Latest Entertainment News Headlines

The Good, the Bad & the Badass: Kurt Russell

05.12.2014

Last week, we took a look at the career of the late Bob Hoskins, an actor many of us grew up with through his celebrated turn in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. This week's actor is another icon of the era, and a guy who's just as much of a badass now as he way decades ago.

Kurt Russell

Obviously I had to do a “Good, Bad, Badass” piece of Kurt Russell sooner or later. When I hit Sundance this year, I actually wound up sitting near him at a screening I was at for COLD IN JULY (review here) which featured his son Wyatt as one of the antagonists. Russell was sitting just a few meters away from me and while I wish I could tell you that I approached him, the truth is I wimped out. I was too intimidated as the guy's effect on my movie-going adolescence was gargantuan and I didn't want to disrespect him by bugging him when he was obviously there to cheer on his son (although some other journos that interviewed him a few days later for his doc – THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL – said he was a class act and likely would have been super approachable).

Probably the first Kurt Russell movie I remember seeing was OVERBOARD, where he starred opposite his wife Goldie Hawn. Even though it was far from one of his more memorable films, as a kid I thought he looked like the coolest guy in the world, with his iconic mullet and no BS attitude. A few years later I discovered his incredible run of movies with John Carpenter, and by the time TOMBSTONE hit theaters in 1993, I was a massive fan.

Over the years Russell's done fine work in a variety of genres, from straight-up action like TANGO & CASH, to comedy with movies like CAPTAIN RON (another childhood favorite), thrillers like UNLAWFUL ENTRY, BREAKDOWN and EXECUTIVE DECISION, dramas like MIRACLE, and so on. He's totally consistent (even if the movie isn't up to snuff – like SOLDIER), and despite now being in his early sixties, Russell is still one of the coolest guys around and could probably even step back into one of his iconic roles like Snake Plissken again without losing a beat.

His Best Performance

Like a few other guys I've written about here, I just can't narrow this category down to a single performance. I'm torn between my two favorite Russell-Carpenter collaborations, so like in many other past columns, I'm going to cheat and list them both. First up is THE THING. Arguably one of the best remakes of all time (I'd say it's a much better film than the original THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD – although horror purists may object), THE THING is a masterpiece of pure terror and icky, hideous effects (courtesy of Rob Bottin), and Russell's performance is one of the film's essential ingredients. In 1982, Russell was just coming-off ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, where he once and for all shook-off the formerly family-friendly image he had from his days as a Disney teen heartthrob in the seventies, and established him as one of the he-men of eighties action. Like Plissken, MacReady is a total counter-culture figure (with a badass beard replacing Plissken's eye-patch), banished to Antarctic, where he ekes out a living as the helicopter pilot to the maintenance staff at a research station. His first scene is a gem, where he's introduced pouring a glass of whisky into a computer after it beats him in chess. Unlike Plissken, MacReady is never quite as much in control as you'd expect from an action guy, with Carpenter going to great lengths to show him as just a scared, regular fella who nonetheless takes control when everyone around him loses their shit. Russell doesn’t play him as a clean-cut hero. He makes mistakes (even killing an innocent guy), shows fear and is unable to save his colleagues. Carpenter even dares to cast a shadow over his final victory by suggesting that the surviving Childs (or even MacReady himself) is possessed by The Thing before the credits roll. It's great, nuanced performance in a brilliant movie.

By contrast, Russell and Carpenter just seem to be focused on having fun in their next collaboration, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. By this time, Russell was a bankable action star, but he totally takes this piss out of himself as the macho Jack Burton – complete with a John Wayne-style swagger (Russell is a master mimic – having also given a great performance as Elvis Presley in Carpenter's TV movie, ELVIS). What's hilarious about the film is how utterly unprepared Burton is for the world of Chinese magic and martial arts he finds himself sucked into, with him turning into a kind of action-hero variation on Inspector Clouseau, as he desperately tries to pass himself off as a man of action only to consistently fail in his attempts to be heroic. Carpenter even goes so far as to sideline Russell for most of the final show-down, with him pinned beneath a giant dead guard, while his “sidekick” (Dennis Dun) has a huge, heroic, kung-fu sword fight with one of the main baddies. The fact that Russell allowed (and in fact fought for) Carpenter to subvert his image like this is pretty impressive. To this day, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA is one of my all-time favourite movies, and the one I'll always associate Russell with.

