The Future is Right Now in “Escape From L.A.”

Andrew Greene
3 min readFeb 2, 2024

“Freedom.” / In America? That died a long time ago.”

It’s a dystopian 2013 — after a deadly earthquake separated Los Angeles from the rest of the continental U.S., it has become a prison island housing anyone who speaks out against a theocratic government that has outlawed smoking, alcohol, drugs, premarital sex, firearms, profanity and red meat.

There’s the police channel, “Prime News,” designer viruses, a revolutionary group billed as terrorists and a fascist United States developing a weapon that can render all electronic devices anywhere in the world useless.

As “Call Me Snake” Plissken says, “the future is right now.”

Most critics view John Carpenter’s sequel as the lesser, campier cousin to his original Escape From New York, but, uh, they’re both campy, and this one feels more honest about that, which is why I prefer it.

Credit: California Herps

I mean, there’s a scene where Kurt Russell surfs with Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda in order to collide with Steve Buscemi in a classic car.

It’s got Bruce Campbell as the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills, the disfigured leader of a plastic surgery cult that would make a splendid Death Becomes Her spinoff.

Credit: Offscreen

As is every Angeleno’s solemn sworn duty, Carpenter puts in as many cheesy LA geography references as possible.

And come on, that beautiful trial-by-basketball scene? Snake makes the Monstars look like Monsturds.

But, there are obviously problems…

Our protagonist continually Deadnames Pam Grier’s trans character Hershe Las Palmas.

“Cuervo Jones,” the leader of the Shining Path, a coalition of all “Third World” nations, is a flat Western stereotype of a Latino revolutionary, a violent, power hungry villain no better or different than the corrupt U.S. As much as I’d love a movie interested in exploring the resistance, that’s not this.

Credit: IMDb

The only hero here, the only person we’re supposed to root for is the free agent, the lone (white) gunslinger, Snake. Sure he doesn’t stand for fascism, but he also doesn’t stand for anybody. He is a totem for American individualism, an important tenet of capitalism.

In the end, Snake does what many of us desire they could do right now — he decides to destroy the whole system and restart. But without a united collective, a community, he is likely dooming society to repeat the cycle, a Snake eating its tail.

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Andrew Greene

Writer, director. Creator of The Naked Man Podcast. Human sampler tray following breadcrumbs, forever hungry. @WanderingGreene on IG, Letterboxd & Twitter