Film / The Golden Child
"I say I-I-I-I-I want the kniiife! ... please."

The Golden Child is a modern fantasy film released in 1986, starring Eddie Murphy, Charles Dance, Charlotte Lewis, Victor Wong, and J.L. Reate as the titular Golden Child and co-produced by Industrial Light and Magic. It is a tongue-in-cheek take on the entire genre of Chosen One stories, complete with a Trickster Mentor, Card-Carrying Villain, and the lovable Karmic Trickster antics of Murphy.

Chandler Jarrell (Murphy) is a private detective specializing in missing children who is recruited by Kee Nang (Lewis) to come to Tibet to locate and rescue the Golden Child, a boy with mystic powers who has been kidnapped by demonic forces. The Big Bad, a sorcerer named Sardo Numspa (Dance), wishes to kill the child to bring about the rule of evil on Earth, but must do so at a specific time with a specific ritual. Jarrell, a cynic and skeptic, is forced to come to terms with the supernatural elements of the world, as he is the Chosen One who is fated to protect the child. First, however, he must undergo his own training at the hands of "The Old Man", a Trickster Mentor played by Victor Wong, and recover the Ajanti dagger that is the only hope of killing Numspa... or the Golden Child.

This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Girl: Kee Nang kicks serious ass; she's far more capable in combat than Jarrell, scoffing at his attempts to "protect" her.
  • All Bikers Are Hells Angels: The Yellow Dragon gang. They're also apparently a bunch of gay guys due to their reactions to a video to the Hair Metal band RATT.
  • The Apple Falls Far: In the chamber where the Ajanti dagger is kept, Jarrell finds himself walking over a deep dark pit, but he doesn't think it's really deep, so he drops a coin into the abyss, only to panic when he doesn't hear it hit the bottom.
  • Arrested for Heroism: Invoked by Numspa, who attempts to have Jarrell arrested at the airport for smuggling the Ajanti dagger. Reality Ensues when Jarrell explains the rules of evidence to him.
  • Badass Longcoat: Numspa likes to dress in a formally archaic style, including a long coat, befitting his role as an Evil Sorcerer.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: How Jarrell is able to get through Nepalese airport security with the Ajanti dagger.
  • Big Bad: Sardo Numpsa, the man trying to bring about the rule of evil.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Numspa drips with cackling villainy, reveling in his evilness and tormenting people just because he can.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Jarrell awakens abruptly from a "dream" in which Numspa taunts him... and Kee Nang comes on to him.
  • Celibate Hero: Jarrell, involuntarily. He's assigned this task by the Old Man as a rite of purification, and one of the conditions is that he is not to tell Kee Nang about it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: While Chandler Jarrell is in Tibet, Kee Nang's father (masquerading as a beggar) sells him a medallion. Near the end of the movie a demon tries to stab Chandler with the Ajanti Dagger and the medallion deflects the blow.
  • The Chosen One: Jarrell. He's not happy about it.
    Jarrell: Why can't someone choose me to go to the Bahamas?
  • The Chosen Zero
    Kala: [hidden behind a screen] Do you have any other questions?
    Jarrell: As a matter of fact I do. What are you doing this weekend, because your silhouette is kicking! [snip]
    Kala: This is the Chosen One?
    Doctor Hong: [looks embarrassed] Yes.
  • Corpsing: In the airport scene Charlotte Lewis is visibly on the verge of cracking up at Jarrell's antics as she drags him off. Doubly notable as arguably the only facial expression she ever shows in the movie.
  • Cosmic Keystone: The Golden Child serves this role in the universe, keeping the forces of evil at bay through his mere existence.
  • Crosscast Role: J. L. Reate is a girl.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Much of the dialogue among the heroic characters consists of them snarking at each other; Jarrell also quips sarcastic at Numspa, much to the latter's annoyance.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: This quote:
    Chandler Jarrell: Listen, this "Chosen One" thing; it's gone too far now, okay? This is—this is not normal. I'm not saying "no", but the "Chosen One" thing: too far.
    Dr. Hong: Could you please leave us for a moment?
    Chandler Jarrell: Yes, y'all talk it over, 'cause this is not a normal thing, and it should be discussed, because it's not normal.
  • Dragon Ancestry: Kala, whose lower body is snakelike, is the librarian of the Pao Shin Repository. She is flown in to provide information about the Golden Child. She is over 300 years old: her body shape and long life are due to the fact that one of her ancestors was raped by a dragon.
  • Dream Sequence: Complete with a live Studio Audience, no less. And some marvelous Sarcastic Clapping.
  • Exact Words: After Kee Nang gets shot with a crossbow, Chandler is told that the Golden Child can revive her as long as the sun's rays still touch the body, which is laid in state. After the final battle, Chandler and the Child see that the sun, shining in through the window, is no longer touching her body. But all they have to do is raise her leg so that the sun is touching her, and the Child is able to revive her.
