Escapist From L.A.

The Luddite theme underpinning L.A. should strike a chord at a time when fallen trees in Oregon can cut off the power in more than a dozen states; an upcoming thriller, The Trigger Effect, is based on the same concept. But Carpenter is more interested in dopey kicks than in provocative thought. Just as he did on his first pictures, he co-composed the overblown, purposefully stereotypical score for his latest, and he uses it in the same way he always has--for its unadulterated corniness. The latest Escape is superficial, and several of its set pieces (particularly a basketball challenge staged at the L.A. Coliseum) are bad ideas done poorly. But for anyone exhausted by the latest batch of Hollywood explosion-fests, Carpenter's good-humored modesty can be a tonic. He's better than anyone else at making a big budget seem small.

Escape From L.A.. Written by John Carpenter and Debra Hill and Kurt Russell. Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Kurt Russell, Stacy Keach, Pam Grier, Steve Buscemi and Peter Fonda.

Bill Gallo is on vacation.

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