John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China (1985) is the 4th film that he used Kurt Russell as a lead and the last in the 3 films that two made together in the 1980’s as director and lead. The film also stars Kim Cattral, Denis Dun, James Hong, and Victor Wong. This is Carpenter’s take on the martial arts genre.
Big Trouble in Little China takes place in San Francisco ’s Chinatown where Jack Burton (Russell) and Wang Chi (Dun) are friends on their way to pick up Wang Chi’s girlfriend from the airport where she is kidnapped by a Chinese gang. It is up to Jack Burton, Wang Chi to rescue the girl from an immortal sorcerer Lo Pan (James Hong) who controls the gang. To help Jack and Wang is a quick witted immigration lawyer Gracie Law (Cattral), an eccentric tour bus driver sorcerer Egg Shen (Wong) and a cast of others. To explain this movie any further wouldn’t do it any justice.
If this sounds a bit crazy it’s because it is. In fact, its bat shit crazy. In this film Carpenter mixes action, martial arts, Chinese fantasy, Chinese mythology, and comedy to make a very unique experience. The movie is action packed and never slows down. You are thrown from one scenario to another and you never know what is coming around the bend. This movie is one wild ride. Once again Carpenter puts you in a crazy world with a visceral visual style. From the streets of Chinatown , to the underground sewers, to Lo Pan’s hideout each place has its own feel but exists together and compliments each other. Russell really brings to life the arrogant but well meaning Jack Burton. You can really tell that Russell and Carpenter are really having fun with this one.
Unfortunately, this movie was a flop when it came out and received mixed reviews. Maybe it was a little ahead of it’s time. It is a martial arts film, but not in the traditional sense. With its Chinese fantasy and mythology it might have gone over a lot of people’s heads expecting just punching and kicking. It has gotten some accolades as a cult film through the years, but there are still people who don’t get it. There is nothing to get, it is just a fun, action packed, crazy movie that is very entertaining.
Give it a shot. Big Trouble in Little China is something different and fun that you might not expect from John Carpenter.