Time: 99 mins.
Genre: Action/Science Fiction
BOTTOM LINE: I never realized until a recent viewing of this film that Carpenter has always been a B-movie schlock filmmaker. I was under the impression, garnered from the buzz around this film, that he was a class act who just went south as he got older. Wow, was I wrong. I'm sure there were many aspects of this movie that were innovative and original in 1981, but they sure don't hold up well. The plot is pretty interesting if a bit thin. Criminal Snake Plisskin (Russell) is sent to Manhattan, which has been turned into a maximum security prison, to rescue the President whose plane was hijacked and crashed onto the island.
He must accomplish this task in 22 hours or he's dead and the future of the free world is destroyed. While on the island, he meets old friends, makes new ones and encounters just about every freak and psychopath available while trying to stay alive. Russell does a passable job as the badass, sarcastic criminal, but since we learn nothing about Snake, except that he's supposed to be dead, it's hard to care about his quest. Same goes for the President, though Pleasance makes the most of this tiny role. The action sequences are OK and the views of a completely dark NY creepy, but overall this is a fairly simplistic and silly view of an apocalyptic future that thankfully never came to be. A film that didn't need a sequel.