When you think of ‘actor’, who springs to mind? Robert De Niro, Dame Helen Mirren, Joaquin Phoenix or Freddie Prinze Jr? Untrain that brain and realise that the ultimate actor’s actor is none other than Sir Kurt Russell, born on this month – 17th March 1951.
Who else can be deemed the true triple threat? In just one adventure, Kurt was able to pull off the mullet, tucked in vest and knee height boots. That overpowers any sandals and sock combo ten-fold. Ok, so he’s not a sir as such, but he’s silver-screen royalty. Granted, this reviewer classes Big Trouble in Little China as one of the greatest films of all time – and I have a piece of paper that deems me knowledgeable on film. Forget Indiana Jones; Jack Burton is the best movie protagonist of all time*.
Starting with humble beginnings in the Disney stable, this character actor didn’t retort to releasing pop songs like all the other Mouse House alumni of recent years. His baby-like, dimple ridden boat race meant he was destined for the family market, working his way up the ranks to perhaps the old musical or Santa biopic. However, he defied the odds and created some of the best action heroes committed to the big screen, but also made appearances in family-friendly titles such as Sky High.
In fear of hijacking this post with superlatives on how good Big Trouble in Little China is (stay the hell away, Dwayne Johnson), Mr Russell created some of the best movie protagonists with Jack Burton as well as the infamous Snake Pliskin in Escape From New York. We can ignore Escape from L.A. for now. Without his input, perhaps we would never have seen Solid Snake make his way to our homes. This snake was the pioneer of the eyepatch and further cemented Kurt’s place in movie history.
But other than another dream team of Scorsese and De Niro (or even Scorsese and DiCaprio) Kurt Russel was able to form an unbreakable bond with director John Carpenter. The two would go on to make the Pliskin films, Big Trouble in Little China and one of the greatest horror films in the ether; The Thing, which, I hasten to add, did not require a remake – shame on you, Hollywood. Additionally, Carpenter and Russell were a fantastic combo, but surely you’ve heard of an even better duo; Tango and Cash, featuring Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone.
He has made the odd turkey here and there such as Overboard with his wife Goldie Hawn; however, his partnership proved successful in bearing the child that became a fully grown human with the moniker ‘Kate Hudson’. If you haven’t seen Almost Famous, or due for a repeat viewing, watch it again. Kurt was involved in that – he co-created Kate. Coincidently, our man Kurt re-teamed up with the same director, Cameron Crowe and made Vanilla Sky. As this post isn’t entirely two-way, I’m going to go ahead and say that it is a fantastic film, without debate. I mean, I’m not wrong…
In later years his pure-blood leading material got the roles that were meant for him. With the likes of Quentin Tarantino bringing him back in the fold for Death Proof – introducing his skills to a new audience and reminding how much he was missed, to later including him in The Hateful Eight and the more recent flick, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Perhaps you may have first seen him as Ego in The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but he deserves more screentime. Alas, at 68, he’s a bit limited to parts and instead his next venture will be in another Santa vehicle, The Christmas Chronicles 2.
Gather round as we wish Mr Russell a very happy birthday; thanking him for his service in alpha male leads. Ensuring that the mullet, vest, eyepatch and knee height boots aren’t a gimmick and, in fact, very endearing aspects of a very desirable role model. If I could grow a mullet like Kurt, or even fashion my ever-growing handlebars to resemble his own, then surely, I’ve reached enlightenment, and you can too. It just takes a little bit of care. After all, it’s all in the reflexes. That doesn’t have much context, but I would be letting myself down if I didn’t include it somewhere.
Surprisingly, I don’t have a tattoo of Kurt, nor have I met him, despite my seemingly infatuated comments. However, should that day ever materialise, I may need an extra pair of pants to keep my cool. In case I haven’t made it clear, Big Trouble in Little China is one of my favourite films of all time, and he has the charm of a snake-oil salesman. Note the reference to a snake. Yeah, you got it. Rather than reinvent the wheel and add something pithy, let’s leave that to the immortal words of one of Kurt’s most beloved characters, Jack Burton:
Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the Earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it”.Jack Burton, Big Trouble in Little China
* Ok, he’s not the best protagonist of all time, but don’t shatter my delusions.