|It is 1997 and a nearly destroyed New York City has become a walled prison for over 3 million convicted criminals who have lost, but survived, a brutal war against the United States Police Force. In this maximum security prison-city, escape has been made impossible every bridge is mined and walled, the surrounding waters are filled with deadly electricity and the Statue of Liberty has become just another guard tower from which officers in infra-red goggles blast, on sight, any prisoners desperate enough to try to get out. Radar scanners revolve and helicopters circle the island of Manhattan endlessly. Other than the monthly food drops made by air into Central Park these outcasts are left completely on their own to prey on each other.
Into this living hell one master criminal, Snake Plissken, is sent alone on a mission as dangerous as the criminals within its walls; he must rescue the President of the United States whose plane crashes in New York City on its way to a world summit conference; the President is carrying papers that are crucial to the survival of the United States. As a deadly incentive, to prevent Snake from abandoning his rescue mission, two devices are implanted in Snakes head, which could blow the famous crook to pieces.
Once inside New York City, Snake is pitted against roving street gangs of violent criminals and the crazies, the criminally insane, who live in the subways and break through the floors or pour out of manholes in hordes like sewer rats to attack whomever they can. It is the most powerful street gang in New York, the Gypsies, led by The Duke, who hold the President prisoner, demanding amnesty for all inhabitants of New York City for his release.
When Snake manages to track down The Duke he is almost immediately stripped of the guns given him for the mission, shot in the leg and savagely beaten. Despite his weakened condition, Dukes gang sends Snake into a blood stained boxing ring we recognize as New Yorks world famous Madison Square Garden to fight a Roman gladiator type of contest using nail filled baseball bats as weapons. Although his opponent is Slag, a sadistic mountain of a man, Snake is able to kill him, much to the delight of the thousands of bloodthirsty spectators.
Snake then manages to slip away from Duke and his gang and carries out a spectacular rescue of the President, from the George Washington Bridge amid exploding mines and a bloody fight. But just as the President and Snake are hauled over the wall, Snake is pulled back down by the Duke, who is now trying to intercept them; the two powerful criminals are fighting a fierce hand to hand battle to the death, that even if Snake wins, he could lose if he cant get to the doctor in time to have the detonating devices neutralized.