A resourceful enemy of the state is given a choice: help the government retrieve a stolen high-tech weapon—or die. [Dir: John Carpenter/ Kurt Russell, Stacy Keach, Steve Buscemi/ 101 min/ SciFi-Fantasy, Action-Adventure/ Government Enforced Morality]
“The United States is a no-smoking nation—no smoking, no drinking, no drugs, no women (unless, of course, you’re married), no guns, no foul language, no red meat. Land of the free.” In this projected near-future U.S., a religious-Right president has been elected for life. His policy is to deport all people convicted of moral crimes—prostitutes, atheists, runaways, etc.—to Los Angeles, which is now surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers. However, his daughter has chosen to rebel against his theocracy. She has stolen a high-tech weapon capable of disabling electrical power in any nation and given it to a Peruvian left-wing revolutionary.
Enter “Snake,” a captured enemy of the state who has been deliberately exposed to a designer virus that will kill him in ten hours if he doesn’t retrieve the stolen device. Snake retrieves the weapon and manages to get cleared of the virus, but must then decide which side he should support: the right wing, which offers an industrial society combined with moral authoritarianism, or the left wing, which wants to return the world to a preindustrial condition through force.
Gee, this sounds like a choice we have seen before, like maybe in every U.S. election in living memory. Snake chooses none of the above and in the final scene is pictured smoking a (forbidden) cigarette with the brand name “American Spirit.”
At least some of this favorable content likely reflects the influence of libertarian Kurt Russell, who stars, coproduced, and cowrote the script. It’s primarily an action film, but there’s also a lot of comedy here, as Los Angeles and all its stock characters—the agent, the plastic surgeon, the surfer, etc.—are parodied relentlessly and to good comic effect. It’s not a bad flick on its own merits and it has an underlying message libertarians will appreciate. Billed as a sequel to the 1981 film Escape from New York, it bears only a superficial resemblance to this earlier film, which does not have this kind of libertarian content.