His Most Overrated Performance

As much as I loved Russell as Snake Plissken in ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, I think making ESCAPE FROM L.A was a huge mistake. It's not that Russell isn't good, but the premise is super-weak, with it little more than a rehash of the first film, only moved from the east coast to the west. Carpenter himself doesn't seem to be that enthused, and the movie is a pretty draggy affair, only redeemed by a few funny cameos (like Bruce Campbell as the deformed surgeon-general of Beverly Hills and Steve Buscemi as “Map-to-the-stars” Eddie), and a decent action sequence or two. I wasn’t crazy about it in 1996, and I'm not crazy about it now. That said, I'd love for them to do another Plissken film, provided it has a solid script.

His Most Underrated Film

There are tons of Kurt Russell movies that could be called underrated. Some of his more recent work certainly falls into that category, especially the James Elroy-scripted DARK BLUE, that had the misfortune of coming out in the wake of a bunch of other renegade cop movies, making the film feel a little old-hat by the time it hit theatres. Even more underrated is TANGO & CASH. A team-up with Sylvester Stallone, the movie had a troubled production history, with loads of firings and re-shoots, but the movie itself is actually tons of fun. Sly and Russell have terrific chemistry and to me, this is one of the great buddy-cop movies, and one of the few when each half of the duo feels as important as the other. Also, Russell's hair rocks in this – although he doesn't look so great in drag (I doubt Sly would have agreed to do that!).

His Most Memorable Scene

For me, Russell's best film as an actor is probably TOMBSTONE, which figures as he apparently ghost-directed it. An early scene where he walks into a bar and slaps the shit out of a young Billy Bob Thornton – uttering the famous line “are you gonna do something or just sit there and bleed,” is a classic, and Russell at his best.

His Top-Five Films

5. (TIE) STARGATE and TANGO & CASH
4. ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK
3. TOMBSTONE
2. THE THING
1. BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA

Up Next

After a few quiet years, Russell's got lots of stuff in the pipeline. He recently participated in the live read for Quentin Tarantino's THE HATEFUL EIGHT, so hopefully – if the film gets made – Tarantino will have a part in it for his old DEATH PROOF star.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Extra Tidbit: John Carpenter and Kurt Russell also do the best commentary tracks.
Source: JoBlo.com

RECOMMENDED MOVIE NEWS

MORE FUN FROM AROUND THE WEB

Strikeback
Not registered? Sign-up!
Or

1:25PM on 05/12/2014
Kurt Russell will always be a fave of my mine. He's just made so many damn many good movies!!!
I loved the callout to Tango & Cash; a campy movie sure, but one of the better buddy cop movies. Harold Faltermeyer's soundtrack is timeless lol.
Kurt Russell will always be a fave of my mine. He's just made so many damn many good movies!!!
I loved the callout to Tango & Cash; a campy movie sure, but one of the better buddy cop movies. Harold Faltermeyer's soundtrack is timeless lol.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
+1
12:52PM on 05/12/2014
Russell is my favorite actor of all time, I've loved him since I was a kid. I really want him to make another action film before he retires. Maybe another Plissken film, or even Tango and Cash 2.
Russell is my favorite actor of all time, I've loved him since I was a kid. I really want him to make another action film before he retires. Maybe another Plissken film, or even Tango and Cash 2.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
9:52AM on 05/12/2014

Kurt Russell always brings his A game to every role

even if the movie isn't worthy of his talents. He reminds me a lot of Hugh Jackman in that regard. As for memorable films, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA tops the list, along with TOMBSTONE.

A friend of mine once served Kurt Russell and his family in a restaurant and she said he was one of the nicest guys she'd ever met.
even if the movie isn't worthy of his talents. He reminds me a lot of Hugh Jackman in that regard. As for memorable films, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA tops the list, along with TOMBSTONE.

A friend of mine once served Kurt Russell and his family in a restaurant and she said he was one of the nicest guys she'd ever met.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
+2
9:17AM on 05/12/2014
If Russell ghost directed Tombstone, then he should be out there directing more stuff! Tombstone was amazing. In the early 90s the western genre went out with a big bang with two of the best films in the genre. Tombstone and Unforgiven.
If Russell ghost directed Tombstone, then he should be out there directing more stuff! Tombstone was amazing. In the early 90s the western genre went out with a big bang with two of the best films in the genre. Tombstone and Unforgiven.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
9:16AM on 05/12/2014
THE BEST.

Now go watch The Art of the Steal. Vintage Russell.
THE BEST.

Now go watch The Art of the Steal. Vintage Russell.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
8:56AM on 05/12/2014
My favorite film of his will always be Tombstone. Such an incredible film and he and Kilmer are a BIG reason why it's so great.
My favorite film of his will always be Tombstone. Such an incredible film and he and Kilmer are a BIG reason why it's so great.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
8:38AM on 05/12/2014
Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn aren't married; think Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon (before they split).

