Big Trouble in Little China (1986) Classic Review

Director: John Carpenter

Writers: Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein 

Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun

Genre: Action, Comedy

Runtime: 99 Minutes

Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Truck driver Jack Burton arrives in Chinatown, San Francisco, and goes to the airport with his Chinese friend Wang Chi to welcome his green-eyed fiancée Miao Yin who is arriving from China. However she is kidnapped on the arrival by a Chinese street gang and Jack and Wang chase the group. Soon they learn that the powerful evil sorcerer called David Lo Pan, who has been cursed more than two thousand years ago to exist without physical body, needs to marry a woman with green eyes to retrieve his physical body and Miao is the chosen one. Jack and Wang team-up with the lawyer Gracie Law, the bus driver and sorcerer apprentice Egg Shen and their friends and embark in a great adventure in the underground of Chinatown, where they face a world of magicians and magic, monsters and martial arts fighters. – From IMDB

This film is just pure eighties fun. Nothing about it is particularly well presented, from the sometimes clunky script, to the laughable special effects to the litany of racial and gender stereotypes. But if like me, you are bored, or sick, or hungover, or maybe all three, and you just wanna watch something that will make you laugh and be entertaining, then you could do way WAY worse then to chose ‘Big Trouble in Little China.’

Some of the martial arts scenes are actually not bad. Sure some of them are so bad that you can clearly see that guys fist missed his opponents face but about five inches, but a good deal of the bigger stunts are pretty good, and some of the more flashy martial arts sequences are passable, especially for the period this film was shot. The costumes and sets, particularly the ones in the lair of the sorcerer were really great, as was some of the makeup. The special effects makeup not so much, but the costume make-up was pretty sweet.

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Kurt Russell plays the mot eighties action hero I have seen for a while. Gruff, and sexist and reluctant to be any kind of hero. Telling us all the time that he is only there to serve selfish motives, not really wanting to save anybody. And all the while serving up a glorious eighties haircut. I loved him in this role, Jack was a loveable protagonist, and one that the audience can really relate to. Kim Cattrall’s character is kind of a precursor to the female action heroes we started to see in the nineties. Here she is still a little to reliant on being rescued and falling for Russell’s very weak pick up lines, but she does have a few moments where she could hold her own.

I forget frequently how much I love the silliness of eighties films, it’s a vibe that we don’t get in films anymore. It feels like they were just wanting to have fun with their films, so you get a lot more craziness. This is one of those films I am sad it took me so long to get too, but is definitely one that I will be returning too again in the future.

1 Comment

  1. Man I love Big Trouble in Little China. It’s such a great modern fantasy action flick that doesn’t care about clear exposition or setup. Just cuts right to the chase with no bull shit. It makes me wonder if the writers were like, “how can we include these ladies in the film? Oh yea make the green eyed and that is what the wizard guy needs!”

    I always had this idea that some place in fantasy land Jack Burton and Ash Williams are best friends. Just drinking beer and telling stories to each other.

    Liked by 1 person

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