film is uneven in places, but Escape from L.A. has enough going for it to make it a pretty fun watch. Russell turns in another gruff performance as his now-iconic character Snake Plissken, and the cast is rounded out by appearances from Steve Buscemi, Peter Fonda, Bruce Campbell and Pam Grier. The ending is also pretty solid. If you are a fan of the film, or Carpenter’s work in general, then the 4K release offers a fine viewing experience.

Bonus Features (4K Ultra HD):

The 4K disc only includes one bonus feature (the film’s theatrical trailer), leaving off all of the bonuses from the Collector’s Edition Blu-ray that Shout! Factory put out two years ago. A code for a digital copy is also included in the package.

Theatrical Trailer (1 minute, 34 seconds)

Escape from L.A. is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 100 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: February 22nd, 2022

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