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Film / Big Trouble in Little China

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"You people sit tight, hold the fort, and keep the home fires burning, and if we're not back by dawn... call the president."

"I'm a reasonable guy, but I've just experienced some very unreasonable things."
Jack Burton

Big Trouble In Little China is an 1986 martial arts fantasy action-comedy film directed by John Carpenter and written by W.D. Richter (of Buckaroo Banzai notoriety).

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 Evil Sorcerer David Lo Pan (James Hong) kidnaps her with the help of his Wing Kong street gang and his henchmen, 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 the Action 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.note 

A reboot has been announced, with Dwayne Johnson in the lead role. While initial news suggested that Johnson would be playing Jack Burton in a remake, later news indicated that the film being planned is actually a sequel set in the same world.

Big Trouble in Little China contains examples of:

  • Action Survivor: Eddie is just a smooth-talking host at Wang's restaurant, not a badass martial arts warrior. He still acquits himself well in the escape from Lo Pan's fortress, helping Jack gun down a Wing Kong henchman and brawling against the female guards with Wang, KO'ing one in the process.
  • Actor Allusion: In the scene where Kurt Russell is attempting to infiltrate the brothel, he is wearing the same outfit that he wore in Used Cars.
  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: The White Tiger is a bordello found in San Francisco's Chinatown.
  • Affectionate Parody: The film lovingly spoofs action hero and magical martial arts film tropes.
  • Air Jousting: Wang Chi and Rain in an aerial sword duel.
  • All Asians Know Martial Arts: Okay, maybe not all of them, per se, but most Asians in this movie sure as hell seem to. Wang, a restaurant owner, is an expert martial artist for some reason. On the other hand, his maitre d', Eddie, doesn't appear to have any such skill. He can still brawl his way through standard mooks, of course.
  • Armed Females, Unarmed Males: Wang Chi and Eddie try to get the drop on Lo Pan's female guards but lose their guns in the process, forcing them to fight barehanded against the guards' bo staffs and tonfa.
  • Attack Reflector: During the assault on Lo Pan's wedding, Lightning tries to throw a lightning bolt at Egg Shen, but the latter pulls out a metal fan, deflecting the bolt back into Lightning and knocking him out of the fight for awhile.
  • Audible Sharpness: Swords and knives get the traditional sound of being drawn.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Jack and Gracie pile up a lot of Slap-Slap-Kiss style Unresolved Sexual Tension, and finally admit to caring for each other at the end, but when Gracie starts talking about moving in together, Jack promptly walks out the door without even a goodbye kiss. This is a remnant of the original Western version where the hero rides off into the sunset.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Lightning's Shock and Awe powers. While they're fantastic for intimidation, he only successfully uses his electricity to kill once. Otherwise he spends too much time showing off his skills and allowing others to outmaneuver him.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Subverted. Jack and Wang agree to fight back-to-back until the end in their first real fight together, but Jack is so tense that he accidentally throws his knife into a corner and the fight is over by the time he gets back.
  • Bash Brothers: Wang and Jack team up to fight Thunder near the climax; most of the battle is spent running away from the invincible demigod.
  • 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. Jack hilariously carries around an unplugged table phone as part of his disguise. They even seem to be aware of how ridiculous their plan was. "I can't believe that worked."
  • Beam-O-War: Extremely literal example. Lo Pan and Egg Shen fire beams at each other during the climax. 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.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: According to Wang, Qin Shi Huangdi was the one who secretly defeated and cursed Lo Pan as part of his unification campaign.
  • Beta Couple: Margo and Eddie spend a fair chunk of the film shipping Jack and Gracie, which naturally leads to them hooking up themselves. Ironic because Jack himself ends up shipping Margo and Eddie to keep them out of the way and safe while he and Wang are Storming the Castle.
  • Bittersweet Ending: For such a fun and funny adventure film, it ends on a surprisingly sour note: Jack decides to ride off into the sunset rather than get the girl, brushing her off in their final scene rather brusquely. As he drives away, it's revealed that a monster has stowed away in his truck, making his future uncertain.
