The ABC's of Film Noir
The ABC's of Film Noir

Big Trouble in Little China (1986) Classic Movie Review 168

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

I took something. I can see things no one else can see. Why're you dressed like that?

Today’s movie is Big Trouble in Little China (1986). This film has a solid 7.3 rating on[1], and has it at 82 percent on the Tomatometer and 82 percent audience approval[2]. I think it is a little better than that.

Roger Ebert didn’t really care for the movie, stating:

Russell plays the role as a cross between Wayne and the Harrison Ford of the Indiana Jones movies, swinging between laconic understatement and macho displays of self-confidence. It’s a good-enough performance, but it needs a movie around it, and a movie needs characters.

That’s where “Little China” falls short. Carpenter has allowed technology to dominate his story. Since so many of his big set-pieces look so awesomely expensive and complicated, and since the effects are undeniably mind-boggling, there’s a temptation to praise him just for daring to make a movie on such a scale. But special effects don’t mean much unless we care about the characters who are surrounded by them, and in this movie, the characters often seem to exist only to fill up the foregrounds.[3]

I am going to have to disagree. Kurt Russell was great, not Snake Plissken great, but great. The movie is a lot of fun and an excellent kick for martial arts fans.



Great actor James Hong was cast as the evil David Lo Pan. Hong was first covered in Episode 154 – Go Tell the Spartans (1978).


Kurt Russell played truck driver Jack Burton. Russell was born in 1951 in Massachusetts. His father was actor Bing Russell, and his mother was a dancer. Kurt began acting in television, and by the time he was 11, he got a small uncredited role in the Elvis movie It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963). Walt Disney signed him to a 10-year contract and some of the movies he made during this time include Follow Me, Boys! (1966) with Film Noir favorite Fred MacMurray and Vera Miles, The Horse in the Gray Flannel Suit (1968), The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (1968), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), one of my youth favorites, and The Barefoot Executive (1971).

It is at this point when most child stars would begin a destructive drug cycle that would eventually end with rehab or death. However, Kurt spent the early years of the 1970s played minor league baseball. He returned to television in 1979 playing Elvis, something he would do again. Kurt was hilarious in the laugh-filled Used Cars (1980), he did the voice of Copper in The Fox and the Hound (1981), but then it was time for his iconic role as super warrior Snake Plissken in the thrilling Escape from New York (1981). Kurt was in The Thing (1982), a bloody remake of The Thing (1951). He then paired with super actress Meryl Streep and actress? Cher in Silkwood (1983) and showed the world he could really act.

His next film, Swing Shift (1984) reunited him with Goldie Hawn who he had worked with years before. The couple married shortly after. This was followed by Big Trouble in Little China (1986) an amazing movie and one of the best movies ever, China is in the heart, Jack, What does that even mean? The Best of Times (1986) pretty darn good, Overboard (1987) funny, Tequila Sunrise (1988), Tango & Cash (1989), Backdraft (1991), Captain Ron (1992), hilarious, go rilla not gu rilla, Unlawful Entry (1992), Tombstone (1993), macho and amazing, Stargate (1994), amazing, he was uncredited as the voice of Elvis in Forrest Gump (1994), Escape from L.A. (1996), Executive Decision (1996), Soldier (1998), 3000 Miles to Graceland (2001), Miracle (2004), a fabulous sports movie, Sky High (2005), Death Proof (2007), I don’t get it, and as a real stinker in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017).

Kim Cattrall played Gracie Law. Cattrall was born in England in 1956. When she was very young, her family moved to Canada. When she was 11, she traveled to England to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. When she graduated from high school at 16, Cattrall won a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Before she graduated, she got a role in the Otto Preminger directed Rosebud (1975). Cattrall was active in theater and television. She first came to my attention in Porky’s (1981) as Honeywell the howler. She jumped hard into 80s movies with Police Academy (1984), City Limits (1984), Turk 182! (1985), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Mannequin (1987), and finishing off the decade with The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990). She had a big hit as Vulcan Lieutenant Valeria in the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). She continued in film and television until she smashed it in televisions “Sex in City” 1998-2004 and she has been the hussy Samantha ever since, including two movies.

