Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Born Ready: Kurt Russell

Not only was this past Monday St. Patrick's Day, it was also the birthday of one titan of cinema and life: Kurt Russell.  While Russell didn't inspire me the way Jean-Claude Van Damme or Arnold did as a kid, his films and attitude were definitely a big part of my formative movie watching years.  Always a perfect mix of funny and physical with a rough around the edges charm, Russell just effortlessly comes off as a cool guy.  After hearing stories about him and then seeing him in person last year, I can definitely say I still believe it to be true.  A few weeks ago I opined that America doesn't have many leading men of the durable and capable variety and I would argue that Russell was one of our last.

Coming off a string of television work and Disney features, Russell transitioned to Hollywood leading man the help of directors like Robert Zemeckis, John Carpenter, Mike Nichols, Garry Marshall, Ron Howard and Roland Emmerich while playing a multitude of iconic characters like Snake Plissken, R.J. MacReady, Jack Burton, Gabriel Cash, Captain Ron and Wyatt Earp.

Let's take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

Used Cars - Probably Russell's funniest and most dialog heavy role of all time where he plays salesman Rudy Russo, a small time hustler/charmer trying to raise enough money to join the Senate and skim all the graft he knows is waiting.  Socially irresponsible with some great practical car stunts.

Escape From New York - The B-Movie classic that helped launch his career and a character that has lived on through a sequel, comic books, toys and more.  The ultimate wise ass anti-hero before there were wise ass anti-heroes.

The Thing - Drinks whiskey, plays computer chess, flies a helicopter, wears a huge sombrero and blows shit up.  What more could you ask for from an arctic set, alien thriller with Cold War paranoia?

Big Trouble In Little China - Arguably my favorite Russell flick since the time I saw it late night on TBS then bought the VHS at Saturday Matinee in the mall.  Russell's turn as blowhard trucker Jack Burton is hilarious and shows his gameness for not giving the audience what they expect as he's actually the sidekick but doesn't know it.

Tango & Cash - A beautiful love story between two hard working men just trying to make it in life.

Captain Ron - Good times.  Again shows his willingness not to be pigeonholed as he seemingly plays a buffoon in this broad family comedy who isn't actually an idiot.

Tombstone - The master class example.  Russell plays legendary lawman Wyatt Earp in this popcorn western action classic that nearly fell apart but was saved and came out a winner unlike the bloated attempt by "serious" actor and Oscar winner Kevin Costner.

Executive Decision - Showcases Russell's ability to play heroic but not cartoonish as an intelligence analyst thrown into a combat/hostage scenario after leader Steven Seagal plunges to his death aboard a Stealth Bomber 1/3 of the way into the movie.

Breakdown - Russell plays regular here, very regular as a guy moving cross country with his wife and becomes the target of a kidnapping scheme run by truckers out in the middle of nowhere.  Very freaky and became my mind's worst case scenario when thinking of pulling up stakes and driving cross country to California.

Soldier - Is it a good film?  That's debatable.  Is Russell awesome in it?  Yes.  As a silent career soldier facing his younger replacement, Russell is built like a tank in this science fiction action flick set on a near deserted trash planet in the same universe as Blade Runner.

Mr. Russell had taken a hiatus from filmmaking as he and life partner Goldie Hawn have been busy running a winery and producing their own label.  He's slowly coming back as Canadian heist flick The Art of the Steal has rolled out this year and a part in the latest Fast and Furious chapter is in the works.  Russell had already turned down an offer from friend Stallone to appear in The Expendables, citing he wasn't interested in ensemble acting or looking back.  While it would be nice to see him in one of the 90's reunions, you gotta respect the fact he doesn't need the work and is still setting out to do his own thing.

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