Escape from L.A.

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Escape From L.A.
Escape From LA.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Carpenter
Produced by Debra Hill
Kurt Russell
Written by John Carpenter
Debra Hill
Kurt Russell
Based on Characters created by
John Carpenter
Nick Castle
Starring Kurt Russell
Stacy Keach
Steve Buscemi
Peter Fonda
Georges Corraface
Cliff Robertson
Michelle Forbes
Pam Grier
Music by John Carpenter
Shirley Walker
Cinematography Gary B. Kibbe
Edited by Edward A. Warschilka
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • August 9, 1996 (1996-08-09)[1]
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $50 million[2]
Box office $25.4 million (domestic)[2]

Escape from L.A. (also known as John Carpenter's Escape From L.A.) is a 1996 American science fiction action film co-written, co-scored, and directed by John Carpenter, co-written and produced by Debra Hill and Kurt Russell, with Russell also starring as Snake Plissken. A sequel of Escape from New York, Escape from L.A. co-stars Steve Buscemi, Stacy Keach, Bruce Campbell, and Pam Grier.


On August 23, 2000, an earthquake strikes Los Angeles, causing the San Fernando Valley to flood and turning a portion of California into an island from Malibu to Anaheim. An American presidential candidate (portrayed by Cliff Robertson), who is also an outspoken theocrat, has been saying that L.A. is a "city of sin," and that "like the mighty fist of God, waters will rise up and separate this sinful, sinful city from our country." The candidate is shortly elected president and, by a forced amendment to the Constitution of the United States, his term is made permanent.

The president's new policies include relocating the capital from Washington, D.C. to his hometown of Lynchburg, Virginia, and declaring that anyone not conforming to the new "Moral America" laws he creates (banning such things as tobacco, alcoholic beverages, red meat, firearms, profanity, atheism, non-marital sex, freedom of speech and unauthorized marriages) will be deported to Los Angeles Island or can choose repentance and death by electrocution as an alternative. A containment wall is built around the island with armed guards and watchtowers posted. Those sent to the island are exiled permanently. He also banishes all the other political parties to ensure that he would be president for life. He also demolishes the Manhattan prison and rebuilds it, and relocates all the prisoners to L.A.

In 2013, Cuervo Jones (Georges Corraface), a Shining Path Peruvian Revolutionary, seduces the President's daughter, Utopia (A. J. Langer), via a holographic system and brainwashes her into stealing her father's remote control to the "Sword of Damocles" super weapon, a series of satellites capable of destroying electronics anywhere on the planet, driving target areas back into the Dark Ages. The president intends to use the system to destroy the "ability to function" of America's enemies and eventually dominate the world using the weapon as blackmail.

While traveling aboard Air Force Three to meet with her father, Utopia leaves the plane in an escape pod and lands on L.A. Island to join Cuervo. With the satellites under his control, Cuervo promises to take back America with the assistance of an allied invasion force of third world nations that are standing by to attack. He claims that if the president tries to stop him, he will "pull the plug" on the country and black out the capital. In addition, Cuervo also knows a secret code that can knock out power for the entire planet, i.e. the "world code."

Meanwhile, 16 years after the Manhattan incident, Snake Plissken is captured for a series of crimes and is scheduled to be exiled to the island. Upon his arrival for deportation, he meets the president and is offered the mission of retrieving the weapon in exchange for a full pardon for all the crimes Snake has ever committed if he is successful. The president indicates he does not care whether Utopia is returned or not, declaring her a traitor. To ensure Snake's compliance, he is infected with the man-made Plutoxin 7 virus that will kill him within ten hours. If he completes the mission, Snake will be given an antidote and cured of the virus.

After acquiring all of the necessary equipment and weaponry and making his way across the island via a small personal submarine, Snake arrives to the L.A Island and meets "Map to the Stars" Eddie (Steve Buscemi), a swindler who sells interactive tours of L.A. Shortly after a failed attempt at retrieving the device from Cuervo, Snake meets up with his old friend Carjack Malone, who has since become the transsexual gang leader Hershe Las Palmas (Pam Grier), who lives on a huge tanker and has been in L.A for the past 5 years. Together with Hershe and her gang, Snake stages a final assault on Cuervo's forces.

Snake defeats Cuervo at his staging area of The Happy Kingdom by the Sea and takes the remote control. He leaves the island with Utopia and some other Cuervo resistors in a helicopter. Eddie mortally wounds Cuervo, but the revolutionary fires a rocket launcher at the helicopter. Seeing the incoming rocket, Eddie leaps off the aircraft, landing on an awning. The rocket hits the helicopter and kills those in the back of the chopper; Snake and Utopia bail out before it crashes. When the president's men reach the crash site, Snake intentionally hands off the wrong remote to the president while Utopia is taken to the electric chair, despite her pleas for forgiveness. The Plutoxin 7 virus is revealed to be nothing more than a fast, hard-hitting case of the flu. The president tries using the satellites to stop a Cuban invasion force threatening Florida. Activating the remote, the president hears only Eddie's "Map to the Stars" intro over "I Love L.A.."

