Film: Escape from L.A.

President: If you go to Los Angeles, and come back with that black box and put it in my hand, you'll be given a full pardon for every moral crime you've committed in the United States.
Snake Plissken: Sounds familiar.

Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) is back in Escape from L.A., the 1996 sequel to John Carpenter's Escape from New York.

America has become even more dystopian than it was in the earlier film: A theocratic fundamentalist Christian President (Cliff Robertson) has taken over control of the country, and Los Angeles has become penal colony/no man's land/landfill/roach motel after breaking off of the US thanks to The Big One. As the film begins, an airplane escape pod has crash-landed in Los Angeles; this pod carried The President's Daughter, Utopia (A. J. Langer), who has since sided with Cuervo Jones and taken the United State's super weapon — a device that controls "The Sword of Damocles" satellite system, which would let the President hit any country in the world with an electromagnetic pulse — with her. The President drafts Snake into entering Los Angeles, retrieving the device, and executing his daughter for treason. His reward for a successful mission will be a full well as an antidote to a virus injected into him to ensure his compliance, of course.

Left with no options, Snake enters the fortified and barbwired city of Los Angeles; like New York before it, the city has become a prison with no guards and precious little order. As Plissken makes his way through ruins of what was once a vibrant and lively city, he both gains and loses allies, fights off loads of bad guys, and...


Let's just say the ending to this film is incredibly defiant and shocking for an action film — even to people for whom It Was His Sled.

Escape from L.A. contains the following tropes:

  • After the End
  • The Alcatraz/Penal Colony: Los Angeles, which has been separated from the mainland US by a massive earthquake, is now a prison for those deemed "unfit" to live in the new theocratic America. A Great Wall is built along the shoreline and the United States Police Force is encamped along it to prevent anyone from escaping back to the US.
  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game"
  • Awesome but Impractical: Surfing on a Tsunami through the dilapidated ruins of L.A. chasing a Cadillac speeding on a high road...and catching it.
  • Badass Biker: Snake when he rides a motorcycle.
  • Badass Longcoat: Snake wears it.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The American President is a religious fascist who turned his country into a police state and is willing to destroy entire countries if necessary to maintain his supremacy. Meanwhile, Cuervo Jones runs the largest gang in Los Angeles and has united Latin America under the Shining Path to invade the United States and get that power for himself.
  • Big Blackout: Snake does this by activating the Sword of Damocles with the world code engaged. This is treated as a good thing, as it supposedly allows humanity to restart.
  • Boring Yet Practical: Snake is given an array of weapons and gadgets going into LA. Among them is a simple box of matches, which Molloy tells him that he never knows when they may come in handy. He uses them twice — once to destroy a car, and the other to light up a cigarette at the end of the film.
  • Boxed Crook: As in the previous film.
  • California Collapse: A portion of the California coast has become separated from the mainland by a quake that flooded San Fernando Valley.
  • Call Back
    Taslima: What are you doing here in L.A?
    Snake: Dying.
    Taslima: But first you have to find something, right?
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The holo-cam, to an amazing degree of awesome.
    • To a lesser extent, Snake getting his hand cut by the guard walking by him. It's revealed only a few minutes later what it was.
    • Also the matches.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Eddie switches sides constantly.
  • Co-Dragons: Both Cdr. Malloy and Lt. Brazen fill this role for the President.
  • Combat Pragmatist: "Nobody draws until this hits the ground."
  • Cool Guns: The "Coreburner" assault rifle plus Snake's own pair of revolvers.
  • Crapsack World: Los Angeles, reduced to an lawless dog-eat-dog hellhole, is described by one of its residents as "the only free zone left in the world" and something of a dark paradise by Snake himself when compared to the police state of America and the rest of the world in general.
  • Cut the Juice: What the Sword of Damocles does.
  • Deadly Game: Basketball becomes a life-or-death situation in this movie.
  • Deadpan Snarker: It's probably safe to say Snake's even more of a snarker in this one.
  • Delusions Of Grandeur: The President. During the climax, when he sentences his daughter to be executed, he corrupts one of the Bible's most recognized verses, putting himself in The Almighty's place (of course, given that he's President For Life of a theocratic dictatorship, it'd probably be surprising if he didn't develop a God complex).
    President: "For he so loved his country, he gave his only seditious child."
    Original Verse: "For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son (...)" [John 3:16]
  • Dirty Coward: The President starts freaking out the second things go off-plan, and has to be snapped back to reality by his Dragons.
  • Do Not Call Me Paul: Hershe doesn't like Snake calling her by the name she used as a man when they first met, "Carjack".
  • Downer Ending: In spite of the ending's attempt to come off as more "bittersweet", it really is something of a downer: Snake shuts down the whole world's electricity, causing the deaths of billions and turning the world into one big third-world country, instead of turning control of the world over to the President or Cuervo/the Shining Path.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Really, the Shining Path and the US Government are absolutely no different in terms of how evil they are — both the President, a fascist fundamentalist, and Cuervo Jones, a vicious power-hungry terrorist, want the "Sword of Damocles" to use against the other's empire. And Snake, naturally, is trapped between 'em, and ultimately decides to just destroy them both.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Subverted. Snake's watch reaches zero seconds after he demands the cure for the Plutoxin 7 virus. Luckily, it turns out that Plutoxin 7 is just a fast, hard-hitting case of the flu.
  • Expanded States of America: Bangkok, Thailand (where Snake has been at some point between 1997 and 2013) is mentioned as being United States territory.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: A running joke with characters meeting Snake in the film.
  • Eye Scream: Snake very narrowly averts this. Since it happened to him once already, it would've been a real bummer.
  • Fanservice: Snake's short, but memorable Shirtless Scene when he changes his clothes.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Deportation to LA is considered this, to the point that on-site executions are offered for those who would prefer death.
  • Forced Prize Fight: In a variation, Snake has to win a steel-cage basketball game in order to escape/ If he misses a shot or lets the shot clock run out, he gets shot to pieces.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: "Welcome to the human race!"
  • The Fundamentalist: The President, a mixture of Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell, has turned America into a theocracy. For an added joke, he's played by a guy named Robertson.
  • Genre Savvy: "That's why the first clip is loaded with blanks."
    • Hershe's mention of the Plutoxin-7 virus semi-qualifies. The look on Snake's face when she mentions it off-handedly seems like one of realization.
  • A God Am I: Implied with the President when he corrupts a Bible verse by putting himself in God's place.
  • The Gunslinger: Snake has become a Type D in the intervening years.
  • Hell: The opening narration refers to L.A. as an "island of the damned."
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Snake's old worn out leather coat makes a return, until he trades up for a Badass Longcoat. In fact, during the opening incarceration shot, Snake's entire wardrobe makes a return since Russel informed Carpenter that he still had his original outfit from Escape from New York hanging in his closet.
  • Heroic Neutral: Snake, obviously.
  • Human Resources: The plastic surgery freaks, who must regularly kidnap prisoners and harvest them for body parts in order to keep themselves alive.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: Arguably Snakes entire motivation. He just wants to get away and be left alone to his own devices.
  • I Have No Daughter : The president made it clear that he disowned his daughter. In fact, he was annoyed that his daughter was alive, and prompted to execute her.
  • Illegal Religion: The new extreme right-wing President who takes over the United States outlaws all religions other than Christianity as well as atheism. It is punishable by death through deportation to the hellish, crime-ridden Los Angeles Penitentiary Island. Taslima, one of the inhabitants, tells Snake that she was an American Muslim before she was shipped off to L.A.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Snake and a few other instances in the movie.
  • Insistent Terminology / Do Not Call Me Paul: In both Escape from New York and Escape from LA, the U.S. government is on a Last Name Basis with protagonist Snake Plissken, to which he consistently replies, "Call me Snake". However, during the respective climaxes of both movies, when one of the government's men finally does call him Snake, he reverses his previous attitude with the reply "The name's Plissken".
  • In the Back: Subverted. A neo-Nazi skinhead attempts to throw a knife into Snake's back as he's walking away. Snake turns around and riddles him with bullets before continuing on his path.
  • Invaded States of America: A united, Shining Path-led Latin America is on the verge of invading the US.
  • Ironic Echo: "Catches on quick doesn't s/he?"
