The Video Vacuum (thevideovacuum) wrote,
The Video Vacuum


Kurt Russell is one of my all-time favorite actors. In his long career, he has played a varied array of colorful characters. From Snake Plissken to Rudy Russo, from R.J. MacReady to Dexter Riley; Russell never disappoints. Today, we’ll take a look at three flicks from Kurt’s distinguished filmography.

First up is…

SILKWOOD (1983) ***

Meryl Streep stars as Karen Silkwood, a worker in a nuclear power plant. When Karen gets exposed to plutonium radiation, she joins the worker’s union and goes to Washington to speak out on the substandard working conditions. She then sets out to blow the whistle on the plant’s various safety infractions and winds up killed in a mysterious car accident.

Meryl Streep and Cher (who plays her lesbian roommate) do a fine job at looking unglamorous. In fact, Streep looks pretty hot with her white trash mullet and tight-fitting contamination suit. (The part where she flashes a co-worker is great.) And Kurt Russell gives a terrific, underrated performance. He holds his own with Streep and they have a considerable amount of chemistry together. There are also solid supporting turns by Fred Ward, David Strathairn, Craig T. Nelson, and Ron Silver too.

Director Mike Nichols does a great job at creating a naturalistic environment. The scenes of the workers goofing off in the factory hit the right notes, as do the scenes of Silkwood’s personal life. Once the film sorta veers into Norma Rae Meets the China Syndrome territory, it’s a bit less compelling. However, the flick does have that special glow to it that only movies from 1983 have, so it’s got that going for it.

Russell gets the best line of the movie when he says, “If that’s what a beautician does, I’ll take mine rare!”

Our next Russell flick is…


Mel Gibson is a flashy drug dealer who is trying to get out of the game. Kurt Russell is his best friend, who also happens to be LA’s top cop. A Fed (J.T. Walsh) tries to use their friendship to take down a Columbian drug lord (Raul Julia). Along the way, Mel and Kurt fall in love with the same gal (Michelle Pfeiffer), which naturally complicates the situation.

There’s an interesting dichotomy between this flick and Tango and Cash. Both films find Russell teaming up with another action icon. But whereas Tango and Cash had Kurt playing the live wire of the duo, he plays the well-tailored guy on the team here. With his hair slicked back and wearing top of the line suits, he gives a great performance.

Mel is a little bit more reserved than you’d expect, which leaves Kurt to do much of the heavy lifting. But while he never quite breaks out and goes full-on Martin Riggs, Gibson still gives a solid performance. There’s also a nice little character moment when we learn that he wanted to retire from drug dealing when his kid asked him what he did for a living.

Pfeiffer is pretty good as the girl torn between the cop and the crook. And J.T. Walsh has a couple of nice moments as the Fed working with Russell. But Raul Julia steals the movie as the slimy, but charismatic drug lord.

Written and directed by Robert Towne, Tequila Sunrise is a slick, glossy, but ultimately empty thriller. Although the performances make it watchable, it never really grabs you. The first half of the film is absorbing, but the film loses its way once Gibson has his tryst with Pfeiffer. And the finale is pretty weak. But if you’re a fan of either Kurt or Mel, it might make for OK rainy day entertainment.

And our final Kurt joint is…

POSEIDON (2006) ***

A big budget, CGI-heavy remake of The Poseidon Adventure from the director of Das Boot, Wolfgang Peterson wasn’t the worst idea in the world. And I’ll admit; Peterson cuts to the chase rather quickly. The tidal wave hits the boat about fifteen minutes in, causing tons of devastation and peril, which is more than I can say for Titanic. (And since Fergie was singing onboard the boat, the sooner the wave hit; the better.) Of course, in doing so, it sorta shortchanges the characters. They’re thinly sketched before the boat gets hit by the wave, and they don’t become better developed afterwards.

But the characters are secondary to the disaster sequences. And they are pretty well done. The scenes of the boat tipping over are solid, and the ensuing sequences of mass carnage and death are pretty groovy. (I liked the dance floor electrocution bit.) And Peterson handles the scenes of the survivors perilously climbing across elevator shafts, upside-down ballrooms, and ventilation ducts in a workmanlike and efficient manner.

The performances by Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, and Richard Dreyfuss are all decent. When you have good actors like these on board (no pun intended), you don’t really need a good script. Again, there’s not much else for them to do besides yell, “Go!” and “C’mon!” and “You can do it!” every ten minutes, but their presence helps keep the ship (again, no pun intended) afloat.

As disaster movies go, it’s much better than the bloated original and about on par with the likes of Daylight.

Next week’s Legend: Dennis Quaid!

Tags: .legends of the silver screen, disaster movie, drama, kurt russell, p, remake, s, t

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