Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Directed by John Carpenter
Cast: Kurt Russel, Kim Cattrall, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun
The Movie Bucket is a special place. It’s one-stop list of the best movies ever made, the films that transcend generations and never cease to intrigue, confuse amaze and, most importantly, entertain us. Our very first selection was Goodfellas, arguably one of the best movies ever made. We followed it up with movies from Paul Thomas Anderson, Steven Spielberg, the Coen brothers and more. When the ultimate film snobs need a reference guide because Fast and Furious just won’t go away, The Movie Bucket is their place of solitude.
So how in the hell did Big Trouble in Little China make the cut? Well it’s like what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like this: Fuck it.
Big Trouble is the ultimate midnight cult movie. Some people like Evil Dead or Rocky Horror Picture Show, but those are too mainstream even for cult hits. In order to make The Movie Bucket, we needed to go deeper. Big Trouble is about Jack Burton (Kurt Russel), an extremely cocky truck driver who gets mixed up in a decades-old war between the the local rebels and a mystical Chinese street gang.
Jack goes to the airport with is friend Wang Chi to pick up Chi’s girlfriend only for her to be kidnapped by the street gang. The rumors is that David Lo Pan, an ancient wizard, has to sacrifice a Chinese girl with green eyes to keep eternal life. Well, ol’ Jack’s not just going to sit around and let that happen. What ensues is a hilarious, intentionally over-the-top action-packed fun ride about the fight between good and evil.
Kurt Russel has never been better. His truck-driving, high school football glory days macho man is spot on. He has no fear and an extreme amount of confidence, and he’s the most inept character in the film. During the climactic fight scene with the evil wizard, Jack gets stuck under a suit of armor and doesn’t get free until the fighting is almost over. But guess who takes all the credit for the victory?
The real hero is Chi, who actually can fight. He saves Jack over and over, though Jack would never admit it. The good guys are rounded out by Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), Jack’s love interest, and Egg Chen (Victor Wong), the good wizard who also drives a tourist bus.
Other than Jack, the movie is made by the ridiculous bad guys. In addition the 2,000 year old wizard, there are three magical fighters who use elemental powers. One has lightning, one has wind and the other…is in the above picture. Your guess is as good as mine. The are also monsters and high-flying ninjas. The final scene has great (read: terrible) set design, and all the special effects are…special.
But it’s so much fun! You cannot watch Big Trouble with at least a little smile. On an esteemed list full of the best films ever made. Big Trouble in Little China is a welcome screwball. Just like ol’ Jack would’ve wanted.