Alternative Character Interpretation: Are we meant to feel a bit sorry for the Duke? This may be hinted at by the camera lingering on his face for a few seconds after he is killed, and the fact that he's unceremoniously gunned down by the President, who is shown to be a selfish, cowardly asshole (though this could be seen as a triumphant moment for the President if you see him as a Jerkass Woobie). Also, there is no word on exactly why the Duke is in prison. He could have been put there for being a political dissident. He also demands amnesty for all prisoners on Manhattan Island in exchange for the President, and not just himself and his cronies.
Harsher in Hindsight: The plot is kicked off by terrorists hijacking a jet airliner and then suicidally crashing it into a New York skyscraper in order to protest U.S. foreign policies. Ouch.
For a brief moment, it actually looks like the hijacked airplane is flying toward the World Trade Center.
The part when the plane flies over the harbor and the guard watches it go by is eerily reminiscent of the only known video of Flight 11 hitting the North Tower.
Worthy of note that this is Air Force One being crashed into New York. In 2009, an unannounced aerial photo op of Air Force One was carried out over New York City with the plane trailed by an F-16 fighter jet at a low altitude, causing a public panic that another 9/11-style attack was imminent.
Jerkass Woobie: The President. He's far from admirable, but it's hard not to feel bad for him when he's being tortured and brutalized by the Duke and his thugs, and it's hard not to cheer for him when he finally gets his revenge on the Duke at the end.
Upon further review, it is worth pointing out that in the original Snake was more of an opportunistic Anti-Hero with hints of a Jerk with a Heart of Gold; dangerous and resourceful, but not so ridiculously badass as the sequel made him.
That said, everybody inside New York has heard of him and heard rumours of his death. Considering that nobody ever comes out of there and that the only news updates that anybody would get is from new prisoners, Snake must have been involved in something major (possibly the Noodle Incident in Kansas City where Brain abandoned him) to have people know who he is.
The fate of the girl in the Chock Full O'Nuts coffee shop - it's implied that the Crazies eat her after catching and dragging her down to her doom out of camera range. In a weird way it's even more chilling when you remember that the actress playing her, Season Hubley, was Kurt Russell's wife at the time. And even more horrific when you realize that when she was pulled under, she grabbed Snake's gun to keep from being pulled under, and Snake pulled her hand off the gun to keep it from being dragged under with her.
The exact nature of Snake's Explosive Leash, as described in Lee Van Cleef's typical menacing glee.
"Not a large explosion, about the size of a pinhead. Just big enough to open up both your arteries. I'd say you'd be dead in ten to fifteen seconds."
"Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: With Kurt Russell's success in reinventing himself as a genuine badass action hero, it's hard to remember that at the time, casting a former Disney child star as a post-apocalyptic anti-hero was supposed to be something of a joke, and a sign that people shouldn't take the film very seriously.
Vindicated by History: It made a respectable splash in the cult sense when it was first released in 1981, but wasn't considered a classic by any stretch of the imagination. It has gained much more recognition over the years, mainly due, no doubt, to its influence on other media, with Metal Gear Solid, ReBoot, and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy being only a few examples.
Visual Effects of Awesome: The visual effects hold up, even though it's a 1981 film. It's hard not to get chills when a dark, nearly lightless Manhattan is revealed. (Even more impressive, the skyline shots of New York are all matte paintings done by James Cameron). Particularly notable is the computer image of New York, which is actually a practical effect. What you're seeing is a model of the city with a grid pattern of reflective tape.
Jerkass Woobie: Even in the movie, Snake is not really someone who you would call a Knight in Sour Armor. But let's take a look to his background: he gets betrayed by the same governments he believed in during the "Leningrad Ruse" (where he lost the use of his left eye) and then all his country is turned into a totalitarian police state, with his parents being murdered by the police in the process. Wouldn't you be a bit sociopathic after that? He does, however, hold a loose code of honor and humanity and he can also occasionally step in the Jerk with a Heart of Gold territory.