We can’t go outside at the moment. Let me rephrase that: we can’t go outside long enough to have our own wacky adventures (I have to settle with making up adventures for my cat. I’m doing great, thanks for asking!). As is my solution to all life’s problems, I suggest movies, specifically the subgenre of the urban odyssey. These are movies where a group of brave travelers, preferably a mismatched group, though a lone character can work too, have to reach a seemingly easy destination in the city only to encounter progressively worse and more outlandish situations barring their way. Think Odysseus, with a broke down car, and no bus or train fare.
Escape from New York
The grandaddy of the modern urban odyssey movie, Escape from New York is about as outlandish as they come. Directed by John Carpenter, at a time where he could do no wrong, Escape from New York is as pulpy as they come. This is the plot: Kurt Russell plays Snake Plisskin, a character so brilliantly ridiculous that he becomes effortlessly cool, a criminal who has to infiltrate and rescue the president of the United States who has been captured by prisoners; oh yeah, and New York is a prison colony. Think Arkaham City but more garish, and a whole lot more camp.
Adventures in Babysitting
You know those movies that you watched over and over again as a child, but were afraid to go back to as an adult because you’re worried that they may have been terrible the whole time? Well, Adventures in Babysitting is one of those movies, and I’m happy to report that it’s an underrated classic. Elizabeth Shue (with primo eighties hair) is tasked with babysitting the neighborhood’s weird kids, the oldest son has a crush on her, and the little sister counts as the first live action version of Thor (that alone should be enough to recommend this but I’ll keep going), only to have to save her best friend from at the bus station after a failed attempt at running away from home. Madness ensues, there’s mobsters, a neat twist on the hook-man urban legend, and a surprisingly risque running joke about a particular issue of Playboy. It’s awesome. And just as good as you remember.
Die Hard with a Vengeance
Time, and the fact that a certain fifth movie exists, has been kind to the Die Hard sequels. The second movie is a solid action adventure, the fourth a delightfully bonkers techno thriller, but the best of the sequels is the great Die Hard with a Vengeance. After two hits, one of which has a shout for being the best action movie of all time, the Die Hard franchise changed the formula. No longer would John McClaine be stuck alone in a single location. Instead, he would have his own urban odyssey, this time with a partner who actually shares the screen with him. The fact that this partner is Samuel L Jackson is even better. It’s a quest movie in the urban jungle of New York, and the first time that McClaine has been on home turf, with brilliant action and the series’ second most memorable villain, played with slimy perfection by Jeremy Irons, Die Hard with a Vengeance proved that tinkering with the formula can work, sometimes. And only sometimes.
By Kevin Boyle
Header Image: CinemaBlend