  • Evil Brit: Charles Dance in Large Ham fashion as Sardo Numspa.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Numspa has access to a variety of demonic powers, fittingly since he is, in fact, a demon.
  • Fanservice:
    • Kicking a biker through a wall, Kee Nang breaks some water pipes. How unfortunate for the audience that her already-sheer white attire gets soaked, especially since she forgot her bra.
    • Kee Nang is seductively clothed in the dream sequence as she comes on to Jarrell.
    • Doing somersaults in a skirt? Hot. Being shot with a crossbow? Not so much.
  • Friend to All Children: Jarrell.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The Golden Child is seen befriending birds and refuses to eat meat. Or blood.
  • Giving Them the Strip: A beggar takes a $100 bill from Jarrell instead of a $1 bill. Jarrell grabs him and tries to make him give the $100 bill back, but the old man disappears, leaving Chandler holding his clothes.
    Jarrell: Has anybody seen a little naked old man running around with a hundred dollars?
  • Goo Goo Godlike: The Golden Child can restore life with his touch, make inanimate objects move, and remove evil thoughts from people. He likely could have freed himself, but he isn't the violent type.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Before attacking Kee Nang, a biker casually breaks a bottle of beer to create a weapon. Kee Nang jumps up, grabs onto an overhead metal pipe and kicks him through a wall.
  • Groin Attack: While Chandler Jarell is fighting the biker gang members he punches one of them in the 'nads to take him down.
  • Guile Hero: Jarrel uses his wits frequently to overcome the problems he encounters.
  • Hairpin Lockpick: When Kee Nang needs to get through a locked door into the house headquarters of a biker gang, she pulls a hairpin out of her hair and jimmies the lock.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Kala is a half-dragon. Jarrell infers that it must have been Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action.
  • Handcuffed Briefcase: After Chandler Jarrell gets the Ajanti Dagger back into the United States, it's kept in a briefcase chained to Chandler's wrist for safekeeping. One of the bad guys chops through the chain during a fight to steal the briefcase.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Til is helpful, but he doesn't last long after the Golden Child touches him.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Golden Child can make Numspa's minions help him if he manages to touch them.
  • Hell on Earth: If the Golden Child is killed, Numspa's demon buddies will invade the Earth and take over.
    Jarrell: So, if something happens to the kid, the whole world goes to Hell?
    Kala: The world will become Hell.
    Jarrell: Ah! It ain't that far off.
  • Hero Harasses Helpers: After facing the Yellow Dragons, Chandler tells Kee Nang "Why'd you come in here? Didn't I tell you not to... I told you to stay in the car. Next time I tell you to do something, you do it!".
  • Impossible Task: Traverse the maze with a full glass of water.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The Golden Child, by definition. Part of the Evil Plan is to coerce him into drinking blood, an impure act which would render him vulnerable to harm.
  • I Shall Taunt You: Used constantly by Jarrell. Also used by the Old Man as part of Jarrell's training.
  • Intimidation Demonstration: While Chandler Jarell is fighting Tommy Tong, Tong repeatedly flourishes his swords to make it clear to Chandler that he's outmatched.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jarrell.
  • Karmic Trickster: Jarrell.
  • Large Ham: Numspa. Also, Jarrell himself (he's Eddie Murphy, after all)
  • Levitating Lotus Position: The title character's astrally projected image does this when it appears to Chandler Jarrell.
  • Love Interest: Kee Nang, intentionally, to tempt Jarrell into his role. Later, she genuinely falls for him.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Numpspa is actually a servant of a demonic namless entity (maybe Satan himself).
  • Man Child: One of Numspa's minions has the mind of a child. And, like a child, he is capable of cruelty, but also enjoys some of the Golden Child's beautiful displays of power in a way the others do not. Ultimately, this leads to his redemption when the child touches his hand.
  • MacGuffin: The Ajanti dagger.
  • MacGuffin Super Person: The Golden Child is something of a child lama, desired by both sides. He doesn't count quite as a MacGuffin since his own abilities and efforts are conducive (if not critical) to his own escape.
  • MacGuffin Title
  • Manipulative Bastard: Numspa.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The kidnapping (and murder) of a young woman -> attempt to bring Hell to Earth.
  • Mook–Face Turn: The Golden Child does this to two of Numspa's minions: once when they try to kidnap him, and again to one of his guards. His simple physical touch is enough to convert them from evil. Which is why Numspa tells them not to let him touch them.
  • Mysterious Informant: Someone calls Jarrell of the missing girl's whereabouts, and didn't give his name.
  • My Greatest Failure: Kee Nang relates that the forces of darkness managed to kill a previous Golden Child, which is the reason there's no justice in the world. If the current Golden Child dies, it will mean the death of compassion.
  • Neck Snap: A mook villain converted to the side of the good guys breaks the neck of another, unconverted Mook to prevent him from skewering Chandler Jarrow with a crossbow bolt and allow the rescue of the title character.
  • Oh, Crap!
