John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China turns 32 years old today; this is yet another movie I could have sworn I’d reviewed before but has since disappeared from the site.
When I was younger I didn’t fully appreciate it but as I got older I grew to love it more and more and Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton has since become one of my all-time favourite movie characters. He has so many quotable one-liners like “When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, looks you crooked in the eye, and asks you if you paid your dues; you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that: “Have you paid your dues, Jack? Yes sir, the check is in the mail.”
My personal favourite line was always “if we’re not back by dawn… call the president” which I still use regularly to this day.
The story is totally gonzo and feels like that crazy movie The Ninja Wars from 1982 where you’ve got the dudes with the massive hats firing lightning everywhere. The bad guy in Big Trouble (David Lo Pan) is played by the great James Hong and has become a classic villain of action cinema.
The movie wasn’t received all that well when it first came out but like myself I think audiences and critics grew to love it as I see so many articles and YouTube videos dedicated to it now. It never took itself all that seriously and the fact that Jack Burton is actually a bit crap at being a hero is the main selling point. If anything the real hero of the tale is Wan Chi played by Dennis Dun.
What’s so surprising is after 32 years just how well the visuals still hold up; sure some of it is dated but a lot of the special effects look impressive and John Carpenter’s music is still as awesome as ever.
The script is hilarious, the villains memorable and Jack Burton remains one of Russell’s best characters to date. So Happy 32nd Birthday Big Trouble in Little China. We salute you.