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Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

April 28, 2010

8/10 Killer Reflexes

Kurt Russell and John Carpenter, Kurt Russell with a mullet, Kurt Russell in a wife beater, Kurt Russell fighting Chinese sorcerers, Kurt Russell Kurt Russell. Need I continue?

Big Trouble in Little China is about a hotshot trucker who unloads his latest shipment of assorted livestock in Chinatown, CA, gets involved in some friendly back-alley gambling and, whaddayaknow,  finds himself caught in the middle of an underground war between various ninja clans and mythical warriors who are trying to steal his friend’s mail-order bride because she’s got green eyes.

Apparently Chinese girls with green eyes were a big deal in the ’80s, right up there with acid wash jeans and Rubik’s cubes.

Not surprised. Typical ’80s behavior.

So if I didn’t know any better, I’m pretty sure I’d read that synopsis up there and file this bad boy under “Stupid As Hell” without thinking twice. But lucky for me, I’ve seen The Thing and I’ve seen Escape from New York and I’m well aware of the wonderful things that happen when director John Carpenter teams up with our man Kurt Russell. And after finally getting around to seeing this way later in life than I should have, it only makes me pine that much more for the day when these two icons of awesomeness finally wise up, settle their petty differences over making Kurt wear the same boots as Xena and make their much-needed, long-awaited comebacks.

But even knowing that I was gonna like this going in, it’s a pretty ridiculous movie and there’s no two ways about it. Maybe I’m overstepping my bounds a bit here, but truckers and wizards don’t tend to make for the best movie pitches, then again, it’s evident that everyone involved in this movie is hip to that sad truth and they use it to their advantage.

The most glaring example of this was deciding to cast Kurt Russell as the trucker of the hour, Jack Burton. Part of the reason Burton’s awesome is simply because Kurt is awesome and he was always in his element when he was working with Carpenter. This is Snake Plissken we’re talking about, you get the idea (hopefully). The other reason he’s awesome is that he’s got all the best lines of the movie, talks a huge game, walks about half of it and the only advantages he’s got over the competition are his reflexes and his big brass balls.

Jack Burton’s hilarious, Jack Burton’s a badass, and the best part is that Jack Burton knows it. A great main character for a movie that’s about as cool as can be within in its own limitations.

It also features every Asian actor who’s ever been a movie outside of Mr. Miyagi and Shang Tsung. Most notable are Victor Wong (aka: the grandfather from 3 Ninjas) as Jack Burton’s right-hand, lazy-eyed sorcerer, Egg Shen, and James Hong (aka: the guy who ran that weird eyeball sushi shop in Blade Runner, the voice of Eddie from those Nissin Chow Mein commercials, and about a thousand other odd gigs) as our evil villain, David Lo Pan. So that’s fun.

And as far as the action is concerned, it’s actually not half bad. It all feels intentionally corny, and, strangely enough, that makes it all work that much more. There are some truly epic fights to be had with magic and flying dropkicks alike, there’s a boat-load of pain to be dished out and it is freakin’ awesome when Burton’s reflexes finally kick into gear. For those who’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m talking about and I think we can all agree that that was one of the best deaths ever.

Look, Big Trouble in Little China is the kind of movie you take with a grain of salt, but it’s also the kind of movie that was made with a grain of salt. The script might have an absurd premise to go off of, but it’s filled with great one-liners, a totally entertaining cast of characters and it’s just a lot of fun if you’re not taking it at face value and can appreciate it for all its bizarro glory. Still not my favorite Russenter collaboration (might need to work out the kinks on that one), but any Russenter collaboration is one worth seeing and thoroughly enjoying.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. April 28, 2010 12:21 am

    “What does it mean? Two girls with green eyes?’

    i think that if you put this movie up against any other movie — any other movie — and you’ll pick towatch this.
    “Oh Ruben, would you like to watch The godfather or Big Trouble?”
    “Big Trouble.”
    “Would you rather watch Psycho or Big Trouble?’
    “Psh. Big Trouble.”
    “Up in smoke or–”
    “Big trouble.”
    “Lost in–”
    “Big fuckin Trubs”

    Shameless self promotion:

    Big Trubs

    Jeff Bridges vs Kurt Russel grudge match

    Kurt needs to be deified

  2. April 28, 2010 6:54 am

    This movie is so nuts that you can only believe that it came from the mind of crazy John Carpenter. Nice Review!

  3. April 28, 2010 8:54 am

    Hands down, one of my favorite John Carpenter films. Kurt Russell is at the top of his game in this. Such a fun movie. Like you said, they need to make that comeback together!

  4. April 28, 2010 9:54 am

    I will never tire of Kurt Russell’s beefcake.

  5. nothatwasacompliment permalink
    April 28, 2010 10:52 am

    i think Jack Burton’s awesomeness is best summed up with one little exchange…

    “God, aren’t you even going to kiss her goodbye!?”
    *long pause*

    always loved that moment for some reason.

    • April 28, 2010 10:54 am

      Hahahaha. I loved that part, too. Wasn’t expecting that at all but it was so freakin’ awesome. Jack Burton, man. What a cool bastard.

  6. April 28, 2010 2:11 pm

    If only we could use the machine from Primer, go back to the 80’s and force Russell and Swayze to have a mullet match!
    “It’s all in the reflexes.”

    • April 28, 2010 2:12 pm

      Hahaha. Hard to say who’d win between Jack Burton and Dalton. Those are two serious manes.

  7. April 28, 2010 10:20 pm

    love the film, great review. As a lover of all things Asian I think this film does a great job, great, great, GREAT!

  8. April 28, 2010 11:46 pm

    You probably won’t believe me when I tell you that yesterday, my brother made eye contact with Kurt Russell.

    And you definitely won’t believe me when I tell you that it’s the second time it’s happened.

    LA has its perks.

    • April 29, 2010 7:36 am

      Damn. That is awesome. I am extremely jealous.

      Freakin’ Kurt Russell-less New York…

  9. April 29, 2010 8:48 am

    Kurt Russell.. never made a bad film

  10. Joe Wilhelm permalink
    April 30, 2010 9:19 pm

    Classic movie. LOVED it!
    Nice review.

  11. Branden permalink
    May 24, 2010 6:13 pm

    It is campy fun. Still a classic in my eyes.


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