Big Trouble in Little China (DVD, 2002, Single Disc; Sensormatic)

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Kurt Russell Flexes His Muscles in Big Trouble in Little China

Dec 31, 2009
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Fun, entertaining movie.  Kurt Russell.

Cons:Campy.  Cheesy dialogue at times.

The Bottom Line: Big Trouble in Little China is campy and even cheesy, but it is really fun to watch.  Fans of Kurt Russell should give it a chance.


Campy or cheesy movies can be very fun and entertaining to watch.  I still enjoy some of those movies.  I recently watched one of those movies, Big Trouble in Little China, for the first time in years.

Truck driver Jack Burton ends up in Chinatown after making a delivery gambling with his friend Wang Chi.  Wang doesn't have the money with him that he owes Jack, so Jack goes with Wang to the airport.  Wang is picking up Miao Yin, a woman from China that he is going to marry.  A gang from Chinatown kidnaps Miao Yin and Jack and Wang end up in the middle of a fight in Chinatown when they try to go after her.  Things get strange when three men with some kind of powers, Thunder, Rain, and Lightening,  join the fight.  They work for Lo Pan, an ancient sorcerer under a curse.  

Lo Pan has Miao Yin taken from the people holding her.  Lo Pan must marry a woman with green eyes to break the curse he is under and he decides that Miao Yin is the woman he has been looking for.  Jack and Wang start planning how to rescue Miao Yin with the help of Egg Shen, a tour bus driver and sorcerer who knows about Lo Pan.  Gracie Law, a lawyer working in Chinatown, also gets involved.  She also has green eyes, which causes a few complications.

I don't think that the plot of Big Trouble in Little China is that complicated, but it really isn't simple either since a lot goes on during the movie.  Jack just sort of stumbles into the middle of a huge mess that they then has to deal with.  He starts off just wanting to get the money he won from Wang and then to get his truck back once he is forced to leave it in Chinatown.  He ends up trying to help rescue kidnaped women while fighting Lo Pan and his powerful fighters who use some sort of magic.  I don't have any trouble keeping track of what is going on, though if I remember right, I did get confused by a few things the first time I saw the movie years ago.

Action turns up in several scenes throughout Big Trouble in Little China.  Jack and Wang try to chase the guys who took Miao Yin from the airport, almost getting run over in the process.  They end up in some back alley in Chinatown in Jack's truck, surrounded by two rival gangs who start fighting.  That part really doesn't add a whole lot to what is going on, though it does lead to the first appearance of Thunder, Rain, and Lightening.  They are very skilled at martial arts and also have some kind of mystical or magical powers.  Jack and Wang end up in a few fights when they try to rescue Miao Yin.  Wang does most of the fighting while Jack sort of bumbles around.  The fights do help to keep things interesting.  The movie is rated PG-13, but it really isn't that violent.  I think it is rather mild compared to what gets into a movie with that rating today.  Comedy turns up throughout the movie as well, making it an action comedy instead of a serious comedy.  Most of the comedy comes from things that Jack says and does.  Some of the things done for humor are a little cheesy, but I think the humor works well overall.  Cheesy dialogue turns up throughout the movie.  Some of the lines make me laugh even though I don't think they were intended to be funny.

Several of the characters in Big Trouble in Little China have some kind of magical powers.  Lo Pan is an ancient sorcerer hoping to end a curse.  He is able to appear as a sort of ghost with glowing eyes at times.  His three main henchmen, Thunder, Rain, and Lightening all have powers to augment their martial arts abilities.  The magic is most apparent with Lightening, who has lightening crackling around him.  The special effects are decent, especially considering that the movie is over twenty years old, though they do look a bit dated.  I believe that make up effects are used for a few things.  

There is an attempt to add a touch of romance to what is going on in Big Trouble in Little China.  Wang and Miao Yin are engaged, though very little of their relationship is shared since they are barely together during the movie.  Jack and Gracie meet for the first time at the airport and it is clear that he is interested in her at that point.  She basically gives him the brush off at that point.  They end up spending more time together since Gracie gets more involved in what is going on.  She keeps ignoring Jack's advances for a while.  Then she just changes her attitude and seems to be as interested in him after hardly any time passes.  Nothing really happens between them other than a kiss or two, but their relationship really doesn't come across as that believable.

Jack gets himself in the middle of a huge mess because he wants to make sure he gets his money from Wang.  Jack talks tough and carries a knife, but he really is rather useless in a fight.  He bumbles his way through things, even knocking himself out once, only to spring into action once Wang has dealt with the threat.  Jack is full of hot air and tends to screw up more often than help.  He is an entertaining character.  Kurt Russell does really well with the part, making Jack likable.  Russell swaggers through scenes and talks sort of like John Wayne.  The character could have been a huge mess, but somehow Russell makes it work.  He also shows off his arm muscles for much of the movie.

Wang Chi is one of Jack's friends, though he isn't above trying to take advantage of him if possible.  Wang owns a restaurant in Chinatown and is looking forward to being with Miao Yin again.  Wang does rush into things in his attempt to get Miao Yin back.  He is a more effective fighter.  Dennis Dun handles the part well.  Miao Yin is the woman that Wang is engaged to.  She stayed behind in China until he had enough money to send for her.  Nothing is really shared about her since she is taken right after she is first seen.  Suzee Pai really doesn't have a lot to do in the movie.  

Gracie Law is a lawyer who works in Chinatown.  Some of the people there consider her a trouble maker.  She does seem to have a knack for getting into trouble, though she doesn't just sit around and wait to be rescued.  Kim Cattrall is fine in the part.  Margo is a reporter that Gracie knows who is planning to write a story about what is going on in Chinatown.  Margo really doesn't add much to what is going on.  Eddie Lee works for Wang and ends up helping in the rescue attempt.  Egg Shen drives a tour bus around Chinatown.  He has his own magical abilities and he knows a lot about Lo Pan.  Victor Wong does well with the part.

Lo Pan is mixed up in a lot of illegal things in Chinatown.  He doesn't go out in public, so most people have no idea what he looks like.  He is really a 2,000 year old sorcerer who has been cursed.  His only hope of breaking the curse is to marry a woman with green eyes.  He sometimes appears as a ghost and he has a lot of magical abilities.  He makes a good villain for the movie.  James Hong does really well with the part.  Thunder, Rain, and Lightening work for Lo Pan.  They are basically his main henchmen.  They control aspects of the weather in addition to be skilled in martial arts.  

Main Cast

Kim Cattrall - Gracie Law
Dennis Dun - Wang Chi
James Hong - Lo Pan
Suzee Pai - Miao Yin
Kurt Russell - Jack Burton
Victor Wong - Egg Shen

John Carpenter - Director

DVD Information

I picked up Big Trouble in Little China on DVD several years ago.  I can't remember exactly how much it was, but I think it was around $7.  The version I have has the widescreen version and full screen - or pan and scan as it is called on the case - version of the movie.  There is a commentary with Carpenter and Russell that I haven't taken the time to listen to yet.  The original theatrical trailer is also included and that is it for extras.  I think another DVD version has been released that has more extras.

Big Trouble in Little China is a somewhat strange movie and it has some flaws, but it is fun and entertaining to watch.  Fans of John Carpenter's movies or fans of Kurt Russell should give it a chance.

Kurt Russell Movie Reviews
Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story ~ Overboard ~ Poseidon ~ Sky High ~ Tequila Sunrise ~


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