Kurt Russell, is a great actor.  The guy just flat out delivers every time, and when Kurt needs to dial up the drama he is able to call upon the muscles in his cheek to deliver this “quivering” or “shaking” effect – usually the result of extreme effort being exerted.  He has done this in many movies – a lot of times he does it when he is hanging from a rope – either trying to pull someone up, or just himself.  The director will close in tight on Kurt’s face and BAM.  Here is a Top 5 list of the greatest Kurt Russell “quivering cheek” moments.

#5 – Tango & Cash –  “Escape from Prison”-  (1:29 – 1:33)
Classic movie.  So Gabe Cash (Russell) and Ray Tango (Stallone) are in prison.  To escape they decide to leap about 100 feet from a roof to a power line and then zip line to safety.  If that isn’t enough, they are going to use their belts to do it.  Cash goes first, and makes it, for about 4 seconds while he is, wait for it, hanging from a rope (of sorts) we see some quivering cheek from Russell.  This is a brief one, but it’s there.
#4 – Escape from New York – “You’re the Duke, A number one” –  (first 5 seconds)
Snake Pliskin is about to Escape from New York, and he finds a way to get the President (Donald Plesance) over the wall first.  When it’s Snake’s turn, he doesn’t get lifted up because the President takes the time to waste the “Duke of New York” (Isaac Hayes).  While Snake is waiting to be raised up (yes hanging from a rope) we get some cheek quiver – it’s a wider shot than usual, but it’s there.
#3 – Big Trouble in Little China – “Escape from Lo Pan’s Dungeon”  (8:45 – 9:25 / ignore the overdub)
Jack Burton and Wang find themselves unconscious and trapped in a “cell” of sorts.  Each of them are tied to these sort of “rocking chair on wheels” looking things, presumably to be tortured.  They escape the room, and as they do Jack’s rocking chair is thrust down a long corridor which ends in with a deep well.  He is held up only by the strength in his arms holding the wheels of the chair.  You get a cheek quiver here.  Since this in such a great movie – I felt it needed to be high on this list.
#2 – Soldier – “Battle of Old vs. New” – (9:30 – 9:38)
Todd 3465 (Russell) is a soldier, who was chosen at birth to be trained his entire life to be a solider.  Caine 607 (Jason Scott Lee) is a different, more modern version, who was genetically engineered and trained to be a solider.  This newer genetic engineering approach is believed to be superior.  How can you prove this?  The only way is to conduct a fight to the death on ropes.  Yes, Kurt ends up holding a rope.  The scene gives us a chance to see some serious cheek quiver – why wouldn’t we see it?  This has to be ranked high, because this is one of the most intense cheek quivers you will ever see in film.
#1 – Backdraft – “You go, we go” –
Steven “Bull” McCaffrey is the only thing standing between life and certain death for John “Axe” Adcox (played by Scott Glenn), a fireman who has betrayed his profession and turned into an arsonist.  Hanging on to a metal bar with one hand and Scott Glenn with the other, Kurt Russell gives us a DOUBLE quivering cheek (all the way) here.  Clearly Russell is exerting himself FULLY, and Ron Howard doesn’t miss the chance to get a real close shot of this.  It is the pinnacle of “quivering cheek.”  I think we get close to 20 seconds of cheek quiver, this will probably never be topped.
I racked my brain for scenes in either Overboard or Captain Ron where we get this move, but unfortunately we don’t get it.  In Overboard we do get over 90 minutes of Kurt in a wife beater, and in Captain Ron we get him spending about 30 minutes in a speedo, but no quivering cheek.  What do you think of the list, did I miss anything?

One Response to Top 5 Kurt Russell “quivering cheek” moments.

  1. Lutz says:

    Fantastic post. The quivering cheek clearly deserves its own write-up. The only additional entry I could think of right off the bat was “Breakdown” (brief and right in the beginning):


    But I would suspect there might be a quiver or two in other films such as Unlawful Entry. Russell is awesome as everyman hero. Beyond the pure cheek quiver, what would say are his genuine top 5 films? Silkwood, Escape from NY, Overboard, Tombstone, Breakdown???

    I absolutely love Breakdown. Great tension and definitely one of his better performances. Don’t forget this guy has been acting pretty much non-stop since he was 11, has essentially married to one of the most beautiful women in hollywood for decades and has never to my knowledge been caught up in any scandals. Pretty good for a 50+ year career…

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