"All I know is, this Lo Pan character comes out of thin air in the middle of a goddamn alley while his buddies are flying around on wires cutting everybody to shreds, and he just stands there waiting for me to drive my truck straight through him with light coming out of his mouth!"
— Jack Burton
Big Trouble In Little China is one of John Carpenter's greatest films, written by W.D. Richter and released in 1986.Kurt Russell is Jack Burton, a long-haul trucker with a penchant for making soliloquies over the CB. He's in San Francisco's Chinatown to meet his buddy Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) and pick up Wang's fiancee Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) from the airport, but David Lo Pan (James Hong) kidnaps her with the help of his Wing Kong street gang and the Three Storms.Jack, Wang, lawyer Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), tour bus driver Egg Shen (Victor Wong), and the Chang Sing street gang join forces to rescue Miao Yin from the deathless Lo Pan, but Jack's really in it to get his truck back.Subverts a few tropes of the action hero genre. Most notably, as stated by both Carpenter and Russell in the DVD commentary: "This is a movie about a guy who thinks he's theAction Hero when he's really the comic sidekick."The story continues in the Big Trouble in Little China comic series by BOOM! Studios, the first issue of which arrived on June 4th, 2014.Don't confuse this with Chinatown. Hilarity will not ensue.
This film provides examples of:
Action Survivor: Jack's not an action guy despite his macho facade, and by the end is simply glad to be out of there. Despite this he leans more toward the badass side of this trope. He is brave, sort of competent, and Wang constantly asking for his help implies Jack has a bit of a reputation as a tough guy. His just out of his element when dealing with magic.
Affectionate Parody: The film lovingly spoofs action hero and magical martial arts film tropes.
Bash Brothers: Though Wang does most of the fighting, he and Jack become this briefly when they take on Thunder.
Bavarian Fire Drill: Jack and Wang bluff their way into the Wing Kong Exchange building by pretending to be telephone repairmen who'd been called in to fix a problem.
Beam-O-War: Lo Pan and Egg Shen duel in this way. The two beams, upon colliding, take the shape of dueling swordsmen. And then they twiddle their fingers like they're using video game controllers to direct the swordsmen.
Beta Couple: Margo and Eddie, which dismisses them from the plot before the climax.
Blatant Lies: After Jack shoots a mook, he gets a horrified expression on his face. After Eddie asks if it's the first time he's ever "plugged somebody," Jack suddenly adopts a macho facade and says, "'Course not!"
Common Eye Colors: Big Bad David Lo Pan has to sacrifice a woman with green eyes to become whole again. The thing is, he at first thinks he needs to sacrifice a Chinese woman, and (Han) Chinese people having green eyes is extremely rare if not impossible.
Covered in Kisses: And as a result, Jack has Gracie's lipstick smeared on his mouth when he's facing Lo Pan.
Eagleland: Mocked, but in a good way. Nearly all of the main characters - save Jack and Gracie - are Chinese-American immigrants (including Lo Pan) and the main hero Wang Chi offers up a patriotic toast to America before drinking Egg's potion.
Groin Attack: Gracie Law to Lo Pan's humanoid monster when it grabs Jack Burton from behind. She kicks it in the family jewels to make it let go.
Hellevator: How does it know which way to go without anyone pressing buttons? Ancient Chinese secret.
Hero Ball: Jack and Wang juggle it. Wang is more martially competent and properly motivated; but Jack is the one who comes up with the ideas and keeps saving everyone else's life. He's also the one who kills the Big Bad
Heroic BSOD: The first time Jack shoots someone, he looks a little shocked. When Eddie asks if it's the first time he's ever "plugged" someone, Jack snaps out of it and resumes his usual bluster.
Hero of Another Story: We get quite a few, befitting the theme of the movie that Jack actually isn't the hero:
Egg Shen has been fighting Lo Pan (and likely other mystical forces) for several years.
Gracie Law and her friend have been exposing the Chinatown underworld, resulting in her knowing quite a bit about the local gangs to the point where they now want to kill her.
While this is the first time Wang has been up against supernatural threats (he grew up believing them to be myths), he obviously has experience at fighting bad guys and even has an alliance with one of the local gangs.
Hero Tracking Failure: When the security guards are shooting at Jack Burton. If one looks closely, a charge explodes just next to Jack's head. This was not done on purpose. Apparently, the special effects technician set the charges to go off too soon, nearly resulting in Kurt Russell being injured. Of course they decided to Throw It In anyway.
Hey, Catch!: Jack Burton says, "It's all in the reflexes".
How We Got Here: The film opens with a lawyer asking Egg Shen to explain what exactly went down in Chinatown. While the film does explain what went down, it doesn't explain what led to the conversation with the lawyer (who never appears outside the opening scene).
As The Unmasqued World trope implies, the final battle against Lo Pan was devastating enough - the lawyer even provides a list - to where the normal law enforcement types have finally taken notice, and want answers.
Humble Goal: All Jack really wants is to get his truck back.
Margo: "I feel like I'm in over my head." Eddie: [kindly] "You are."
Intimidation Demonstration: When the Three Storms first appear to break up the fight between the Chang Sings and the Wing Kong, they give a display of martial arts skills and supernatural powers to intimidate the gangs.
It Wasn't Easy: Egg Shen disappears after the fight in the assembly hall, then abruptly reappears to throw his friends an escape rope through a hole in the ceiling. When asked how the he got up there, Egg just says "It wasn't easy!"
The Storms' wickerwork hats are rather nice also, as the brims' weave is loose enough that they can see through it.
No Man of Woman Born: Lo Pan has to marry and then sacrifice a green-eyed woman to return to human form, but he has to stay married to one in order to regain his full power. The solution: Marry two green-eyed women and sacrifice one of them.
Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Jack Burton when punching Rain, one of David Lo Pan's minions. After hitting Rain twice to no effect whatsoever, Jack sort of gives a respectful nod before getting kicked across the room.
A Real Man Is a Killer: In one scene Jack is embarrassed by having killed someone only for the first time and lies about it so as not to appear dorky to his male friends, who obviously aren't killers any more than he is.
Reality Has No Subtitles: While David Lo Pan is interrogating Wang Chi and Jack Burton, he speaks in Chinese to Wang Chi with no translation for the audience.
That Makes Me Feel Angry: Many of the characters speak their motivations aloud, even referring to themselves in third person. For example, when introduced, Margo exclaims she's desperate and will do anything for a story.