Escape from NY ‘cuz there’s Big Trouble in Little China

BY RICK BALDWIN

Columnist

Greetings, my fellow crazy from the heat cinephiles of the world!

I hope all of you had a great July 4th and are enjoying a cool cinematic summer. As your inventory of fireworks may now be dwindling, its never too late to revisit or discover some action-packed, explosive titles that were released this month years ago in a childhood far away. Both films are John “Halloween” Carpenter productions starring the same lead actor. These titles are both entertaining, memorable films within modern popular culture and have aged well since their initial release. So, lock & load, keep a cool head, and join me this week in the film time capsule as we explore “Escape from New York” (1981) and “Big Trouble in Little China” (1986).

“Escape from New York” is a popular satirical, dystopian sci-fi adventure set in the near-future 1997 as a war between the United States and the Soviet Union comes to a devastating end. The entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a giant maximum-security prison within the city limits.  If you remember NYC in the 70s & 80s, this premise wasn’t far from the truth due to Manhattan being known for its sleaze, crime, and depravity along the Times Square strip. U.S. President Harker (Donald “Prince of Darkness” Pleasence) is taken hostage by a group of prisoners after Air Force One is hijacked and crashes into the prison island. Police Commissioner Hauk (Lee “For a Few Dollars More” Van Cleef) wants to ensure the president is rescued and there is only one man for the job, Snake Plissken (Kurt “Death Proof” Russell). Plissken, the quintessential antihero, is a former Special Forces soldier turned criminal after being convicted of robbing the Federal Reserve. A reluctant Plissken agrees to rescue the president in exchange for his freedom but is injected with micro-explosives that will kill him in 22 hours if the mission is not successful for insurance purposes.

Russell returns to play the John Waynesque, lovable loudmouth truck driver Jack Burton, who gets caught up in a bizarre supernatural martial arts conflict within, and underneath, San Francisco’s mysterious Chinatown. An ancient Chinese prince and Chinatown crime lord Lo Pan (James “Tango & Cash” Hong), has kidnapped a beautiful green-eyed woman, Jack must help his friend rescue the girl before the evil Lo Pan uses her to break the ancient curse that keeps him a fleshless and immortal spirit. If Jack didn’t have enough on his plate, he must battle Pan’s ancient supernatural foot soldiers, search for his stolen rig, and deter all feelings he may or may not have for lovely lawyer Gracie Law (Kim “Mannequin” Cattrall).

This will be a great a summer, but it’s  up to you to make it that way. Tune in (to yourself), turn off (the news), & drop out (don’t follow the mob mentality). Both titles are fun flicks which pull off the difficult balancing act of action, satire, and social commentary in a seamless manner. These films are unique, timeless, and have garnered cult favorite street cred from fans over the years. After you light your last bottle rocket, take a first gander at the mentioned films or take a trip down memory lane to rediscover the joy of being a kid again on a cinematic summer break.

Remember what ol’ Rick Baldwin always says, have a film-tastic day!