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Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

A movie directed by John Carpenter

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Just remember what ol' Jack Burton always says...

  • Sep 7, 2006
  • by
Pros: A load of fun to watch - they just don't make 'em like this anymore.

Cons: Nyah-ha! Nothing if you don't want there to be.

The Bottom Line: It's all in the reflexes.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

I was upstairs at the time, earlier today, when I heard a loud honking on the TV downstairs. Admittedly, I’m a movie freak, and that specific horn sounded familiar. I listened for a bit longer before realizing – my little sister had put on Big Trouble in Little China. I’m in.

Jack Burton is a simple man. He drives his truck, the Porkchop Express, chats away on the CB, whether or not someone’s listening, and doesn’t think of much else. His delivery takes him to Chinatown where he meets up with his friend Wang to do a little gambling and drinking. With Wang owing him a great deal of money, he decides not to let him out of his sight and goes with to pick up Wang’s fiancĂ© Miao Yin, flying in from China.

And this is where pretty much everything goes wrong. Miao Yin and her rare green eyes gets kidnapped, Jack and Wang find themselves in the middle of a Chinese old school gang war, Jack’s truck gets stolen, and worst of all, a cursed man known as Lo Pan makes his appearance; super tall and with light coming out of his eyes and mouth. It seems he’s the one behind Miao Yin’s disappearance (the second time) – he needs a girl with green eyes to break his curse of no flesh. Jack finds himself up to his eyeballs in ancient Chinese magic, the good and dark kind, and he’s all for helping, but geez, he just wants his truck back.

There’s a lot going on in this movie, so you’d best pay attention or you’ll just end up like Jack, saying, “What the hell is going on?” all the time. It’s mostly just who’s kidnapping who and why. It takes a while to get the full story, but don’t worry, you’ll get it. When I was a kid I never quite understood – I just knew it was hella fun to watch.

Kurt Russell – I love this man. Haha. He may not be in Oscar winning movies, but I love to watch him all the same. He does a great job as the aloof Jack Burton, swaggering, knife-toting, sounding a little like an up-to-date John Wayne, and in general, not exactly the type you’d expect to be the hero of the movie. Actually that was the point – for him to be totally out of place and looking like a doofus half the time in a world he’s in no way familiar with. Wang, played by James Hong, is a cute guy with his single-minded purpose of getting the love of his life back. I love some of the lines in this movie and how Wang occasionally screws with Jack. James Hong made a great Lo Pan – he’s always done such a good job in the role of a bad guy and this one is definitely my favorite. Floating around and going through walls dressed in an elaborate garb with a white face and long nails. Or when he’s not doing that he’s a “little old basket case on wheels,” as Jack called him. Stuck in an old man’s body. Then there’s the spunky Gracie Law, performed by the woman we all now know as Samantha Jones of Sex and the City, Kim Cattrall. A good mix for the role – fiery, sexy, strong-willed, and always rejecting Jack. Sounds a little like Samantha already.

Of course, everyone did a fine job (can’t forget Victor Wong as Egg Shen!) and they had all kinds of costumes, unorthodox props, and crazy sets to go with it. Who knew all that weird stuff was underneath Chinatown? The special effects aren’t half bad either. It’s 1986 here folks, so give ‘em a break. That and I’m sure the budget wasn’t ridiculously huge. The character Lightening of the three storms always traveling around on lightening, that was pretty good – maybe he could have rivaled Rayden. There are going to be a few things that make you think, “Oh goodness…that was lame,” but you’re too amused to really care and besides, this isn’t the sort of movie you can put down for lameness, trust me.

I don’t often mention extras for the simple fact that A.) people don’t buy DVDs for the special features and B.) often there aren’t any worthy to mention. I also don’t often (okay, ever) listen to director commentaries, but Kurt Russell lent his time, so I decided to hear what he and John Carpenter had to say. They’re looking back on this after so many years, so they’re basically enjoying it as much as the rest of us. The commentary is pretty fun too, especially since Kurt hasn’t seen this in forever and the two of them are laughing about 80% of the time. You get to know tidbits about the movie; Kurt was sick during this scene, James Hong really got into his character here, where some of the actors are now, etc. It also helps give the movie a little perspective since you find out what the director’s main goal was. It was interesting. Give it a try.

It’s a good movie, yes it has a plot and isn’t just silliness all the way through, no it’s not going to make you look closely and dissect the characters since it’s not that type. Plenty of martial arts, fantastic elements, and a good time every step of the way. Just trust me on this. Like the boys said in the commentary, people either love or hate the movie. I’m one of the former and I hope that you are too.


P.S. The guy singing at the end during the credits – that’s Carpenter.


Viewing Format: DVD

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More Big Trouble in Little China reviews
review by . June 13, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Big Trouble in Little China fits the definition of a cult film. Not popular on its initial release - being blocked by other summer films of 1986 such as ALIENS - it has since developed a following which it most certainly deserves. John Carpenter purposely made this a B-movie and I commend him for that, because it certainly is a blast and the chemistry between characters with Kurt Russell at the center is mostly entertaining.     The plot revolves around an ancient feud between …
review by . May 12, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
I remember having watched this film several times on cable when I was a kid. I couldn't remember much about the plot, but I did remember it had some of the best movie martial arts fight scenes I had ever seen. There were a couple of occassions when some of the neighborhood gang attempted to repeat the stunts we had seen. I mention this little ancedote because it pretty much sums up BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA. The film itself doesn't make much sense (unless you know a lot about Chineese mysticism) …
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Once you settle into the realization that this 1986 John Carpenter (Halloween) film is not going to be one of the director's more masterful works,Big Trouble in Little China just becomes a full-tilt comic blast. Kurt Russell is hilarious as a drawling, would-be John Wayne hero who steps into the middle of a supernatural war in the heart of Chinatown. While kung fu warriors and otherworldly spirits battle over the fate of two women (Kim Cattrall and Suzee Pai), Russell's swaggering idiot manages to knock himself out or underestimate the forces he's dealing with. The whole thing is dopey, but it's supposed to be dopey and Russell's game performance brings an ironic edge. Carpenter directs some nifty spook effects (the sudden arrival of three martial arts demigods from out of nowhere is worth applause), and he also wrote the music.--Tom Keogh
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Director: John Carpenter
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 1986
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 100 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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