IN ORDER TO DISCUSS what a badass Kris Kristofferson is, we need to begin—and end—with arguably the greatest work that art cinema has yet produced: Guillermo del Toro's 2002 magnum opus, Blade II. Granted, when a film contains so many astonishing moments (like when Wesley Snipes' vampire hunter, Blade, kills all those vampires, or that part when Blade kills even more vampires, or that one scene, toward the end, when you think all the vampires are going to kill Blade, but then Blade actually turns it around and kills them instead), it's easy to forget about the smaller aspects of the film—the subtler, softer underpinnings that, in point of fact, prove to be the film's genuine core. Enter Kris Kristofferson.
Sure, okay, so Kristofferson's done some music too—"The Silver Tongued Devil and I" is great, and without Kristofferson, we'd have neither Johnny Cash's version of the Kristofferson-penned "Sunday Mornin' Coming Down," nor Willie Nelson's of "Help Me Make it Through the Night," nor Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee." (If we're being honest, we could probably be without that goddamn Joplin song, though—and if we're going to be really honest, one might even suggest that Kristofferson's been a far more successful songwriter than he's ever been as a performer. But that'd be kind of a dicky thing to do, especially considering how great his 1971 album The Silver Tongued Devil and I is—and, along with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash, he was a member of the Highwaymen, after all.)
So yeah. He does music, whatever. Now where were we? Oh, right: Blade II. Now, there's a singular moment in the film when you realize how vital Kristofferson is to the whole noble enterprise: Kristofferson's Whistler, as Blade's rough, raggedly geriatric mentor, has been captured by vampires, who are, for some reason, torturing him and keeping him in a big Plexiglas tank full of Kool-Aid colored blood. After rescuing him, Blade fears that Whistler's become a vampire; to cure him, Blade injects Whistler with an "accelerated retro-viral detox." No, I don't know what the fuck that means either, but it cures Whistler, right? So when Blade checks in on Whistler the next morning—nope, not a vampire!—he stoically inquires as to Whistler's physical and mental state: "How do you feel?" And it's here that the haggard visage of Kristofferson comes out of the shadows and into the cool, pale light, his long stringy hair dangling and his roguish beard spread across his finely weathered countenance, and the answer comes, as only Kristofferson can humbly, coarsely, and sharply offer it: "Like hammered shit."
When Kristofferson performs his solo acoustic show this week at the Aladdin, will there be a moment as lyrical and moving as that one? Probably not. What there will be: Plenty of weathered, haggard crooning, and perhaps some politicking reminiscent of his socially relevant '86 album Repossessed, and hopefully he'll play both "Jody and the Kid" and "Good Christian Soldier." (Hopefully there won't be any weird flashbacks to that uncomfortable period when he sang with Barbra Streisand, or any acknowledgment of Whistler's ridiculously lame death in Blade: Trinity.) But maybe—just maybe, and if we're lucky—Kristofferson might mention that perfect trademark phrase of his from his greatest work.