This is one of those movies where I’ve seen so many of its derivatives – Batman: Arkham City matching the premise, Cloverfield the iconography, Deus Ex the setting, Metal Gear Solid the premise and protagonist, Neuromancer the tone – that I was worried the originator would fall flat for me.
Thankfully, this wasn’t the case, and I really enjoyed this ultimate B-movie experience. It’s a great ball of 80s film fun. John Carpenter has a masterful grip on the visuals (and the budget, I was shocked to see how little the film was made for), Kurt Russel is fantastic as protagonist Snake Plissken, and the premise – in a dystopic urban near-future, a reluctant special ops rogue is injected with a deadly serum, and forced to perform a dangerous mission if they want said serum removed – is so compelling that it’s very easy to see why it’s been replicated so often.
On that topic of repetition and derivatives, the film wears its influences on its sleeve, with Sergio Leone’s “The Man With No Name” western trilogy starring Clint Eastwood clearly a huge influence, not only in terms of Snake’s characterisation and the plot’s premise, but the casting of Lee Van Cleef as well.
The score is 1980s synth wonder, one of my favourite types of music, and I’m sure I’m going to be revisiting that more than the film itself.
The tone is a tricky thing here, and Russel in particular really succeeds in imbibing the film with a sense of self-awareness that prevents it from ever feeling too unintentionally silly. He makes the shlock, the B-movie vibe, work in a way that the audience is “in on” the affair. He’s not a po-faced, straight-laced action hero like the 1980s was littered with, he’s far more interesting and entertaining than that.
I give it three cassette tapes, and a presidential pardon.