Other than that, great article. Being a big fan of westerns, I love Russell in Tombstone.

One movie I wish got more recognition is Backdraft. Great performance by Russell in a leading role.
Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn aren't married; think Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon (before they split).

Other than that, great article. Being a big fan of westerns, I love Russell in Tombstone.

One movie I wish got more recognition is Backdraft. Great performance by Russell in a leading role.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
8:20AM on 05/12/2014

Hail to the king!

This man owns a vast portion of my childhood and always gives 100% in every role he takes.
This man owns a vast portion of my childhood and always gives 100% in every role he takes.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
5:32AM on 05/12/2014

One of my favorites actors...

Honorable mention : DARK BLUE
and Backdraft ???????????
Can't wait to see him in Fast and Furious 7 !!!!!!!
Ah, and I discovered " TOMBSTONE " a few days ago and that movie became instantly one of my favorites westerns ever...
Honorable mention : DARK BLUE
and Backdraft ???????????
Can't wait to see him in Fast and Furious 7 !!!!!!!
Ah, and I discovered " TOMBSTONE " a few days ago and that movie became instantly one of my favorites westerns ever...
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
5:06AM on 05/12/2014
For some reason, Executive Decision has always been close to my heart. It's not a career highlight by any stretch but I did like him a lot in it. I also hope he takes on a couple more roles like in Sky High. He's the kind of guy who can run around in spandex in a kids' movie and not tarnish his well-earned reputation as a cinematic badass.
For some reason, Executive Decision has always been close to my heart. It's not a career highlight by any stretch but I did like him a lot in it. I also hope he takes on a couple more roles like in Sky High. He's the kind of guy who can run around in spandex in a kids' movie and not tarnish his well-earned reputation as a cinematic badass.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
5:36AM on 05/12/2014
I love " Exective Decision " , a true guilty pleasure for me and one of my favorites " planes movies ", what a great B-Movie !
I love " Exective Decision " , a true guilty pleasure for me and one of my favorites " planes movies ", what a great B-Movie !
6:19AM on 05/12/2014
Love Executive Decision. Aside from the original Airport in 1960s, Executive Decision is probably the best terror-in-the-sky movie out there.
Love Executive Decision. Aside from the original Airport in 1960s, Executive Decision is probably the best terror-in-the-sky movie out there.
3:23AM on 05/12/2014
A true badass. I'd say his underrated performance is Todd in Soldier. Sure, the movie sucks but it's Kurt Russell that makes the movie tolerable.
A true badass. I'd say his underrated performance is Todd in Soldier. Sure, the movie sucks but it's Kurt Russell that makes the movie tolerable.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
2:34AM on 05/12/2014
i thought kurt russell was the only good thing about stargate great in tombstone i just love the guy been a big fan since i watched him in captain ron and big trouble in little china
i thought kurt russell was the only good thing about stargate great in tombstone i just love the guy been a big fan since i watched him in captain ron and big trouble in little china
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
+2
1:09AM on 05/12/2014

Nailed it!

Big Trouble in Little China is easily one of my all time favorites, it still holds up today! Happy to see you put it at number one. The only part I disagree with is Stargate, swap that on the list for Overboard and we're in complete agreement. Great article!
Big Trouble in Little China is easily one of my all time favorites, it still holds up today! Happy to see you put it at number one. The only part I disagree with is Stargate, swap that on the list for Overboard and we're in complete agreement. Great article!
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
1:01AM on 05/12/2014
Kurt is the f***ing man my favourite film and performance is Tombstone though i love The Thing,Escape and Big Trouble there's something about Tombstone i just love
and happy to see Tango & Cash get some love i love that one too
Kurt is the f***ing man my favourite film and performance is Tombstone though i love The Thing,Escape and Big Trouble there's something about Tombstone i just love
and happy to see Tango & Cash get some love i love that one too
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
12:19AM on 05/12/2014
Honestly, who doesn't like Kurt Russell. I was watching Backdraft not too long ago, and I feel that's another great performance by him. Can't wait to see how he's used in the next Fast and Furious movie.
Honestly, who doesn't like Kurt Russell. I was watching Backdraft not too long ago, and I feel that's another great performance by him. Can't wait to see how he's used in the next Fast and Furious movie.
Your Reply:



Please email me when someone replies to my comment
View All Comments

Latest Entertainment News Headlines


Top
Loading...

Featured Youtube Videos

Views and Counting

Movie Hottie Of The Week

More