    • When Jarrell bursts in on Numspa in the middle of his ritual, provoking the latter to go One-Winged Angel.
    Jarrell: I see you're busy. I'll come back another time.
    • Also when Jarrell realizes "there's no ground" after dropping a quarter and not hearing it land.
  • One-Winged Angel: Numspa is really a giant winged demon.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Happens to Kee Nang, setting a really strict time limit for the final battle.
  • Only the Pure of Heart
    • The Golden Child is immune to harm by the forces of evil so long as he maintains his purity.
    • Also invoked with Chandler and the Ajanti dagger, see the When You Snatch the Pebble quote.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: The scar on Jarrell's arm was real.
  • Plummet Perspective: Lampshaded.
  • Pocket Protector: Chandler Jarrell's medallion saves his life when the demon tries to stab him with the dagger.
  • Protective Charm: Chandler Jarell buys a necklace that ends up protecting him from a demon wielding the Ajanti Dagger.
  • Refusal of the Call: Jarrell initially;
    Kee Nang: It is your destiny to seek the Golden Child!
    Jarrell: Yeah, and it's your destiny to seek professional help!
  • Resigned to the Call: Jarrell absolutely refuses to believe that he's the Chosen One all the way through the story, but goes along anyway in order to save the child.
  • The Reveal: While Jarrell probably never finds out, we learn the Old Man is Kee Nang's father.
  • Satan: Numspa's supposed master.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Even after his identity is revealed, the Old Man cusses and picks his nose a lot.
  • Secret Test of Character: Used over and over until Jarrell finally gets the point.
  • Sexy Soaked Shirt: Kee Nang gets a sexy scene with her clothes getting wet.
  • Shamgri-La: Chandler Jarrell and Kee Nang go to Tibet in order to retrieve the Ajanti Dagger. They must travel on foot through the snow-capped mountains to reach the monastery where the Dagger is kept.
  • The Silent Bob: The Golden Child doesn't talk until Jarrell finds him (and then only briefly). Still, he's able to express his intentions rather well without doing so.
  • Snake People: Kala, the librarian behind the screen. One of her ancestors was raped by a dragon.
    Jarrell: Does that happen a lot where you're from?
  • Stay on the Path: Subverted and lampshaded.
    Old Man: Remember to stay on the path!
    Jarrell: I heard you the first time! Let's just hope the path stays under me!
    [After the rickety old bridge he crossed through suddenly explodes]
    Jarrell: I thought you said to stay on the path!
    Old Man: Yes, but you must know when to break the rules!
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: While Chandler Jarrell is confronting an old beggar/medallion-seller, the man kicks him in the leg and throws some money in the air. Chandler looks up at the money, and when he looks down again the old man has vanished.
  • Taking the Bullet: Kee Nang, as Jarrell is about to be shot by Numspa. With a crossbow... ouch.
  • Talking in Your Dreams
  • Tempting Fate: When Jarrell is taking the test to obtain the Dagger he says "This is a piece of cake!" Then it gets worse.
  • That Was Not a Dream: Chandler has a dream of taunting the Big Bad exactly like you'd expect Eddie Murphy to do, who burns a three-inch scar into the inside of his arm for his chutzpah. When he wakes up, the scar's still there. But the part where Kee Nang flirted with him, "That part was dream!"
  • Trickster Mentor: The Old Man. His first appearance is as a street vendor who tricks Jarrell out of his money as a Secret Test of Character.
  • Verbal Tic: Sardo Numspa has trouble pronouncing the letter "J"; he always pronounces it more like a "Y". Lampshaded by Jarrell during the dream sequence.
    Numspa: I can see it is pointless talking to you, Mr. Jarrell.
    Jarrell: Why do you insist on mispronouncing my name, leaving the "J" silent? It's "Jarrell", with a "J".
  • The Voiceless
    • The Golden Child. Lampshaded by Jarrell near the end, after he finally says something.
    • Also Til, Numspa's henchman.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: At one point Sardo Numspa changes his form from a rat into his normal shape and back into a rat again.
  • Wait Here: This becomes a Running Gag, with Chandler Jarrell repeatedly telling Kee Nang to stay put and her coming after him.
  • When You Snatch the Pebble: Jarrell lampshades this.
    Jarrell: "Only a man whose heart is pure can wield the knife, and only a man whose ass is narrow can get down these steps. And if mine is such an ass, then I shall have it."
  • Wicked Cultured: Numspa.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: The Golden Child, of course — as a Buddha figure he's pretty much got a lock on this trope. For example, he doesn't eat the oatmeal since he knows they're trying to impurify him.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Jarrell is prepared for the whole "magical child fighting demons" thing to be a setup for a scam of some kind, and is not about to be fooled by all the trickery and mumbo jumbo. Turns out he's a wee bit wrong.
  • Yellowface: Charlotte Lewis as Kee Nang.
  • You Have Failed Me: Numspa kills a minion after he runs away from Jarrell and Kee Nang for his cowardice and possible betrayal.