Thursday, May 5, 2011

If Stuntman Mike Wasn't A Psychopath, He'd Be Jack Burton

One thing I said I was going to stay away from as much as possible when doing this blog, was the so-called “Internet Nerd” favourite films. I figured they have been covered so many times in so many places that me doing the same thing would end up being boring and trite. But since I have done films like Clerks, the Indiana Jones series, the Back to The Future series and even a bunch of films from the ‘nets favourite actor, Mr Nicolas Cage; I would throw that rule out the window. What can I say, as an Internet Nerd, I tend to like these films myself, so it’s only fitting that I give my opinion on them too.

Today’s film is, well, a classic of 80’s cinema and is one of the best blends of action and comedy that I have ever witnessed. It’s one of those films that is so ubiquitous in my life that I just assume everyone has seen it. Today, our film is Big Trouble in Little China.

For those one or two of you who legitimately haven’t seen it, Big Trouble In Little China tells the tale of one Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), driver of the Pork Chop Express, as his truck breaks down in San Francisco Chinatown and he accidentally gets embroiled in an ancient Chinese plot hatched by the fiendish David Lo Pan (James Hong) in which he is seeking eternal life and ultimate power. Along the way, Burton gets dragged, kicking and screaming, into being a hero and rescuing the kidnapped Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall, in one of the few roles where I can actually tolerate her) by Egg Shen (Victor Wong), neighbourhood wise man and leader of the resistance against Lo Pan.

Straight out of the gate, this is one of THE defining movies of my childhood (as well as the childhood of a LOT of others, I would imagine), and it is really not hard to see why – not only is it full of martial arts, crazy monsters, hilariousness and just about every trope of the genre turned on their heads; but it’s also got three leads at their most charismatic best, all pulled together by a director who was deep within his most creative era – Mr John Carpenter.

And yes, when I say turns the tropes on their head, I mean it –first and foremost, let’s take a look at our protagonist (if one could even call him that) Jack Burton; big, manly, truck drivin’, cocky, white male is thrown into the role of reluctant hero at the role. As soon as he is confronted by the goings on in Chinatown, he starts running for the exit and doesn’t stop until Shen loads him up with “ancient Chinese medicine”. But, even then, he is nothing but in the wrong place at the wrong time – and has to be rescued just as much, if not way more, than the typical “damsel in distress” that is Gracie Law (and even she is more suited to the events than he).

Kurt Russell is great, playing Burton with a cocksuredness that comes from never actually facing any real challenges, which soon gets replaced with sheer terror and outright “what the bloody hell is going on here?” It shows up during his first experiences with Lo Pan’s army in the alleyway (one of the best fights I have seen in any film, martial arts or otherwise – and the addition of Mr Al Leong certainly doesn’t hurt matters either), and does nothing but increases the more elements he becomes aware of. James Hong (the KING of the Asian-themed “Hey, It’s That Guy” actors) is at his best, playing essentially two roles – both Lo Pan (you’ll see), and imbuing them with two completely different types of terror, both performances being as memorable as one another; David Lo Pan having that creepy “I bet that dude can kill me a thousand ways even though he is 200 years old” terror, and Lo Pan having a more direct “I KNOW that dude can kill me...with A FUCKING DRAGON” terror. And, like I said, both are as damn good as each other.

I could go on and on about every aspect of this film, from the set design, to the sound design, to the great lines, to the fact that not only do the hero and princess not get together; but they leave the film hating each other as much as they ever did, to all stops in between. But the fact is, this film is awesome. It was a huge part of my childhood, and I love it as much as I ever have.

See it, before it sees you.


  1. I am a HUGE fan of Big Trouble in Little China. Of all of Kurt Russel's collaborations with John Carpenter, I feel that Jack Burton is most demanding of further stories. I can see him today, still chugging along in the Pork Chop Express, still cocky as hell, and still managing to get drawn into situations that he is woefully under-equipped to handle.

  2. I won't lie, it was you guys covering it that inspired me to do it (I may have listened to your Carpenter ep the night before). And you are right, I can see at least a couple more tales from the world of Mr Burton before he rolls off into the sunset.