  • Blatant Lies: After semi-accidentally gunning down a mook, Jack looks a bit shell-shocked. When asked if that was his first time "plugging a guy," Jack suddenly adopts a macho posture and casually replies, "Of course not!"
  • Bloodless Carnage: Folks get shot, slashed, stabbed and devoured, yet the only drop of blood is seen when Lo Pan jabs his finger with a needle.
  • Body Horror: Thunder inflates himself to a comically huge size and explodes.
  • Bound and Gagged: Gracie and Miao Yin are both tied up in the slave emporium prior to their delivery to Lo Pan; Gracie is gagged because they got tired of her yelling.
  • Brainwashed Bride: Big Bad David Lo Pan has to find a green-eyed Chinese girl to marry so he can be restored to his full power instead of the decrepit human form he appears in. On finding two women, Miao Yin and lawyer Gracie Law, he decides to marry them both in a ceremony to appease his master and god, by killing one and sparing the other as his true earthly bride. Both women are clad in gorgeous red dresses and guided to the ceremony, but both are clearly brainwashed since their eyes are blank and milky-white.
  • Bring It: Lo Pan does this to Jack (using his index finger) as Burton is driving his truck toward him.
  • But Now I Must Go: After defeating Lo Pan, Jack leaves his friends and goes back to what he does best - being a trucker.
  • Call-Back
    • The phrase "Cops got better things to do than get killed." is spoken twice by different characters.
    • Several dueling lines of dialogue are spoken twice during the film by different characters. The entire exchange about Jack's truck for example.
  • Catch and Return: Jack's trademark skill is his ability to catch objects as a lightning reflex. He employs it in the climax.
  • Catchphrase: While he may not be badass in the standard sense, Jack certainly had the dialogue down pat.
    • "It's all in the reflexes," which serves triple duty as a Chekhov's Gun and a Bond One-Liner.
    • "You know what Jack Burton always says at a time like this?" "Who?" "Jack Burton. Me."
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Jack and friends pass a police car and fire truck on their way to the scene during their escape, which have apparently finally decided to respond to the explosions and gunfire.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In the beginning, Jack catches a bottle flying at his face. Later, he catches a thrown knife out of the air and delivers the same quip.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Briefly mentioned, between Wang Chi and Miao Yin.
  • Co-Dragons: Thunder, Lightning, and Rain serve as Lo Pan's enforcers and gofers. As they are corporeal, they have the ability to do things that he can't.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Each of the Three Storms has a different colored outfit; Thunder has tan, Rain has blue, and Lightning has black (complete with silver chest plate).
  • Colour Coded Eyes: Lo Pan needs to marry a girl with green eyes to break his curse and become corporeal again, but that also makes him mortal. In order to become both corporeal and immortal, he has to then kill his new bride. When he discovers that Gracie and Miao Yin both have green eyes, he's overjoyed because he gets to trick the prophecy.
  • Combo Platter Powers: Thunder, Lightning, and Rain. Thunder has Super-Strength, as would be expected of his name, but he also can inflate himself, and if the elevator scene is any indication he's also immune to sleeping gas. Rain is implied to be able to summon rain, and also has Super-Breath which can blow a rubber ball into a person's stomach with enough force to knock them over, and he's an expert swordsman. Lightning... pretty much just summons lightning, though he can make that lightning do some fairly strange things.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Jack Burton, an ordinary guy with no noteworthy skills (save one), against an ancient Chinese sorcerer-demon with fantastic magical powers. Maybe that's what gets Lo Pan to drop his guard.
    • The final battle at Lo Pan's wedding between the Chang Sings and the Wing Kong counts as well — despite being outnumbered at least five or six to one, every Chang Sing fighter we see at the beginning of the battle is alive at the end and the Wing Kong appear to have been utterly wiped out.
  • Cutlass Between the Teeth: Jack carries his knife in his mouth when he needs both his hands free.
  • Cutting the Knot: In order to get into an elevator, Jack hauls out a knife and cuts through the wall to get in, which works because the wall is made of paper.
