TBT: Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986)

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Welcome to the first entry into my soon-to-be perpetuated Throwback Thursday series of weekly posts, of which aim to broaden my workload as my desire to write outweighs that of sticking to what one could call “standard programming” here on the blog. Enjoy, and feel free to post your thoughts on the film I choose to review each and every week!

As an out-and-out tongue-in-cheek cult classic, John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China is gleeful, ’80s-style action-comedy absurdity at its finest. Starring one Kurt Russell at his most disarming, the film underwent a meticulous rewrite – one that wholly transformed it from a late 19th century Western into a modernized martial arts affair peppered with ancient Chinese lore. Following the aforementioned leading man as fast-talking if naive and unassuming Jack Burton, the individual in question must aid buddy Wang in reclaiming his kidnapped green-eyed fiance.

Everything about the production reeks of self-referential silliness, whether it be in the form of overblown feuds between eternally warring factions or finding immortality in the color of a poor woman’s fatefully-colored eyes. Although vocalized bits of world-building border on gratuitous, there’s no denying the base-level appeal a film this cartoonish in composition possesses. Shot through with likable caricatures of the key narrative players, Jack Burton and the gang are a wonder to listen to and witness as they engage the supernatural, even despite the former’s bitterness over a stolen truck and penchant for womanizing.

As fun as fun can be in the realm of gleefully tacky ’80s cinema, Big Trouble in Little China benefits endlessly from the charm oozing figuratively from its every pore. From a charismatic lead at the height of his game to riotous, martial arts-heavy action set pieces, John Carpenter’s vision is something anyone can enjoy if casual escapism is your cup of tea. All in all, the film knew what it was going to be all along and the reception it aimed to acquire, and in that sense, Big Trouble in Little China embodies assured if unrefined filmmaking at its finest.

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6 comments on “TBT: Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986)

  1. I watched this for the first time last year. BTILC is probably what a big blocker buster movie looked like back in the day and it’s a lot of silly fun. Good review!

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Gosh, I miss the good old days of Russell and Carpenter making movies together. Maybe another one, one day? I still hold out much hope. Good review.

    • afilmodyssey says:

      As do I, good sir. While Escape from L.A. was what it was (and awful as some might say), it just doesn’t hold a candle to their preceding collaborations. Thanks for the read!

  3. Mark Walker says:

    Such a great film!!! This was a real staple of mine growing up. I love it.

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