Big Trouble in Little China
directed by John Carpenter
(20th Century Fox, 1986)

For nonstop action and slambang entertainment, you can't beat this movie. From beginning to end, it's a pure funride, exploding on the screen like a Chinese firecracker. There's no way any of it could happen in this world, and probably not in the next, but it's so much fun we just suspend belief and go along for the ride. And what a ride this movie is!

Here is our hero, Jack Burton, a wisecracking long-haul trucker, just in from dropping off a delivery on the proverbial dark and stormy night. He hooks up with his longtime buddy Wang Chi for a few rounds of gambling. But Wang Chi can't focus on gambling tonight; his fiancee Miao Yin, a beautiful, green-eyed (huh??) Chinese immigrant, is due in on the next plane. Jack and Wang head to the airport just in time to see Miao Yin kidnapped right out from under their noses by some Chinese thugs. They're off on a mad chase through Chinatown, and manage to drive right into the middle of a gang war between the Lords of Death (the bad guys in black) and the Chang Sing (the good guys, suitably dressed in white). Just as the good guys are mopping up the bad, in come three supernatural goons called Thunder, Rain and Lightning, messing up the equation. Turns out they are the henchman of Lo Pan, a 2,000-year-old ghost who occasionally assumes human form, pining for a girl with green eyes to restore him to flesh and blood and make him whole again. Guess which green-eyed girl is in his evil clutches? You got it.

Jack and Wang go on a trip through the underworld of Chinatown trying to rescue Miao Yin and getting themselves into all kinds of trouble. Along the way they enlist the help of Gracie Law (actually, she sort of barges her way in), Egg Shen who drives a local tour bus, Wang's friend Eddie Lee and the Chang Sing gang. Without giving too much away, by the time Miao Yin is saved from the evil machinations of Lo Pan, we've been through an incredible rollercoaster ride served up with gun-shooting, knife-slinging, swordfights in mid-air, roofs exploding off buildings in a ball of green flame, karate chops galore and lightning bolts bouncing about all over the place. And just to make sure things don't start to get boring, there's a big hairy snaggle-toothed Yeti-like monster with eyes like orange ping-pong balls who pops up every so often at inconvenient times. What's not to love about this movie?

The cast keeps the movie rolling along. Kurt Russell looks as if he were having the time of his life playing Burton; his hilariously campy performance steals the film. Kim Cattrall is winning as Gracie Law, the nosy legal aid lawyer who wishes Jack would swap his truck for her. The Chinese cast members, especially Dennis Dun as Wang, Victor Wong as Egg Shen and James Hong as the evil Lo Pan, give great supporting performances. I really liked the Three Storms (Carter Wong as Thunder, Peter Kwong as Rain and James Pax as lightning); they're funny and threatening all at once. Thunder comes to an especially fitting end; in a fit of fury and frustration, he puffs himself up so full of hot air that he literally explodes himself ka-BOOM!, green innards flying all over the screen. Eeeewwww.

Big Trouble is pure campy fun, served up with a hefty dose of good old black magic. It all adds up to a wild, crazy, hilarious, slambang knockout of a movie experience.

by Judy Lind
17 March 2007

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