    Jack: Hollow?
    Wang: Hollow.
    Jack: Fuck it. [SLASH]
  • Dark Action Girl: The security in Lo Pan’s warehouse includes several female tong members with some kung fu skills.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Subverted and becomes "Did not want the girl". Jack declines to stay with Gracie at the end of the movie, saying sooner or later he rubs everyone the wrong way. Riding off into the sunset is one of the vestiges of the film's original Western setting. In Jack's defence, he and Gracie have known each other less than 48 hours.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?
    • Justified, as the heroes deliberately wait until after Lo Pan is married to fight him because he'll be mortal afterwards.
    • Two of Lo Pan's dragons go out this way. Rain is defeated via a sword through the guts, and Lightning is defeated by having a big rock dropped on his head.
  • Disaster Dominoes: When Lo Pan dies, a tremor shakes the room, causing two rows of statues to fall over on one another. A large gong between the rows is tipped over halfway along, for extra "bong!!!" points.
  • Diving Save: After kidnapping Miao Yin, the Lords of Death are escaping in a car. Jack pulls a frozen Wang Chi out of the way of the oncoming car.
  • Don't Think, Feel: Jack can and does do impressive things on "reflex" but often botches actions when he makes a conscious, premeditated attempt.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Two of Lo Pan's Dragons die after he does.
  • Driven to Suicide / Taking You with Me: Thunder doesn't take Lo Pan's death well. Rather than go berserk and tear up the place, he commits suicide by self-inflation and explosion, causing the building to collapse.
  • Drowning Pit: The elevator in Lo Pan's lair can be flooded with water to trap hapless intruders.
  • Dual Wielding: Each of the Three Storms wield a pair of weapons in the alleyway skirmish; Thunder has a pair of knives, Rain has two rakes, and Lighting has emei piercers on his fingers that spin.
  • 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 Wang Chi offers up a patriotic toast to America before drinking Egg's potion.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Lo Pan's Co-Dragons embody the aspects of storms: Thunder who has Super-Strength and the power of self-inflation, Lightning who has the ability to control electricity, and Rain who is implied to be able to summon rainstorms and can create powerful gusts of wind.
  • The End... Or Is It?: As Jack drives off, we see that one of David Lo Pan's monsters is hitching a ride under his truck.
  • Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting: Except for Jack, but he still throws in with a good punch or two.
  • Evil Cripple: Lo Pan in his "old man" form, restricted to a wheelchair.
  • Eye Scream: Averted with Lo Pan's sentry monster. Despite being nearly made of eyes, it dies due to a precision sword strike between them.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Lo Pan's spherical spy monster has eyes on stalks, on its back, and even one in its mouth and one in its nose.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Not a straight example, being a New Old West slash Wuxia fantasy flick, but it points out the reason that few martial arts films have consistent cosmologies;
    Egg Shen: Of course the Chinese mix everything up. Look at what we have to work with. There's Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoist alchemy and sorcery. We take what we want and leave the rest. Just like your salad bar.
  • Femme Fatalons: Lo Pan can grow these at will.
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Jack tries it and subsequently causes a chunk of the ceiling to fall on his head and knock him out.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: At the beginning, aside from Jack and Wang, there's some hostility and some reluctance to work together. By the end, they've all become very good friends.
  • Forgotten Framing Device: The film starts with one of its characters being interviewed by a lawyer. He begins telling his story, which kicks off the action, but there's nothing at the end to explain how the cops got involved or why the character was detained for questioning. This scene came about from Executive Meddling and was not something originally in the script or first cuts of the film, but added later.
  • Funny Background Event: During Jack and Lo Pan's confrontation, Thunder is chasing Wang in the background — the latter is doing flips and backflips.
  • Ghostly Glide: Lo Pan floats over the ground when he's in his ghost form.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: Lo Pan's long wispy beard definitely qualifies as Evil Hair.
  • Groin Attack: When Lo Pan's Yeti monster grabs Jack from behind, Gracie kicks it in the family jewels to make it let go.
