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America has become even more dystopian than it was in the earlier film, having been taken over by a theocratic fundamentalist Christian President (Cliff Robertson). An airplane has crash landed into the penal colony/no man's land/landfill/roach motel that is Los Angeles post-The Big One. It had The President's Daughter Utopia (A. J. Langer) on it, and now she has sided with Cuervo Jones, taking the film's MacGuffin super weapon with her. The President drafts Snake into eliminating her and retrieving said MacGuffin. His reward, should he succeed, will be the antidote to a virus that has been injected into him.
And so he enters the fortified and barbwired city of Los Angeles, a prison with no guards and precious little order. He makes his way through the slums (it's all slums), he gains and loses allies and...
The ending to this film is incredibly defiant and shocking for an action film — even for people for whom It Was His Sled.
This film provides examples of:
- After the End
- The Alcatraz: Los Angeles, which has been separated from the mainland US by a massive earthquake and 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 preventing anyone from escaping back to the US.
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game"
- Anti-Hero: Snake is a mix of type IV and type V. Also counts as a Nominal Hero at best, and a Designated Hero at worst.
- 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.
- Badass Normal: Snake Plissken is a Badass human with Improbable Aiming Skills.
- Big Bad: Either Cuervo Jones, or the President. It's kind of hard to tell, at times.
- Black and Black Morality: Really, the Shining Path and the US Government are absolutely no different in terms of how evil they are. They're just fighting over who gets to be in control.
- 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
Talisma: What are you doing here in L.A?
- 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.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Eddie switches sides constantly.
- Combat Pragmatist: "Nobody draws until this hits the ground."
- Cool Guns: The "Coreburner" assault rifle plus Snake's own pair of revolvers.
- Crapsack World/Day of the Jackboot: Los Angeles 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: Guess who? He was in the first film...
- It's probably safe to say he's even more of a Deadpan 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."
- The Dragon / Co-Dragons: Both Cdr. Malloy and Lt. Brazen fill this role for the President.
- Evil Versus Evil: Both the President, a fascist fundamentalist, and Cuervo Jones, a vicious power - hungry terrorist, want the "Sword of Damocles" for their own evil purpose. And Snake, naturally, is trapped between 'em.
- 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.
- Fan Service: Snake's short, but memorable Shirtless Scene when he changes his clothes.
- Forced Prize Fight: In a variation, Snake has to win a steel-cage basketball game in order to escape. The danger coming from the fact that if he doesn't make enough goals, 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, who has turned America into a theocracy.
- And for an added joke, he's played by a guy named Robertson.
- Genre Savvy: "That's why the first clip is loaded with blanks."
- Hell: The opening narration refers to LA 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.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Ash is the Surgeon General of Beverly Hills.
- 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.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Snake and a few other instances in the movie.
- Inferred Holocaust
- Insistent Terminology / Do Not Call Me Paul: In both Escape from New York and Escape From L.A., 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".
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Nineties Anti-Hero: Snake exemplifies this. He was even this nine years before the nineties began, making him an Ur Example.
- Noodle Incident: Whatever happened in Cleveland.
- Not in This For Your Revolution: And how! 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 what the cut on his hand is. And to a even bigger extent when the government officers realize that Snake can be within a half miles radius, and knows the world code.
- Only Sane Man: Snake appears like this, especially at the end.
- President Evil: Hoo, boy.
- The President's Daughter
- 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, deported to LA and may never come back.
- Real Life Relative: One of the orphans seen early on in the film is, in fact, Kurt Russell's own son, Wyatt.
- Religious and Mythological Theme Naming: The Sword of Damocles
- Scary Black Tranny: Hershe Las Palmas.
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: You know that band of misfits that helps Snake escape? They all get incinerated. You can even hear Hershe scream while she burns to death. In fact, everyone who helps Snake dies a horrible death, and it's implied Utopia will be killed anyway even though the chair is gone. Only "Map To The Stars" Eddie survives, and he has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
- The "Every one of Snake's allies gets killed" is a sort of Running Gag holdover from the previous movie.
- EVERY aspect of this movie is sort of a shot for shot holdover from the previous movie.
- The "Every one of Snake's allies gets killed" is a sort of Running Gag holdover from the previous movie.
- 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.
- 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...
- Strawman Political: And how.
- 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.
- Title Drop: During the opening narration.
The United States Police Force, like an army, is encamped along the shoreline, making any escape from LA impossible.
- Too Awesome to Use: Snake's revolvers. In the two scenes he demands them back (when being sent into L.A. and when 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.
- 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).
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: Carried over from the first film.
- Used Future: But only in LA.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: The Surgeon General of Beverly Hills is simply mesmerized by Snake's eye...
- What Could Have Been: In the original script Taslima was explicitly a Brainless Beauty ("the face of a Persian princess...and basically has an IQ of around 50" as the script puts it.)
- You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: "Map To The Stars" Eddie's reaction upon seeing Snake following him on the tsunami.