Thursday Night Movie Club
Big Trouble in Little China
star rating graphicstar rating graphicstar rating graphicstar rating graphic
Release Date: 2 July 1986

Director: John Carpenter
Kurt Russell
Kim Cattrall
Dennis Dun
James Hong
Victor Wong
Kate Burton
Donald Li
Carter Wong
Peter Kwong
James Pax
Suzee Pai
Chao Li Chi
Jeff Imada
Rummel Mor
Craig Ng
Jack Burton
Gracie Law
Wang Chi
David Lo Pan
Egg Shen
Eddie Lee
Miao Yin
Uncle Chu
Joe Lucky
One Ear
Big Trouble in Little China movie poster 1 Big Trouble in Little China movie poster 2 Big Trouble in Little China movie poster 3
Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little ChinaBig Trouble in Little China, from writer/director John Carpenter, is a mad-cap romp through the underworld, literally, of Chinatown in San Francisco. Kurt Russell is a joy to watch as a truck driver who finds himself completely out of his depth, comfort zone, element, etc., etc...

Egg Shen (Victor Wong) is meeting with his attorney. An entire city block has gone up in green flame. Stories circulating through Chinatown intimate that Egg Shen is involved. Also connected to the disaster is a man named Jack Burton. In order to tell his attorney the full story of the events, the attorney must believe in Chinese Black Magic and Sorcery. Egg Shen provides a sample by producing bolts of electricity arcing between his finger. "That was nothing," Egg Shen says. "That is how it always begins... very small."

Cue the rousing title theme music composed and performed by director John Carpenter. Enter the Pork Chop Express, a semi driving a load of pigs to slaughter in Chinatown. The owner of the Rig, Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), is a loner who has his own code of conduct. He also enjoys waxing philosophical to anyone who might be listening to his CB rants "on a dark and stormy night when the rain is coming down in sheets of lead and the pillars of heaven shake." Burton lives his life on his terms. He is his own boss. He never drives faster than he can see. Besides, it is all in the reflexes anyway.

Victor Wong as Egg Shen in Big Trouble in Little ChinaJack Burton's good friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) is all nerves. His body and spirit are going North and South. Wang is set to pick up his fiance from the airport. Wang and Burton are in for big trouble. Wang's fiance Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) is kidnapped by a local street gang, the Lords of Death. The chase is on and Burton is in for a rude awakening.

An ancient curse began centuries ago in China is coming to a head. Lo Pan (James Hong) was subjugated and given the curse of no flesh. His bones have been atomized. He has become... a dream. What? That is precisely what Burton asks.

In order for Lo Pan to regain his mortal body, he must find a special girl. He must marry and then kill a girl with green eyes, eyes like jade. Miao Yin fits his prophesy, although there have been others, without success. There are always others. Burton promises to help Wang but neither of them really know what they are getting into.

James Hong as Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little ChinaKurt Russell is fantastic. The script loads him up with one-liners one after the next. Russell plays Jack Burton as if he were John Wayne, except that Burton is mostly talk. Burton can talk his way into and out of most situations. He is quite ineffective once the fighting starts. He becomes the leader of the rescue attempt only because he talks big. On Burton's plus side, he has supreme confindence in himself. Just like Maxwell Smart Agent 86, Burton comes out on top despite his best efforts.

Russell's best moments in Big Trouble in Little China are his opening scene, trying to explain the loss of his truck to his insurance company, his verbal sparing with Lo Pan, and several of his action sequences. His bit in a wheelchair is one example.

James Hong and Kurt Russel in Big Trouble in Little ChinaBurton has just witnessed some pretty amazing things. He wants the truth from Wang. "I can take it", Burton tells Wang. Wang replies, "I didn't want to insult you." "Go ahead Wang. Insult me!"

Humor abounds throughout Big Trouble in Little China. Burton looks at a sign written in Chinese. He asks Wang what it says. "Hell in boiling oil." "You're kidding?", Burton asks. "Yes. I am. It says Keep Out."

The Three Storms attack in Big Trouble in LIttle ChinaAnother time, Wang's maitre'd Eddie Lee (Donald Li) tells Burton, "Any one there was going to join Lem Lee in the Hell to Being Cut to Pieces." "What?" "Chinese got a lot of Hells, Jack."

Kurt Russell is also very funny just by doing something. Burton and Wang are imprisoned in a room with no windows, a locked door, and probably covered in brick by now. Burton is verbalizing his dispair while tapping his knife on the walls looking for a weak spot. At one point in his tapping on the wall, Russely quickly taps the skull of skeleton. Russell's gesture is wildly funny.

Egg Shen, Jack Burton and a street gang prepare for battle in Big Trouble in LIttle ChinaThere is also plenty of visual humor throughout. Wang is fighting the Storm Rain (Peter Kwong). The combatants leap into the air and while flying side-by-side, they continue to battle with swords. Wang promptly gives Rain a double eyebrow twitch.

Another time, Burton is pulling the trigger on a machine pistol with nothing happening. "Safety", Eddie tells him. Burton switches off the safety but is unprepared for the recoil. The gun fires in all directions miraculously killing the attackers. "First time you every plugged someone?" Burton is stunned by his actions. He quickly regains his composure saying, "Course not!"

Kim Catrall, Kurt Russell and Suzee Pai in Big Trouble in LIttle ChinaBig Trouble in Little China also contains some fantastice martial arts sequences. The scenes are somewhat brutal. One combatant has his head slammed into a space in a brick wall. Others suffer broken arms. Some are even stabbed with knives or cleavers. Still, these scenes are full-on high octane.

The supporting cast is excellent. You cannot make a movie about Chinese people without including the wonderful James Hong. It's even better when you add Victor Wong and Chao Li Chi as Uncle Chu. Chu is an elder who knows all of the myths and legends. Kim Catrall is very good as the somewhat scatter-brained lawyer Gracie Law. Law fights for the underpriviledged. She isn't very successful. Her law offices are in her apartment. But her heart is in the right place.

John Carpenter has crafted a very funny, very exciting movie in Big Trouble in Little China. Kurt Russell shines. He talks John Wayne but acts like Inspector Clouseau. The fight scenes are fantastic. The humor is as fast and furious as the action. Big Trouble in Little China gets better upon further viewings. Have fun!