Saturday, May 15, 2010

Kurt Russell was a Friend of Mine

To me, Kurt Russell is the greatest genre actor in film history. That might seem blasphemous to some, but it's my blog, so whatever. You get what you don't pay for.

Russell's adult movie career is weird; it's an anomaly when such a talented, charismatic, good-looking actor is relegated so often to, arguably, B pictures, but that's what Russell has done. He's never been in an art film, has never made an Oscar-bait movie*. And maybe -- probably -- that's why I/we love him. But in an industry that relies on bankable stars, isn't it odd that Kurt Russell hasn't received meatier roles?

Hey, I'm not complaining. Russell has cemented his legacy by starring in some of the coolest movies of my generation. Based solely on the roles he's played, he's an icon. Snake Plissken. RJ MacReady. Wyatt Earp. Jack fucking Burton. He's not the best actor Hollywood has ever seen**, perhaps, but he's infinitely reliable. He's the John Starks of filmdom: you wouldn't rank him amongst the greats, but damn does he leave a lasting impression.

It's hard not to compare Kurt Russell to another "genre" actor of my generation: Harrison Ford. Ford's charisma came effortlessly. Some people are like that. But while Ford in recent years has coasted, accepting any film role and lazily going through the motions of what might, subjectively, be called acting, Kurt Russell has chosen his spots. Like an old, overweight prize fighter, Russell knows how to roll with the punches, and he adjusts accordingly.

Which hasn't always translated to success, critical or box-office. I love Kurt Russel like I love my collection of Playboys and Viet Cong ears, but the man has a few ink stains on his resume. Captain Ron. Stargate. Fucking Soldier***. He's not infallible. He isn't even inflatable.

What he is, though, is Kurt Russell.

And that's good enough for me.


* There's still time. I would argue that Russell is too genuine, too what-you-see-is-what-you-get, to sway the Academy, though. But I will say this: if the day ever comes that Kurt Russell receives an Academy Award, that'll be the day I cry tears of joy for only the third time in my life.

** That honor goes to Skeet Ulrich.

*** Which is insanely watchable if you enjoy seeing what drowning looks like. Hey! I have an idea! Let's take a genial actor like Kurt Russell and give him the personality of a toaster oven. Works for me!

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