  • Guns Akimbo: An unnamed Wing Kong member played by Gerald Okamura, possibly a Mook Lieutenant, sports two golden revolvers to good effect.
  • Guns Are Worthless: Zigzagged. While regular mooks are not bulletproof, in the grand melee, Thunder confronts Jack. Jack tries to shoot him, but Thunder simply grabs the gun and smashes it. The Wing Kong security guards are also terrible at shooting the heroes. Lampshaded by Egg Shen, who flat out tells Jack that guns won't do much to Lo Pan but offers him one anyway on the basis of "If it'll make you feel better."
  • 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.
  • 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 Margo have been exposing the Chinatown underworld, resulting in Gracie 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 Jack Burton is running near a wall, David Lo Pan's guards shoot at him but all miss, hitting the wall behind him instead. 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 has a trick. It's his only trick, but it's a good one — he can catch anything. As he says, "It's all in the reflexes."
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Margo invites Eddie over to her apartment in a very seductive way.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with a lawyer asking Egg Shen to explain what exactly went down in Chinatown. Unusually for the trope, the film never returns to this scene, as it was tacked on by Executive Meddling.
  • Humble Goal: All Jack really wants is to get his truck back.
  • If I Do Not Return: Jack tells Gracie, "If we're not back by dawn... call the President."
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: David Lo Pan with Gracie Law and Miao Yin.
  • Immune to Bullets: When the Three Storms (magical henchmen of the Big Bad Lo Pan) face off against the gang members in the alley, the gang members fire their guns at them. The Three Storms are completely unaffected by the gunfire.
  • Indecisive Parody: Of martial arts/fantasy/action movies. If one doesn't know a lot about the tropes of martial arts movies (and back when it came out, most potential audiences didn't), it can easily be mistaken for one instead of a parody of the genre.
  • Inflating Body Gag: When Thunder becomes truly enraged, he inflates himself with air.
    Wang: I don't think he's gonna stop!
  • Intangible Man: While in his ghost form, David Lo Pan can pass through walls and other solid objects. He can selectively interact with solid objects when he needs to, such as when he holds the Needle of Love and Miao Yin during the wedding ceremony, but presumably he cannot become completely corporeal without reverting to being an old man in a wheelchair.
  • Intimidation Demonstration:
    • When Jack Burton confronts the Lords of Death members at the airport, one of them pulls out a knife and an extendable staff. When he starts swinging them in front of himself in a frightening display of his weapon-handling abilities, Jack wisely backs away from him.
    • 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. One of the Storms, Lightning, adds a display of his electrical powers for extra "shock value."
    • When Lightning confronts Jack, Gracie, Egg Shen and Miao Yin after the death of Lo Pan, he fires off lightning bolts in all directions in an attempt to frighten them.
  • Interrogation Flashback: The movie starts with Egg Shen being questioned by his (rather unfriendly) lawyer about what happened. Egg Shen starts explaining, which fades into the events that started off the whole situation.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Margo wants to be one.
    Margo: I must be so monumentally naive.
    Eddie: [kindly] You are.
  • I Was Born Ready: Before infiltrating into Lo Pan's headquarters, Wang asks Jack if he's ready, prompting him to respond that he was born ready.
  • 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!"
  • Juggling Loaded Guns: Just before the climactic battle, Jack attempts to lead the charge of The Cavalry by shooting upwards dramatically. A chunk of the ceiling lands on his head for his effort, and puts him out of commission until the fight is well underway.
  • Kidnapped from Behind: While the protagonists are escaping from Lo Pan's lair with the freed female slaves, Gracie Law brings up the rear. When the rest of the group goes ahead, Gracie Law lingers behind to check out something odd and is confronted by one of Lo Pan's monster guards. After Fainting, she is captured and taken away by the monster.
  • Kukris Are Kool: The Storms use these, both for cutting and throwing.
  • Lancer vs. Dragon: Wang Chi versus Rain in an aerial sword duel. Wang wins, by throwing his sword into Rain's chest and sending him flying into a damaged statue that explodes on contact.
  • Large Ham: Several, but especially Jack and the villains.
