It was announced this week that Kurt Russell is set to star in the new “Fast and Furious 7.” This is excellent news, as whenever it is announced that Kurt Russell is going to be in a new movie it should be celebrated with the appropriate amount of nostalgic excitement.
And why do people get excited whenever Mr. Russell is announced to have a part in a new movie? Because we all love and remember just how awesome 1980s Kurt Russell was.
Yes, he had some great movies and roles in the ’90s that included “Backdraft,” “Captain Ron,” “Tombstone,” “Escape From L.A.,” and “Breakdown,” but the decade that defines Kurt Russell was easily the ’80s.
Without further delay, here’s a 1980s Kurt Russell retrospective of his “most Kurt Russelly” films and roles.
“Used Cars” (1980)
Character: Rudy Russo
When “Used Cars” hit in 1980 it marked Russell’s first big part in a Hollywood film. He had a role in 1976’s “The Captive: The Longest Drive II,” but the Robert Zemekis-directed and Steven Spielberg-produced wacky comedy hauled in $US11 million domestically and put Russell on the map, which led to his role in the cult classic “Escape From New York.”
In the movie Russell plays the sleazy Rudy Russo, a used car salesman who takes over the lot when the owner dies. He has to make the lot a success before the dead owner’s brother, Roy L. Fuchs (Jack Warden), can swoop in and take over. Hijinks ensue with a couple of classic scenes that include faking the death of a dog to get a family to buy a car, a stuntman driving a man around wildly to induce a heart attack, and interrupting Jimmy Carter’s presidential address to show a foul-mouthed car commercial. “Those prices are just TOO … F**KING … HIGH!“
Have to watch out for those protesting nuns.
“Escape From New York” (1981)
Character: Snake Plissken
John Carpenter’s “Escape From New York” is an utterly ridiculous movie, and for that reason it has achieved cult classic status and spawned a similarly fun sequel in 1996 called “Escape From L.A.” But “Escape From L.A.” didn’t quite match the insane fun of the first.
Russell stars as Snake Plissken, a convicted bank robber who is sent into Manhattan — which in the film’s universe is a max security prison in 1997 — to save the President.
This is Snake. Snake is a badass.
You don’t mess with 1980s Kurt Russell.
He flies and shoots.
He’s 1980s Kurt Russell. Action star.
“The Fox and the Hound” (1981)
Character: Voice of “old” Copper
In the same year that Russell starred as the gun-toting Plissken, he also voiced the character of the “old” Copper in Disney’s animated film “The Fox and the Hound.” While the movie has never particularly been looked upon as a classic, it was classic tear jerking Disney and added another notch in Russell’s acting belt; that of voice actor.
But he soon ditched voice acting to fight aliens that same year.
“The Thing” (1982)
Character: R.J. MacReady
From used car salesman to rampaging Snake Plissken to the voice of an animated dog, Russell then took on one of his most recognised roles as R.J. MacReady in John Carpenter’s horror sci fi classic “The Thing.”
“The Thing” was an awesome, gruesome thriller of a movie that featured Russell fighting to survive against a shape-shifting alien hell bent on taking over Earth after being awakened when he was pulled from a spacecraft buried beneath the arctic ice.
“The Thing” is now widely thought to be the pinnacle of John Carpenter’s career even though it bombed out at the theatre.
Russell’s gritty performance moved away from the cheese he’d previously displayed and showed he had some real chops and range. Comedy? Check. Action? Check. Horror thriller? Check.
Russell took a couple years off from making iconic movies with a stretch that included the likes of “The Best Of Times,” and “Silkwood.” But then in 1986 Russell took on a role that would forever change the history of film.
“Big Trouble in Little China” (1986)
Character: Jack Burton
John Carpenter’s BTILC got destroyed at the box office, pulling in $US11 million after costing $US25 million to make. No matter. This is the film that gave us the truck-driving, ninja- and supernatural-challenging, and wise-cracking Jack Burton.
Russell again channels his goofy action demeanor to venture into the depths of the supernatural Chinese underworld of San Francisco.
This is Ol’ Jack.
Ol’ Jack was perpetually lost and confused.
While it did nothing in theatres, BTILC has gone on to live a long life on late night cable and DVD. Long live tank top wearing, quotable, confused Ol’ Jack Burton.
Character: Dean Proffitt
Starring alongside Russell is his long-time love Goldie Hawn whom he met on the set of “Swing Shift” in 1983. “Overboard” has Russell essentially kidnapping a rich Hawn and enslaving her into indentured servitude as his wife and “mother” of his children after she awakens from a fall off a yacht, resulting in amnesia.
Oh the hilarity.
“Overboard” still managed to somehow turn the slightly horrible premise into an at-times funny and now nostalgic comedy, and largely did so because of Russell and Hawn’s chemistry.
Russell loved his tank tops in the ’80s.
“Tango and Cash” (1989)
Character: Lt. Gabriel Cash
Rounding out Russell’s ’80s run was “Tango and Cash,” another return to action where he starred alongside Sly Stallone as one-half of a pair of cops who are framed and out to something something to clear their name something or other.
The plot isn’t important. What’s important here is Russell teaming up with Sly in a cop buddy movie. Every actor worth his salt in the ’80s had to star in at least one buddy cop movie.
“Tango and Cash” wasn’t a good movie per se, though it did spawn a sequel, feature every ’80s action movie cliché and some suggestions that Tango and Cash were a bit more than buddies …
Then there’s this.
And there you have it, 1980s Kurt Russell.
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