Kurt Russell started with Walt Disney in 1960 and achieved his greatest childhood fame as The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), a character he revisited in Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972) and The Strongest Man in the World (1975). Upon reaching adulthood, Kurt played minor league baseball until returning to Hollywood in the 1980s. Sadly due to having a number of unsuccessful films as well as never having a runaway blockbuster, Kurt never quite made the A-list. Instant Netflix has six of his films so I’ll cover 3 today and 3 on Wednesday.
1. Soldier (1998) – “Director Paul W.S. Anderson’s trippy, futuristic sci-fi film follows a cadre of men, born and bred to be shock troops in battle, who are made obsolete by a new race of genetically engineered soldier. Sgt. Todd (Kurt Russell) is one of the rejects left for dead on a junkyard planet. There, he slowly rediscovers his humanity while helping a community of human castaways battle the new breed of soldier threatening to wipe them out” – Paul W. S. Anderson makes some great popcorn films – films you watch and enjoy while watching them but realize afterwards what flaws they had. Kurt Russell capably carries the film in spite of having almost no dialogue – Gary Busey, Jason Scott Lee, Jason Isaacs, Connie Nielson and Sean Pertwee perform ably but none of them really stand out. The film is a lot of fun but afterwards you realize the “new and improved” soldiers were deeply stupid and showed little to no tactical or strategic knowledge – something you think you might want in genetically-engineered soldiers.
2. Executive Decision (1996) – “When terrorists hijack a 747 and turn it into a nerve-gas bomb aimed at Washington, D.C., commandos (including Steven Seagal and John Leguizamo) use an experimental plane to board the jetliner — in flight! When things go wrong, think-tank desk-jockey David Grant (Kurt Russell) assumes command, knowing that if he falls short, Washington will become a ghost town — the hard way. Executive Decision is a rarity: a brainy blockbuster” – This is an excellent Clancy-esque thriller. One of my favorite things about this thriller is that Kurt Russell isn’t the be-all end-all solution to every problem the terrorists present – able help is provided by Halle Berry, Oliver Platt, John Leguizamo, and Joe Morton. Although his is a supporting role, this is my favorite Steven Seagal film.
People watchers look for Marla Maples Trump as Flight Attendant Nancy.
3. Backdraft (1991) – “A blast of flames can take a life … and hide a secret. Fireman brothers William Baldwin and Kurt Russell battle each other over past slights while trying to stop an arsonist from torching Chicago as part of a diabolical agenda. Co-starring Robert De Niro, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Donald Sutherland, director Ron Howard’s epic tale will thrill you with incredible effects” – Ron Howard’s love letter to firemen is second only to his love letter to the space program (Apollo 13). This covers the whole fireman milieu – brave firefighters, firefighters too in love with their jobs, firefighters too in love with fire, arsonists, arson investigators and most importantly lots and lots of FIRE! The movie is worth recommending on the strength of the fire effects alone not to mention the wonderful cast. In addition to the actors mentioned above, Backdraft also features Scott Glenn and Rebecca De Mornay. The movie is by no means perfect – scripting and plotting could both have used some work and William Baldwin isn’t bad but doesn’t shine either but still highly recommended.