  • Law of Inverse Recoil: Subversion when Jack fires a machine pistol on full automatic.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Lo Pan's creature is obviously a beholder.
  • Lighter and Softer: Carpenter is mostly known for hard action and horror films. This one is much more comedic, though there's still a lot of violence.
  • Lipstick Mark: After kissing Gracie for the first time, Jack spends a scene or two with stained red lips. He even delivers some badass dialogue — and kills the Big Bad — completely unaware of how silly he looks. (Gracie does try to tell him before he confronts Thunder, but Jack ignores her.)
  • Load-Bearing Boss: When Jack finally defeats Lo Pan, his lair starts to fall apart.
  • Loophole Abuse: How Lo Pan intends to both end his curse and conquer the world. The curse dictates that he marry a Chinese girl with green eyes (already a rarity) to resurrect himself as a human, but he has to kill her if he wants to rule the universe, which nullifies the marriage. However, there's no rule stating he can't marry TWO green-eyed women and sacrifice one while keeping the other, which he realizes when he notices Gracie's eyes.
  • Magical Asian: Egg Shen and Lo Pan. Asians in Chinatown are, in general, more cool with magic than the white visitors.
  • Meaningful Appearance: Lo Pan has to marry and then 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.
  • Meaningful Echo: "Cops got better things to do than get killed." Wang says this to Jack after their first experience with Lo Pan on the streets and Jack dismisses it as nonsense. After the assault on Lo Pan's warehouse Jack says it himself to Margo. Wang gives him a knowing look to confirm that they both now understand exactly what they're up against.
  • Meaningful Name: Gracie Law is a lawyer.
  • Mighty Whitey: Subverted. Jack acts like he's the lantern-jawed, All-American hero of the story, but he's actually the Side Kick of his more capable Chinese-American friend Wang Chi.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: When Gracie Law and Miao Yin are under David Lo Pan's control.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: The kidnapping of a girl with green eyes → David Lo Pan's plan to rule the universe from beyond the grave.
    Lo Pan: Indeed!
  • Mirrors Reflect Everything: Egg Shen uses this when Lightning fires some, well, lightning at him. His mirror? A Chinese fan that looks like it's made of aluminum foil.
  • Mook Lieutenant: One unnamed Wing Kong member (credited as "Hatchet Man", played by Al Leong) acts as the gang's leader, and is also shown fighting.
  • Mooks: Street gang Wing Kong act as Lo Pan's mooks.
  • Mr. Exposition:
    • After Wang Chi's fiancee Miao Yin is kidnapped by members of the Lords of Death gang, he and Jack Burton follow them and end in a gang fight at a funeral. Later, Wang's employee Eddie Lee (who's been out gathering information on the streets of Chinatown) walks in and gives an infodump on what happened and why.
    Eddie: The Lords of Death were only on a joyride, not acting on orders from the Wing Kong. They just wanted a girl to sell and Miao Yin got in the way. Plus, the skirmish you guys stumbled into. Lo Pan, the word is, ordered the boss of the Chang Sings, Mr. Lem Lee, assassinated. That was his funeral.
    • Would-be Intrepid Reporter Margo Litzenberger temporarily embodies this trope at one point:
    Margo: You mean the Lo Pan that's chairman of the National Orient Bank and owns the Wing Kong Trading Company, but who's so reclusive that no one has laid eyes on him in years?
    Jack Burton: Who the hell are you, anyway?
  • Mundane Solution: Lightning, The Dragon who shoots lightning bolts out of his hands, is defeated by dropping a statue on his head.
  • Neck Lift: Thunder does this to Wang Chi when Wang and Jack attack him.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: The Chang Sing are criminals but seem to mostly exist as protection for the locals from the Wing Kong.
  • 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.
  • No "Police" Option: Twice someone says that they should call the police (Jack and Margo later on). The answer both times is "cops got better things to do than get killed", the first time being because the Triads are too violent and powerful and the second time because dealing with Chinese ghosts and storm gods trying to take over the world is most definitely beyond their capacity. Sure enough, when the police finally interfere with the plot, it's after all of the insanity has ended and they are trying to (mostly off-screen) make sense of The Unmasked World.