The president, furious about being given a wrong remote, orders Snake's execution, but Snake tricks him and his troops by using a holographic illusion of himself. Seeing the problem of one man having such power over the world, Snake activates the real Damocles and enters the secret world code, against pleas to stop. Within seconds, all electronic technology worldwide is shut down by the satellites; as a result, the entire world descends to the Dark Ages and all the technology shuts down.

Shortly after activating the Damocles, arriving at a remote forest area, Snake discovers an old, decayed pack of American Spirit cigarettes on the ground with three cigarettes inside, and lights one up for himself. He stares at the lit match and the viewer before extinguishing it and saying, "Welcome to the human race."



The film was in development for over ten years with a script commissioned in 1985, written by screenwriter Coleman Luck. Carpenter would later describe the script as "too light, too campy".[3] The project remained dormant following that time until the 1994 earthquake and the L.A. riots revived it.[citation needed] Carpenter and Kurt Russell got together to write with their long-time collaborator Debra Hill. Carpenter insists that it was Russell's persistence that allowed the film to be made, since "Snake Plissken was a character he loved and wanted to play again".[4] Principal filming began in December 1995. Carpenter has stated that if he ever did another sequel for the Escape films he would call it Escape from Earth.[citation needed] Russell has also stated that out of all the characters he has played in his career, Snake Plissken is his favorite.[citation needed]


Escape from L.A. was a box office bomb, only earning $25,477,365 from its $50 million budget—about as much as its predecessor, but little more than half its significantly higher budget.[2]

The film received mixed reviews from critics, and has a 53% rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Critics panned the film's gratuitous action sequences, which were significantly scaled up from the previous film, and which many critics felt added little to the film. Roger Ebert felt it was an attempt to satirize the genre while exploiting it: "[Escape from L.A.] has such manic energy, such a weird, cockeyed vision, that it may work on some moviegoers as satire and on others as the real thing."[5]

Home video[edit]

Paramount released two DVD editions of the film in 1998 and 2006.[citation needed] They contained no special features except for the original theatrical trailer.[citation needed] The 2006 edition features different cover art. These R1 releases are also non-anamorphic transfers. The 2001 R2 release is anamorphic.[citation needed]

The film was released on Blu-ray on May 4, 2010.[6]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 2.5/5 stars[7]
  1. "Dawn" – Stabbing Westward
  2. "Sweat" – Tool
  3. "The One" – White Zombie
  4. "Cut Me Out" – Toadies
  5. "Pottery" – Butthole Surfers
  6. "10 Seconds Down" – Sugar Ray
  7. "Blame (L.A) Remix" – Gravity Kills
  8. "Professional Widow" – Tori Amos
  9. "Paisley" – Ministry
  10. "Fire in the Hole" – Orange 9mm
  11. "Escape from the Prison Planet" – Clutch
  12. "Et Tu Brute?" – CIV
  13. "Foot on the Gas" – Sexpod
  14. "Can't Even Breathe" – Deftones


The film's score has been released twice, the first on both CD and cassette by Milan Records in 1996 and again as an expanded CD release by specialty label La-La Land Records in 2014 which featured pieces of music which were recorded for (but ultimately cut) use in the film.[8]

Tie-in comic[edit]

The Adventures of Snake Plissken[edit]

Marvel released the one-shot The Adventures of Snake Plissken in January 1997.[9] The story takes place sometime between Escape from New York and his famous Cleveland escape mentioned in Escape from L.A.. Snake has robbed Atlanta's Centers for Disease Control of some engineered metaviruses and is looking for buyers in Chicago. Finding himself in a deal that's really a set-up, he makes his getaway and exacts revenge on the buyer for ratting him out to the United States Police Force. In the meantime, a government lab has built a robot called ATACS (Autonomous Tracking And Combat System) that can catch criminals by imprinting their personalities upon its program in order to predict and anticipate a specific criminal's every move. The robot's first test subject is America's public enemy number one, Snake Plissken. After a brief battle, the tide turns when ATACS copies Snake to the point of fully becoming his personality. Now recognizing the government as the enemy, ATACS sides with Snake. Unamused, Snake punches the machine and destroys it. As ATACS shuts down, it can only ask him, "Why?" Snake just walks off answering, "I don't need the competition."


  1. ^ Spelling, Ian (1996-07-19). "Now Director John Carpenter `Escapes From L.a.'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-11-18. 
  2. ^ a b c "Escape from L.A.". The Numbers. 1996-09-14. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  3. ^ Gilles Boulenger, John Carpenter Prince of Darkness, (Los Angeles, Silman-James Press, 2003), pp.246, ISBN 1-879505-67-3
  4. ^ Boulenger, pp. 246
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger at "Escape from L.A. >> Reviews". Sun Times. Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
  6. ^ Tyner, Adam (May 4, 2010). "Escape from L.A. (Blu-ray)". DVD Talk. 
  7. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Escape from L.A. [Original Film Soundtrack] - Various Artists". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2013-06-30.
  8. ^ "Escape from L.A. [Original Score] - John Carpenter, Shirley Walker Releases". Rovi. Retrieved 2014-09-07. 
  9. ^ "The Adventures of Snake Plissken #1 (Marvel)". Retrieved 2010-06-30. 

External links[edit]