I’ve seen a lot of things in my day; probably more than most. In a somewhat Forrest Gump-ian way, I’ve strolled through big events, met famous people, and had some truly strange interactions. In that entire time, I’ve only lost my s— fanboy-style over two things:
-Meeting Buzz Aldrin. Dude was on the moon and/or took part in one the greatest conspiracies in human history. Either way he is worth freaking out about.
-Meeting the guy from “The Last Dragon”. I’m weird, there’s no other explanation.
I’m saving up my third complete loss of nerd-control for the day I meet Kurt Russell. I don’t really have any idea how that’s going to happen, or even if it’s going to happen. I know one thing is for sure though: I’m going to embarrass myself at least a little. I’m not going to hug him, or cry, or anything like that, but I’m going to say something dumb and at least hold a handshake for too long whilst my wife apologizes for me. I really doubt I’m alone on this.
I don’t know what it is about the guy that has made him into such a legend in the minds of people like us (I’m talking to you, other movie-nerd who’s taking the time to read a grown man gush about another grown man he’s never met), but it’s there. Is it the legends of his name being amongst the last words uttered by Walt Disney? Is it the fact that he’s been mutual arm-candy with one of Hollywood’s most gorgeous ladies for damn-near forty years? Is it the fact that he played on The Portland Mavericks, one of baseball’s most insane franchises ever? I don’t know, dude’s got juice though. That’s all without mentioning the fact that one person played Snake Plissken, R.J. McCready, Cash, Wyatt Earp, Herb Brooks, and JACK FRIGGIN’ BURTON; and that man is Kurt Russell. I can’t say which exact factor makes him such a legend even when his career coincided with those of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Willis, and countless other big-screen heroes. He just…is. He’s the patron-saint of film geekdom, and we all need to be ok with that.
Now that the gushing is done (I can’t actually promise that, this is a work in progress), let’s truly examine the divine powers of said Saint Russell. He is a man able to transcend the bounds of the script-page, a man who has been able to create one character and have him exist through multiple films. A character whose journey has been hilarious at times, dark at others, and bittersweet in the end. That character is Rudy Russo, and he has done more for this world than you will ever know.
We first meet Rudy in 1980’s “Used Cars”, where he uses his wits, luck, and savvy to gain the money needed to bribe the right folks to get him into political office. However, he has a change of heart, not a change of character per se, but a change of heart, and decides to instead save the late Luke Fuch’s car dealership from ruin. He ends up with a new respect for what’s truly right, but also can be seen in the film’s closing moments keeping his shiesty car-salesman edge. He get’s the girl too, but these things never last, and soon he finds himself riding the long haul cross country under the name Jack Burton.
In 1986’s “Big Trouble In Little China”, Rudy finds himself caught up in an ages-old battle between the forces of good and evil. His hair may be a little longer, his arms may be a little bigger, and he’s traded a mobile home for a truck full of pigs, but we are looking at the same man. “Mr.Burton” shows the same bravado and cunning that made him a great salesman, and even dons his old car lot digs when he goes undercover at one point. Navigating through the Chinatown underworld, Jack shakes the pillars of heaven, battles demons, thwarts gangs, saves the day, and proves that it’s all in the reflexes when he plunges a knife into the head of the immortal evil that was David Lo Pan. He even gets the girl, which is rare for a sidekick. Yeah, that’s right, Ole Jack Burton was actually right hand to his buddy Wang Chi, but don’t tell him that. Leaving his lady behind, he rides off into the darkness looking for more adventure, and we last see him about to encounter yet another monster from the depths of the unknown. How does this confrontation go? We may never truly know, but I have feeling that he didn’t come out unscathed, because he’s one eye down the next time we see him.
Six years later, we come across Russo again, working as a boatman known only as “Captain Ron” in the 1992 film of the same name. Eye-patched and long haired, he seems to have grown tired of the open road and settled into a life travelling the Caribbean seas as a Captain-for-hire. He’s got fifty percent less vision, but one hundred percent of his salesman charm, as he apparently goes from boat to boat playing up whatever made-up qualities the current job requires; a lot like he used to do in his days on Fuch’s lot. He hooks up with Martin Short (it was the nineties, character name or not, Martin Short just played “Martin Short”) and the two take Short’s family on an adventure that has way too much nudity for a family film. He leads for most of the film, but takes a back seat in the end to let Short save the day and prove his worth to his family. Perhaps he learned a lesson from Wang Chi about not hogging all the glory. They run afoul of weather, guerillas, and the actual Pirates of the Caribbean, but they survive and Ron Russo goes on to swindle and save another hapless traveling family. Again, we are left with a bit of a cliffhanger, but this time no eyes are lost offscreen…only his soul. When next we meet Russo, he’s a lost his smile, and gained a reputation as one of the baddest outlaws in the world. The only semblance of his old life that remains is the eyepatch when he takes on the mantle of “Snake Plissken”.
We meet the man now known as Snake in the year 1997 (1987 on film) in “Escape From New York”. He always had a taste for adventure, he always had a taste for easy money, but his time on the high seas apparently gave him a taste for actual crime, because now he’s a full-fledged outlaw. Those guerillas must’ve gained traction too, because the entire United States is now in ruin, and Snake is amongst its most ruined. A legendary criminal, who also happens to have Special Forces training (They never say exactly how he was trained, it could’ve been the special forces of Chinese magic), Snake is recruited by the government to infiltrate the prison island of Manhattan and rescue the President. Threatened with exploding arteries, Snake obliges and saves the day, but on his own terms. He does a pretty good job though, because he gets brought back in “Escape From L.A.” (1996) to…do pretty much the exact same thing. His terms or not, he did something right, because in the year, because no matter what the opening crawl says, he’s clearly the same badass in Soldier (1998).
Yeah, I know, he’s got his eye back in this one, and Todd is supposedly born in 1996, but I know my Russo as well as I know my Russell; same guy. The man walking around calling himself “Todd” in 2035 is Captain Rudy “Snake” Burton, and he’s on the ultimate mission of redemption. He finds himself a man without a planet (I think he messed it up pretty bad during his escape from Los Angeles), and a man without a family. After all these years as a loner who couldn’t be held down by a family, The Vitruvian Russell decides to make one last stand against an entire army of super soldiers and saves himself a whole colony of new friends.
In that flick’s closing moments, he and the newly liberated colonists find a new home, thus completing the decades-long journey of a simple used car salesman who just wanted to find him place in the world. He searched in politics, he searched the open roads, he searched the high seas, he searched the Chinatown underworld, and he searched the post-apocalyptic wastelands, but his place in this world was simply…on another world. Yeah, my facts aren’t all straight, I’m not totally sure that Overboard (1987) wasn’t his last-ditch effort to start a family before departing for the Caribbean, and yes…this is all nonsense, but it proves one important point: Ego in Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 is his final form! He’s an actual god in that one! Full Circle! What? You thought I’d end this seriously? Come on, we all know that Kurt Russell is a damned national treasure, you don’t need me to tell you that. Isn’t it more fun to imagine that all of his amazing diverse performances were actually different elements of the same man? Do we even have to imagine that? We don’t, because this man has left his heart and soul on the screen for us for the last forty years, and for that we thank him, and devote long ramblings to his awesomeness. Thanks Kurt, from all of us.
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Note: Big Thanks to Gill from RealWeegieMidget for suggesting that we put this blog together. All the garbage that will follow is your fault 🙂