  • No-Sell: Jack punches Rain square on the jaw. Twice. To absolutely no effect. In fact, Rain doesn't even blink when he's hit. Jack then gives a hilarious "Oh, Crap!" Smile a split second before Rain kangaroo-kicks him through a door. Ten feet away.
  • Not With the Safety On, You Won't: The first time Jack tries to fire the TEC-9, he has to be reminded by Wang to take the safety off.
  • Oculothorax: A Beholder-like monster shows up, to Jack's horror. "What it sees, Lo Pan knows."
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Lampshaded when Jack asks Egg how he got from Lo Pan's underground temple to a passageway above them.
    Egg Shen: Wasn't easy!
  • Oh, Crap!
    • When a gang member calls Wang Chi by name, both Wang and Jack give a collective "Oh crap."
    • Jack and company collectively wince after the knife he throws at Lo Pan misses.
  • Open the Door and See All the People: Jack opens a door and sees a mob of angry-looking mooks on the other side. Naturally he slams it shut in their faces. Subverted once the mooks have hacked through the door, Jack shoots most of them with his TEC-9.
  • Pair the Spares: Jack attempts this by telling Margo that Eddie has a crush on her. It's mostly a ploy to keep both of them out of the way while he and Wang are Storming the Castle, but Eddie gives Margo a look that implies Jack isn't wrong. Near the end of the movie, Margo suggestively asks Eddie to come over to her place later and help her choose the title of her planned book.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Jack disguises himself as a phone company technician by literally carrying a tabletop phone.
  • PG Explosives: Egg Shen uses explosives to blow up multiple Mooks. There's no gore; they simply fly through the air.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Carpenter meant to make a film where the POV is from the clueless white sidekick while the real heroes show off their training and years of knowledge. Jack's involvement in the plot happens by complete chance, his meetings with the major gangs and monsters are complete chance, and his second greatest achievement is accidentally knocking himself out during the final battle.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Jack's true role in the story is as the sidekick to Wang; accordingly, he gets to deliver all the one-liners and be the Butt-Monkey.
  • "Pop!" Goes the Human: Thunder inflates himself to monstrous size after Lo Pan's demise, then explodes, bringing the temple down with him.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: The Yeti monster spies on the heroes from behind a statue.
  • Power-Up Food: Egg gives everyone a potion that makes them all into a Badass Abnormal, especially Wang Chi, who's strong enough to fight members of the Three Storms himself. Though "fight" may be overselling it a little once he runs into Thunder.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: There's a Running Gag throughout the movie of Jack delivering a pre-battle boast and then getting hauled off.
  • Prophecy Twist: Lo Pan attempts to pull this by marrying two women in his secret ceremony. There's also the fact Gracie Law, as a woman of mixed heritage (implied more than shown since her actress is not), qualifies for the ceremony requiring a Chinese woman of green eyes.
  • Punch! Punch! Punch! Uh Oh...: Jack when punching Rain, one of 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.
  • Punched Across the Room: Rain (one of the film's Co-Dragons) is a powerful supernatural being with dangerous martial arts skills. While Jack Burton is fighting him, Rain kicks him across the room.
  • The Punishment: Lo Pan was cursed ages ago to be of "no-flesh", unable to exercise his sorcerous powers in his physical form. He can assume the shape of his once-powerful self, but he is incorporeal and mostly unable to touch anything.
  • Purple Prose: Lo Pan's inept attempts to gush about Miao Yin's looks.
  • 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. The fact Eddie and Wang are clearly much more comfortable with killing, despite being restaurateurs, makes it all the more funny.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Several times in the movie, characters speak in Chinese without any translation for the audience.
    • While David Lo Pan is interrogating Wang Chi and Jack, he speaks in Chinese to Wang Chi.
    • When Wang Chi is pretending to hold Eddie Lee hostage, he shouts at the female jailers in Chinese.
    • While the rescue party is in Egg Shen's warehouse, he speaks to the Chang Sings in Chinese.
