Sometimes movies get caught taking themselves too seriously. Every poorly written movie that can’t throw a little giggle at itself–hell, even wink a little–is committing cinema suicide. Tone plays such a crucial part in any story being told. When you have a pitch about a 2000 year old villain that needs the blood of a certain bride to give him his powers back to rule the entire world and he uses Rain, Thunder, and Lightning (all characters played by men) to do his bidding; brother, that movie better know that it should laugh at itself or you will get laughed right out of your pitch meeting. Especially if this movie is supposed to occur in a modern day Chinatown.
Enter Jack Burton. If Dirty Harry ever had a son, Jack Burton was his rebellious teenager.
Played by Kurt Russell, Jack is the “lead” in “Big Trouble in Little China.” I can’t imagine any other person playing Jack with the necessary restraint at times that Russell was able to pull off. He is a larger than life character, that unfortunately only had the opportunity to be contained in a 2 hour movie. No one was brave enough to try and duplicate his dialogue for a sequel or spin-off for that matter. I can’t say that I blame them. He’s the kind of lovable loser, that is able to stumble his way through to a victory over the dark lords he faces in this cult classic. It doesn’t hurt that he appears as the sidekick to Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) who has the ability to do the same amazing, super-human/acrobatic flights through the air as Rain, Thunder, and Lightning.
Jack is a truck driver that is friends with Wang. Wang is awaiting the arrival of his future bride so that they can get married and live happily. Our villain, Lo Pan (played by the ever unforgettable James Hong) interferes as Wang’s Bride to be is the only woman that can break the curse holding Lo Pan back from his goal of world domination.
Jack’s semi goes missing and gets him involved at length, much like Wang with his bride to be. There are many “Kung Fu Movie” action set pieces, along with a number of damsel’s in distress (Kim Cattrall being one of them along with Wang’s bride to be), monsters, and old Chinese wizards too. If you hear all of that and think that this sounds ridiculous, I’m here to tell you that it is and the movie knows it–very crucial. This is a very entertaining film. There are elements of horror, action/adventure and above all, comedy. John Carpenter was known for his suspense and horror pictures (“Halloween,” “The Thing,” “Christine,” “Escape from New York“). I feel that because of his ability to gel all of the different genres that he was familiar with together and create a film that laughs at itself, he delivered a very weird sort of masterpiece that finally found a following on home video. My dad loved it. My mom left the room after the first scene.