  • It's All About Me: Snake cannot be persuaded to give a shit about anything but his own interests. Considering there is no particularly good side for him to be on, one can hardly blame him. This applies to the President, too.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Snake was more or less this since Escape from New York. However in this movie is a bit less anti-heroic as you would expect - it is shown when he spares The President's daughter's life when he had the order to kill her on sight. Although that may be equally due to Snake's utter contempt for the men who ordered him to do it.
  • Kill Sat: The Sword of Damocles.
  • Lighter and Softer: L.A. has little of the grittiness of New York, and Snake is more of an Action Hero. Then again, L.A does a much bleaker ending where, instead of just trolling the president, Snake essentially shuts down the earth's electricity supply, causing the deaths of billions. Something that Snake doesn't really seem to choked up about because he's even more pissed at the government than he was the first time.
  • Lock and Load Montage
  • MacGuffin: The controller, which activates the "Sword Of Damocles" defense system, an EMP cannon designed to destroy enemy nation's weaponry.
  • Meaningful Name: The Sword of Damocles. It's an expression, based on an ancient anecdote, used to express an impending doom that can befall a person or, in the original tale, a tyrant, at any moment. Snake drops the sword on everyone in the end.
  • Mexico Called; They Want Texas Back: The Shining Path has taken over all of Latin America and is about to launch an invasion of the United States. They want a bit more than Texas...
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The US President, a politician who takes advantage of a depressed, war-torn country to attain absolute power, and then proceeds to eliminate any and all "undesirables" from his new regime. He even uses the term, "Final Solution", near the end.
  • Never Bring a Knife to a Fist Fight: The final battle between Snake and Cuervo has Cuervo use a knife against Snake.
  • Nineties Anti-Hero: Snake exemplifies this. He was even this nine years before the nineties began, making him an Ur-Example.
    • There's an unusual reason for this. "Escape from L.A." was in development for ten years w/ a script commissioned in 1985. But then the project was shelved until the Northridge earthquake & L.A. riots revived interest, & filming began in 1995. But the fact that a delayed-sequel about an '80s anti-hero was in theaters just after Independence Day was why it was a box office failure.
  • Noodle Incident: Whatever happened in Cleveland.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Snake absolutely despises the authorities who literally have to coerce him into working for them with a tailor-made "kill you in 10 hours" virus in his body or he'd just bail on them in a heartbeat.
  • Number of the Beast: "666" is the world code for the controller for the Sword of Damocles.
  • Oh Crap!: Snake, upon realizing that the cut on his hand he received in the hall infected him with the Plutoxin-7 virus.
    • And to a even bigger extent when the government officers realize that Snake has the real remote for the Sword of Damocles, knows the world code, was in full-blown Nineties Anti-Hero mode before they sent him into LA at gunpoint, and can be anywhere within a half-mile radius. They get a long minute to realize that their world's about to end and there's not a damn thing they can do to stop it.
  • Only Sane Man: Snake appears like this, especially at the end.
  • Oppressive States of America: While Escape from New York was set in a crime-ridden Fallen States of America setting, this movie turns America into a full-on Police State.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Snake persists in calling the transgnder Hershe her old (male) name of "Carjack" despite Hershe's insistence otherwise.
  • President Evil: Hoo, boy.
  • The President's Daughter: Utopia
  • The Purge: In the opening narration, it's stated that the President's first act is Directive 17: Americans who are found "unfit" to live in the new, "moral" America are stripped of their citizenship and deported to L.A. Don't want to go? There's always the electric chair.
  • The Quincy Punk
  • Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: The Sword of Damocles
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Taslima's character starts out by looking like Snake's potential love interest and moral guidance. She gets shot in the back quite suddenly for no particular reason — other than showing just how bleak the future is.
  • Sinister Minister: The US President is part this and part President Evil.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Once again, Snake (at least when he isn't wearing his Badass Longcoat).
  • Sociopathic Hero: If Snake gives even a fraction of a damn about the people who die helping him, he certainly doesn't show it. He does seem to be shocked and upset at Taslima's death, perhaps because she's about the only person who hasn't either turned on him or outright manipulated him for their own ends. And he's disgusted when the President sends his daughter Utopia to the electric chair. There's also a sense of "this is for the forgotten" when he shuts down the world with the Sword of Damocles.
  • State Sec: The United States Police Force, who despite their name is well armed and equipped.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: The plastic surgery freaks really want Snake's body...
  • Straw Character
  • Take a Third Option: Rather than side with a fascist theocracy and an equally brutal communist insurgency, Snake shuts off the entire world.
  • Taking You with Me: Cuervo is about to shoot the chopper that Snake, Hershe, Eddie, and Utopia are escaping in with a rocket. He gets shot by Eddie but still manages to get the rocket off before dying.
  • The Theocracy: The President Evil turns the United States into a virtual theocracy. He makes Christianity mandatory across the country and religious heterodoxy punishable by death, all while enforcing a set of new moral laws for the "new America".
  • Those Wacky Nazis: When Snake is looking for the original soldier sent into Los Angeles to retrieve the Sword of Damocles, he runs into a bunch of Neo-Nazis using the guy's corpse for target practice. When they try to kill Snake over an insult, he shoots one of them with his machine gun, looking nearly bored.
  • Title Drop: During the opening narration.
    The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped along the shoreline, making any escape from L.A. impossible.
  • Too Awesome to Use: Snake's revolvers. In the two scenes where he demands them back (being sent into L.A. and escaping from the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills), he is carrying other guns (The Coreburner issued to him by the government and the Colt 1911 he takes from the Surgeon General), which he resorts to using first. Even after losing the Coreburner, he divests a mook of his shotgun and uses that. He only gets to use his revolvers once, showing off his Improbable Aiming Skills, and loses them when captured.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The bald knife thrower attempts to throw a knife at Snake when he walks away from him. Yeah, good look with that.
  • Take a Third Option: Faced with the world being just moments from a clash between fascistic fundamentalists and equally violent terrorists, Snake smugly uses the Sword of Damocles EMP satellite network to shut down the entire planet, returning the entire mess to a clean slate.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Snake since Escape from New York. In that film, he was an ex-Green Beret with pretty decent combat skills. In this one, he's able to achieve Man With No Name style quickdrawing, shoot rifles and shotguns one handed from a motorcycle with no significant effects from recoil, take a round to the leg from a Desert Eagle and still walk with only a limp. This while being infected with the Plutoxin 7 virus (granted, it turns out to be the flu, but still).
  • Transsexual: Carjack Malone/Hershe Las Palmas.
  • Twenty Minutes into the Future: Carried over from the first film.
  • Uncanny Valley: This is invoked by the plastic surgery addicts, and it is intentional though. Especially creepy is the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills (a cameo by Bruce Campbell).
  • Used Future: But only in LA.
  • What Beautiful Eyes: The Surgeon General of Beverly Hills is simply mesmerized by Snake's eye...
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: "Map To The Stars" Eddie's reaction upon seeing Snake following him on the tsunami.