    • After Lo Pan's "wedding" with Gracie Law and Miao Yin, Egg Shen makes several comments in Chinese.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The Wing Kongs wear black kimonos with red trim and work as Lo Pan's Mooks.
  • Revolvers Are for Amateurs
    • Eddie, Jack and Wang trade pilfered guns, each trying to get rid of the unwanted snub-nosed revolver. Eddie winds up with it.
    • Egg Shen tries to offer a large caliber piece to Jack, thinking it will make the latter feel "like Dirty Harry." Jack is unimpressed and chooses to stick with his TEC-9.
  • Riding into the Sunset: Name-dropped in the commentary.
  • Running Over the Plot: The main character is introduced to the Big Bad when he runs through him with a semi truck. The villain in question was a walking dream (a ghost, essentially).
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Much of the movie is only tangentially related to actual Chinese mythology, but the "evil bodhisattva" stands out most.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Miao Yin has virtually no characterization beyond being the girl Wang Chi loves and needs to rescue from Lo Pan. In fact, she comes close to having no dialogue at all.
  • Screaming Warrior: At first all the screaming into combat is done by the street gangs, with Jack as a slack-jawed bystander, but he and Wang get into the act as well in the big melee in Lo Pan's temple.
  • Second-Person Attack: During the street fight between the warring gangs one of the fighters roundhouse kicks the camera.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Jack's a macho, all-American kind of a person (or so he thinks), while Wang is a dutiful store owner, dizzy with excitement to meet his Chinese betrothed after many years apart, and tends to be more emotional. Jack's machismo is mainly for show, however, while Wang's the real macho one.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Egg Shen invokes this trope when he and Jack are beneath Chinatown.
    Jack: That is not water.
    Egg: Black blood of the earth.
    Jack: What, you mean oil?
    Egg: I mean black blood of the earth!
  • Shock and Awe: Lightning's powers are, as one might expect, to shoot bolts of electricity everywhere. He enjoys his job a bit too much, perhaps, as he spends so much time showing off that the heroes can counter his attacks or run away.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Jack shoots off a padlock to free the female captives from their cells in Lo Pan's warehouse.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: Jack's CB soliloquy offers the following gem:
    Jack: [...] Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol' storm right square in the eye and he says, "Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it."
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Subverted when the heroes must stand by and allow Lo Pan's wedding to take place so he will become mortal, and thus vulnerable.
  • Stompy Mooks: The Lo Pan's terracotta warriors.
  • Stout Strength: Thunder is the most heavyset of the Three Storms, and when shown with his shirt off he's less bodybuilder, more powerlifter build. He's also the most physically powerful, shattering Jack's gun with a single blow and carrying Eddie (who's a big dude) with one arm. Of course, being a demigod probably helps.
  • Summon Magic: Egg Shen and Lo Pan conjure huge spirit-warrior figures to duel one another during the wedding-ceremony battle.
  • Sunglasses at Night: At the start of the film, Jack is driving a truck, with sunglasses on, well after the sun has gone down.
  • Super Serum: Egg Shen provides this in the form of a potion that lets one "see things no one else can see, do things no one else can do." It also provides a good buzz.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Jack has a lot of enthusiasm, but he has no idea what is going on and is constantly in need of explanation and leadership from the others.
  • Tap on the Head: Wang and Eddie knock out several of Lo Pan's guards, and Jack does it to himself at the start of the giant melee by way of Firing in the Air a Lot and hitting the ceiling.
  • 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.
  • Theme Naming: Lo Pan's Co-Dragons, the Three Storms, are named after components of storms: Thunder, Lightning and Rain.
  • Third-Person Person: As Jack Burton always says, talking about yourself in first person is for wimps.
  • Throat Light: Lo Pan can emit a blinding blast of magical power from his mouth.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works:
    • Wang delivers the killing blow to Rain at the conclusion of their aerial duel by throwing his sword into Rain's guts.
