Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

big trouble in little chinaIMDb

Towards the end of this movie I turned to Ben and said, “This kind of reminds me of The Goonies.” I wasn’t sure why it did, beyond the general 80s aesthetic and demon that is vaguely reminiscent Sloth, but after some thought I can finally place it. Both effortlessly blend action, comedy, and the mysterious. Both feature a mismatched group forced to work together in order to escape the villain. Both have some genuinely funny characters, and some annoying ones I just wished would go away. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to brand Big Trouble in Little China as “The Goonies for grown ups,” but it’s a fair approximation.

Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall star, which should pretty much tell you what to expect here. These two have made some entertaining movies, but most aren’t considered to be artistic or even great. Still, they’re both fun to watch, especially Russell. He plays a macho truck driver who just wants to get his rig back (which sounds a bit like The Big Lebowski, now that I think of it). He spends much of the movie in a barely there wife beater, and I’m pretty sure Cattrall isn’t wearing a bra, so points for objectifying both leads. You’d also guess from the title that there will be lots of Asian actors, and you might also guess that since this is the 80s they will mostly be racist stereotypes. You’d be right on both accounts. What’s more surprising to me is that this was directed by John Carpenter. I only know him from Halloween, so seeing an action-comedy from someone who has only ever scared the crap out of me is strange.

I honestly can’t decide if I like this movie or not. It is beyond ridiculous, with plenty of stereotypes to go around. But it’s also funny and just so perfectly 80s. Would I watch it again? Probably. As weird as Big Trouble in Little China is, it doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not. That’s actually quite refreshing.

Rating: C

I had a great time watching this film. It’s a B grade action film that knows what it is and absolutely embraces it. I had never seen this before and was interested to watch it because the film has developed quite the cult following since it bombed on release. It’s funny hearing the star of the movie, Kurt Russell, talking about this film, and why it struggled when it was first released. He said the movie studio wasn’t sure how to market it because they didn’t know what they had. He has a point. This is not a comedy, and not a straight up action film either so it was hard to market. There have been other films that blended both of those genres, but generally either comedy or action will be dominant throughout the film. For example, Die Hard is a very funny film, but I don’t think anyone can argue it isn’t an action film first and foremost. The problem with Big Trouble in Little China is that it is a true action comedy that blends the two genres really well, there are also a lot of supernatural elements throughout the film as well that would’ve further muddied the water when the studio tried to market it.

Kurt Russell stars as Jack Burton, a laid back American truck driver, who gets caught up in a centuries old mystical battle between waring Chinese triad gangs in the Chinatown district of Los Angeles. I found myself laughing a lot throughout this film. Most of the time it was at Russell and his failure to comprehend a few thousand years old Chinese history. Russell is charming as the dim witted truckie, and his performance carries the film.

He is joined by Kim Cattrall as his love interest, a lawyer called Gracie Law. That’s actually her name, like I said, this is B grade theatre and it’s embraced thoroughly.

This is an entertaining film, led by Russell’s solid performance. The effects are decent, especially for an 80s film. And there is a lot of humour, I found myself laughing out loud regularly at Kurt Russell’s antics. It’s really hard to find a negative here because sometimes it seems like the film is bad on purpose. That’s part of its charm.

Rating: B-

One thought on “Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

  1. Pingback: The Golden Child (1986) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

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