The year is 1997, the entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a walled prison, and the black-shirted security police are headquartered at the foot of the Statue of Liberty (how ironic!). Things, in short, have changed a bit -- but director John Carpenter still has mashed potatoes for brains. He is fortunate to have some good production design of the city in ruins, and some good photography of the streets and buildings at night, preternaturally clear, as if underneath the fullest of moons. (Couldn't he afford, though, to hire someone other than himself to write some background music a little less dull than his own?) And he is extremely generous in his attempts to make a teenage idol, of sorts, of Kurt Russell, who worked very hard for Carpenter in the TV movie Elvis. Russell, playing a thoroughly embittered but much-decorated Army veteran, having won Purple Hearts in Leningrad(!) and Siberia(!), dons a black eyepatch, talks in a Clint Eastwood husk, and, among his numerous athletic feats, engages in a Louisville Slugger fight that salutes his previous life as a professional baseballer. With Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, and Donald Pleasence. (1981) — Duncan Shepherd
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