    • Double Subverted when Jack confronts Lo Pan. Jack's first throw misses by a mile. Lo Pan picks up the knife and throws it back, only for Jack to catch it out of the air and throw it again on reflex, this time getting Lo Pan square in the forehead.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Jack goes from an Action Survivor to Badass Abnormal (or just Badass Normal through abnormal means) over the course of the movie.
  • The Triads and the Tongs: The Wing Kong and Chang Sing street gangs are explicitly referred to as "Fighting Tongs," though only one side is evil.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Gracie is the Tsundere tomboy, and Miao Yin is the easily frightened Damsel in Distress girly girl.
  • Trolling Translator: Lampshaded as Jack and Wang Chi are sneaking around David Lo Pan's base.
    Jack: (pointing to Chinese writing on elevator) What does that say?
    Wang: (speaks Chinese) "Hell of Boiling Oil".
    Jack: You're kidding.
    Wang: Yeah, I am. It says "Keep Out".
  • Underside Ride: The ending shows the hero happily driving away, only to throw in a last second Jump Scare revealing a monster hiding under his semi trailer.
  • Undignified Death: None of the prominent bad guys die very well. Rain gets impaled mid-leap and flies into a wall screaming, Thunder gets so upset he explodes, Lightning gets a statue dropped on his head and Lo Pan getting a knife thrown back in his own head looks so surprised he got killed by someone as lame as Jack Burton.
  • The Unmasqued World: The first scene (which is chronologically the last scene) implies that the outside world noticed the fight with Lo Pan and wants answers.
  • Wait Here: Parodied when Jack tells this to several of his Sidekicks.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?
    • Tara is a woman from China whose rights are being protected by the lawyer Gracie Law. After she appears in Gracie Law's office, she disappears from the story and is never mentioned again. What happened to her? Were her rights respected?
    • After David Lo Pan's female Chinese slaves are rescued from his headquarters and taken away in Egg Shen's bus, they do not appear again in the movie. Where they turned over to the INS? Deported back to China? Treated as refugees?
    • After the final battle and with the Wing Kong gang wiped out, the Chang Sings vanish from the story. Likely they simply escaped victorious while Egg Shen stayed behind to find the heroes.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Lo Pan gets visibly frustrated by Jack's refusal to give up despite how obviously overmatched he is.
    Lo Pan: Is it too much to ask, Thunder? Kill him! For me!
  • Wire Fu: This trope is not only played straight (as would be expected), but discussed. After an early encounter with evil Mooks, Jack Burton complains about people flying in on "wires." In universe, we are asked to accept that real magic permits the astounding gymnastics that Jack observed, but Jack is still Agent Scully. Wires are a more reasonable explanation than magic. He becomes less skeptical as the story progresses.
  • Wizard Duel: Egg Shen and Lo Pan have a Beam-O-War battle in the middle of the grand melee at Lo Pan's wedding. The duel is inconclusive, though Lo Pan seems to claim victory. At the very least, he claims that Egg Shen could never beat him.
  • Worthy Opponent: Rain seems to regard Wang as one. After Wang carves his way through several Mooks, Rain challenges him.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Eddie and Wang take on the female Wing Kong jail guards and pull no punches. Justified when you consider the ladies gave both of them a pretty bad pounding.
  • Wrecked Weapon: During the assault on Lo Pan's wedding, Thunder gets ahold of Jack's Tec-9 and smashes it.
  • Yellow Peril: Wang explains that the Chinese-American immigrants brought black sorcery along with their culture, and that the entire world is in danger if Lo Pan succeeds in his goals. However, because heroic Chinese people are the only ones aware of the threat, they're also critical for its defeat.
    Wang: Chinese hear these things when we're kids. Then we grow up... and pretend not to believe them. No horseshit, Jack. I don't blame you. I'm Chinese, and I don't even want to believe it. But it's for real... sorcery, Chinese black magic.
  • You Do NOT Want To Know: Jack is freaked out by the creature in the sewers, but Egg Shen brushes his questions off.
    Egg: It will come out no more!
    Jack: What?! Huh? What will come out no more?!


Lo Pan

As part of his mind control powers.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThroatLight

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