Here's to you, Snake Plisskin, R.J. MacReady, Jack O'Neil...
Honorable Mention: Big Trouble in Little China — Jack Burton (1986)
Big Trouble doesn’t remotely qualify as science fiction, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave it off this list. It may not be Russell’s very best role, but it is hands-down his most entertaining one. As truck driver Jack Burton, Russell serves up an abnormally lucky doofus who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, but still manages to fumble into victory over and over again. The whole movie is a brilliant inversion of the standard action-movie template: usually Burton would be the hero and Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) would be the sidekick. Instead Chi saves the day pretty much every time, while Burton repeatedly falls backwards into accidental success. As Burton, Russell chews every bit of scenery down into matchsticks, and delivers every quoteworthy line with a mixture of misplaced bravado, frequent confusion, and constant irritation. It’s a thing of beauty.
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