Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

bigtroubleinlittlechina

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Hailed as one of the greatest 80’s classics, this hybrid film from John Carpenter seems to have plenty, from sci-fi madness to martial arts action as well as a hero who gets some great comical chops in.

Jack Burton is a truck driver who loves to boast about himself. However, on a fateful day, he runs into good friend Wang Chi in San Francisco’s Chinatown. When Wang loses a friendly bet with Jack, Wang promises to pay Jack but only after he goes to the airport to pick up his fiancée, Miao Yin. Miao Yin is a rarity amongst Chinese women, one with green eyes. She becomes the target of an immortal sorcerer, Lo Pan, who is seeking a Chinese woman with green eyes as marrying her and feeding off her blood will make him mortal again.

When Miao Yin is kidnapped, Jack and Wang team up with local bus driver Egg Shen, lawyer Gracie Law, aspiring reporter Margo, Wang’s buddy Eddie, and a group, the Chang Sing, to rescue Miao Yin. However, Lo Pan has his own group, the Wing Kong, along with the supernatural Three Storms in the forms of Thunder, Rain, and Lightning. Despite a first attempt that results in the rescue of many prisoners from Lo Pan and the Wing Kong, Gracie, herself a Chinese woman with green eyes, finds herself kidnapped by Lo Pan. Now, Jack, Wing, Egg, and the Chang Sing are ready to launch a full-out assault on Lo Pan, the Three Storms, and the Wing Kong to end the sorcerer’s reign once and for all.

John Carpenter is a legendary filmmaker who has had his share of science fiction, action, and horror. For this 1986 classic, Carpenter makes perhaps one of the “ultimate” meshing of genres. Using Gary Goldman and David Weinstein’s script, based on a story by W.D. Richter, Carpenter puts his style of directing and awesome music score to make this one of the best 80’s action-comedies that brings collaborator Kurt Russell to the forefront as the iconic Jack Burton.

Russell is perfectly cast as Jack Burton, a trucker who loves to go on the CB radios and boast about himself, sometimes referring to himself in the third person. In addition to the rugged, narcissist nature of the character, Russell brings a sense of comedy to the role as well as we see Jack attempting to be the tough action hero type only to sometimes find himself in some bad situations. His attempt to go undercover as john “Henry Swanson” just adds more to the comical nature of the role.

Burton has some great support in the forms of Kim Cattrall as Gracie Law, a no-nonsense lawyer who knows more than she seems to know and Dennis Dun as Wang Chi, a restauranteur who is Burton’s most trusted friend and reliable ally who is skilled in martial arts. Victor Wong is quite a surprise as tour bus driver Egg Shen, who is more than he seems to be. Donald Li and Kate Burton may have minimal screen time, but make the most as Eddie and Margo. Veteran martial arts aces James Lew, the alte great Stuart Quan, and Jim Lau play prominent members of the Chang Sing, the martial arts group who help Jack and Wang on their mission to rescue Wang’s fiancée Miao Yin.

The legendary James Hong plays the iconic villain Lo Pan in two forms. One is the deadly sorcerer who seeks to be mortal and then his human form, a wheelchair-bound elderly man. Hong gets to get in on some comic chemistry with Russell when it comes to their meeting in the underground of Chinatown. The Three Storms are wonderfully played by former Hong Kong film actor Carter Wong (as Thunder), actor and Tai Chi expert Peter Kwong (as the stern faced Rain), and James Pax, whose character of Lightning would become the influence for Lord Raiden, the famous deity from the Mortal Kombat video game franchise. Legendary martial artists Gerald Okamura, Eric Lee, Dan Inosanto, and the late Bill Ryusaki play members of the Wing Kong, the villainous gang who are allies of Lo Pan and the Storms.

Big Trouble in Little China has it all: action, comedy, sci-fi, and a little taste of horror, but very little. However, it is still hailed as a classic with the style of John Carpenter that brings one of Kurt Russell’s most iconic roles that still holds up to this day.

WFG RATING: A+

20th Century Fox presents a Taft Entertainment production. Director: John Carpenter. Producer: Larry J. Franco. Writers: Gary Goldman and David Weinstein; story by W.D. Richter. Cinematography: Dean Cundey. Editing: Steve Mirkovich, Mark Warner, and Edward A. Warschilka.

Cast: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, Victor Wong, Suzee Pai, Donald Li, Kate Burton, James Hong, Carter Wong, Peter Kwong, James Pax, Chao Li Chi, James Lew, Jim Lau, Stuart Quon, Kenny Endoso, Gerald Okamura, Bill Ryusaki, Willie Wong, Eric Lee, Jeff Imada, Craig Ng, Noel Toy, Jerry Hardin.

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