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Escape From LA/B-, A

US/1996/Color/Widescreen 2.35:1/Stereo Surround,DD/101 minutes/Directed by John Carpenter/Starring Kurt Russell, Stacy Keach/Paramount/27 Chaps/CLV/39.98

Fans of Escape from New York have long looked forward to a John Carpenter follow-up to that dark, lean enjoyable twist on the Scifi and Action genres. Escape From LA, the sequel, plays more like a remake on a bigger budget. One of the reasons it does not succeed as well as the original is that Carpenter and cohorts seem to be having too much fun. The script is excessively cute and there’s no escaping from that.

Kurt Russell, who also co-wrote the script, plays the disreputable anti-hero Snake Plisskin again in Carpenter’s vision of a totalitarian future ruled by intolerance. Russell is fun again, but the sense of danger that came with the New York territory is totally gone. Plisskin this time is strictly an action comedy hero mired in Carpenter’s world of excess LA. Once again Plisskin is recruited by the authorities to enter a forbidden island, the post earthquake LA. Chief amongst the characters he encounters on his mission is "Map to the Stars Eddie," played with much gusto by the ever present Steve Buscemi. Here’s a prime example of how Escape from LA goes wrong and that’s in giving Eddie too much of a part. It corrupts the pure pleasure of the character.

Actually the production succeeds principally by virtue of the imaginative production design. The adventure Snake undertakes in the island prison of LA may be juvenile, but the city itself is presented with flair. The pyrotechnics and stunts are also handled with enough excitement to deliver a good many chuckles.

The only fault I found with the Escape to LA package is an error on the jacket listing the aspect ratio as 1.85 when it is delivered properly at 2.35. The laser provides consistently stunning images. The dominent dark scenes are lit beautifully and the transfer delivers bright pictures throughout. Sharpness and color are maintained perfectly. The Dolby Digital soundtrack is a blast, literally, with filling the surrounds of a good home theater set-up. Escape from LA may be excessive, but at least its delivery package ties on a nice bow.