**I’m revisiting this post cause I just experienced a wonderful Q&A with a lot of the cast, the update is at the end**
Big Trouble in Little China was released on July 2, 1986, directed by John Carpenter and penned by Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein and W.D. Richter. It stars; Kurt Russel, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun and James Hong. It’s about truck driver Jack Burton who gets caught in some mysterious underworld schemes in Chinatown. He and his friend Wang Chi face off against the dreaded Lo Pan, throw in three ancient warriors, imprisoned girls, a weird eye/head thing, Victor Wong, stir to a simmer and whackyness is served!
This month we’ll be doing movies by John Carpenter to celebrate the Halloween season. Before I get carried away with the details, and I will… probably, go check out what my friends Dr. Q at Craft Beer Tasters ,and Cody from Three B Zine, have to say about this film.
Welcome back to the Pork-Chop Express! Our movie opens up with Victor Wong telling his story about Jack Burton to The X-Files’ Deepthroat, and how everyone owes Jack.
Jack Burton (Russell) drives in to town, meets up with his friend Wang Chi (Dun) who’s going to the airport to pick up his would-be bride from China, Miao Yin. A Chinese gang tries to kidnap another girl at the airport who’s being picked up by her friend Gracie (Kattrall),. Jack isn’t having any of this and he and Wang Chi take Miao Yin instead. They jump in Jack’s rig and follow the fleeing gang to where else… Chinatown, where a funeral procession is going on, but this quickly bursts into a brawl between two ancient Chinese societies. Then three dudes show up who are Thunder, Rain and Lightning, they proceed to slaughter the gangs.
Jack sees that things are getting out of hand so he reverses his truck and runs over Lo Pan (Hong), little does he know that Lo Pan is a powerful sorcerer, Jack gets out to check on Lo Pan only to find him annoyed. Wang and Jack run on foot through the back alleys, they eventually end up at Wang’s restaurant. Conveniently, Gracie and Victor Wong are there too. Wong gives us the low-down on Lo Pan, Jack resists all this exposition. The three dudes, dubbed the Storms, make off with Miao Yin bringing her to Lo Pan. Jack and Wang try to rescue her and are easily taken out by Rain and taken directly to Lo Pan, who’s now a frail old man. Wang let’s Jack know that Lo Pan needs a special green-eyed girl to break an ancient curse, and that Miao Yin has green eyes and will be sacrificed if they don’t stop Lo Pan, but Gracie’s got green eyes too… so Lo Pan decides to sacrifice the white woman and keep Miao Yin as his wife, aka sex-slave.
Jack and Wang manage to get the drop on Thunder and escape, during their escape they also manage to free a lot of women that were held captive. Our heroes regroup and Victor Wong creates some concoction for everyone to drink.
Back at Lo Pan’s, there’s a wedding ceremony, a huge fight breaks out and Jack misses every bit of it cause he accidentally knocked himself out. Wang kills Rain in a sword duel while Jack and Gracie go after Lo Pan, just when you thought our heroes here done for… Jack kills Lo Pan with a knife throw. Thunder is angry at the defeat of Lo Pan and starts to hold his breath like a kid throwing a temper tantrum, but he inflates himself to hilarious proportions and explodes himself dead. Jack, Wang, Gracie and Miao Yin are now cornered by Lightning which he starts to make collapse. Victor Wong rescues our heroes with mere rope and kills Lightning by dropping a stone Buddha statue on him. The coast is clear, so where do our heroes go to unwind? You guessed it, Wang’s restaurant.
They celebrate having defeated Lo Pan, Wang and Miao are going to hitched, Victor Wong says something about China being inside your hearts, but Jack doesn’t settle down with Gracie, instead he bids farewell to the group and heads on out again, but this time… one of the zany monsters from Lo Pan’s headquarters has hitched a ride on the Pork-Chop Express!
The good; let’s just say I love John Carpenter’s movies.
The movie studio 20th Century Fox seems to be a trend setter (so sad), and they hired Carpenter as director and then rushed Big Trouble in Little China into production so that it would be able to compete with another movie starring Wong… The Golden Child. But Carpenter managed to turn around this conceived western set in the 1880s, written by W.D. Richter, in to a martial arts film, something he’s had a burning desire to do.
I just love the tone in which this movie stands, it’s light-hearted, action packed, weird, campy, creepy, magic-y, and above all fun. Take a look at these creature creations, where else would we be introduced to these marvelous wonders? And one of the most memorable on screen deaths;
No wonder this film achieved cult status as time went on.
It’s also interesting to note that Jack Burton isn’t your typical hero, he’s not very active in driving the plot, he’s basically just there, and it works. He’s not part of this seedy underbelly of mysticism and tradition, but he’s here helping a friend out. For going against the grain and the norm I applaud Richter and Carpenter, bravo.
The bad; it’s dated. This film clearly takes place in the 80s. I wish it was a little more timeless, what with the ancient bad guys and magic, the good guys just needed some non-period specific wardrobe.
This movie failed at the box office and left Carpenter disillusioned with the Hollywood Studio system… thanks Fox… you suck!
Overall, one of the best. I know exactly the spirit in which this film was made in and I love it for that. I’m surprised that it actually got made, so many things in this film are counter to what a movie studio would do, but I give it up to Carpenter for sticking with it.
I’d pair a viewing of this cult classic with Huiyuan Juice.
The juice company is headquartered in Beijing, was established in 1992 and it’s the largest privately owned juice producer in China. I would specifically pair the Peach Juice brand of Huiyuan. It’s refreshing and will keep you up to speed with the egg magic potion, concoction of Victor Wong. It’s good and… good for you.
Big Trouble in Little China is a lot of things, but above all, it’s fun. Who would’ve thought that the guy that brought us the Boogeyman in Halloween and the crazy shape shifting alien in The Thing would be responsible for this movie?? So drink up that potion from a wiley-eyed old Asian man, and enjoy a ride (courtesy of Netflix streaming) on the Pork-Chop Express.
*UPDATE* This week I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Big Trouble at the Japanese American National Museum in their film series focusing on Asian Americans, the movie was followed by a Q&A from a lot of the cast members and the original writer. Writer Gary Goldman and actors George Cheung, Peter Kwong, Al Leong, Gerald Okamura, James Hong, Jeff Imada, James Lew, and Lia Chang.
This was such a treat and further cemented my love for this awesome movie. It was truly one of those moments where you had to be there. I could listen to all of them talk forever.
“Here’s to the Army and the Navy and the battles they have won, here’s to America’s colors, the colors that never run.
-May the wings of liberty never lose a feather.”