According to Wikipedia, 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China is a “martial arts adventure comedy film directed by John Carpenter.” Obviously, this is a rare thing. I also was told that the movie is sort of a spoof of martial arts and action movies, which intrigued me. As such, I decided to give it a watch.
Now, don’t expect an Airplane! style spoof. The movie is more subtle and less silly. It is more about winking just a bit at the audience. A lot of it just feels like an over the top action movie, but the action is so over the top it becomes humorous, which I imagine was the intention of the director. Plus, some of the dialogue certainly feels intentionally clunky or silly or, again, over the top. There is one character who, to me, clearly feels like a joke. However, if you just want a wild and zany martial arts movie, then you can probably tune into Big Trouble in Little China even if you aren’t looking for a spoof.
Kurt Russell stars as Jack Burton, a loudmouth truck driver. One day, as he hangs out with his friend Wang, Wang’s fiancee Miao Yin is kidnapped, and when Jack and Wang track the kidnappers down, Jack finds himself in a world of martial arts and supernatural powers, with Lo Pan as the main villian. Lo Pan is played by James Hong, an actor you will presumably mention from sight. He played Cassandra’s dad in Wayne’s World 2, for example. Also, to make matters worse for Jack, his truck gets stolen. Jack finds himself fighting the forces of evil alongside Wang and some of his friends, including Gracie Law, a lawyer played by Kim Catrall.
Russell is quite good in the movie, playing the part of the typical action movie star excellently. He’s brash and loud and quick with a quip. There is some good action in the movie, which is good, since as I said there isn’t a ton of comedy, and certainly very little outright comedy. Overall, the movie was a good watch. I got a few laughs, and the action moved along briskly and was often engaging. There is a lot of martial arts and fight scenes, and those are done well. There is also a lot of poor quality special effect creatures that are also unpleasantly grotesque. I could have done without them, but if really weird, gross looking creatures don’t bother you, then don’t worry about it.
Big Trouble in Little China is an extravagant martial arts movie with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek. I wouldn’t call it light or a romp, but it is fairly silly and definitely wild. It isn’t very comedic, but it is kind of funny and has a ton of action. So, if that is your thing, this is certainly one of the better martial arts adventure comedy films out there.