Victor Wong played Egg Shen. Wong was born in San Fran in 1927. Wong worked as a news reporter for a public television station in the late 1960s. He was briefly on “Search for Tomorrow” in the mid-1970s but didn’t really get into films until 1984 when he was in his late 50s. He had some ethnic roles such as Year of the Dragon (1985) with Mickey Rourke and Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart (1985). However, he was a star as Egg Shen in. Big Trouble in Little China (1986). His career continued with Prince of Darkness (1987), Tremors (1990), 3 Ninjas (1992), 3 Ninjas Kick Back (1994), 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up (1995), and 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998). Wong retired in 1998 and died in 2001.

Dan Inosanto played the Wing Kong Hatchet Man. Inosanto was a student of the master Bruce Lee.

Director John Carpenter put himself in the film as an uncredited worker in Chinatown.


Egg Shen (Victor Wong) is being interviewed by his attorney and is asked about his version of certain events. The attorney asked Egg if he knows where Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) or his truck is. Egg says to leave Jack alone. The attorney says a half a city block blew up with green flames. The attorney warns Egg, but he still wants to protect Jack. Egg says magic and sorcery are real. When the attorney asks for a demo, Egg makes sparks fly between his fingers.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

The movie jumps back to Jack Burton, driving his semi-truck, “the porkchop express” down a lonely road. Finally, he crosses the bridge into San Francisco. He drives to the Chinatown market area, just before the Sun comes up. Jack moves easily through the market and is well liked. He finally joins a Chinese gambling game with the man he is to deliver the load too, Wang Chi (Dennis Dun). Jack cleans out the table, including Wang.

Wang gets mad and wants to go double or nothing on being able to cut a bottle in half with a knife. Wang swings and the unbroken bottle flies towards Jack. Jack catches it and says it’s all in the reflexes. Wang says he can’t pay, but after a trip to the airport, he will be able to pay. Jack says no and goes to the airport with Wang. They take the semi-tractor to the airport.

Wang is going to pick up his fiancé, a green-eyed Chinese woman. Wang is crazy in love. A lawyer Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) is at the airport too. Jack starts hitting on her and is bumped by some Lords of Death gang members. Gracie is picking up another Chinese immigrant. When Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) comes through customs, the Lords of Death first try to grab the wrong girl. When Jack tries to stop them, he is met with butterfly knives, steel batons, guns, and Kung Fu. The gang guys realize their mistake, and then they grab Miao Yin. Jack and Wang try to stop them but to no avail. When Jack is almost run over, he says the SOBs must pay.

Egg is driving his Chinatown tourist bus as Jack and Wang head for the gang hang out. Jack and his big rig run Egg’s bus off the road. They take the truck down a tiny Chinatown alley. They pass David Lo Pan (James Hong) who is dressed as a beggar. We don’t know him yet. A funeral for the Chang Sing leader comes down the alley. Wang says they are the good guys. Jack see the Wing Kong coming up behind his truck. They are caught in the middle of a gang battle. After the gunfight ends, the hand to hand fighting starts using every other kind of weapon.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Green explosions start going off, and both gangs run away. Thunder (Carter Wong), Rain (Peter Kwong), and Lightning (James Pax) float down from the sky emitting their selected element. Gun fired does not harm the three storms. Jack drives towards the three storms who float out of the way. After them, he runs over Lo Pan who is dressed as a Chinese god. He shoots a beam out of his eyes and temporarily blinds Jack. Jack and Wang run down an alley but run into a bunch of the Lords of Death. They escape in another direction as the storms kill off the two gangs.

They go to “Dragon of the Black Pool” restaurant. The uncle tells Jack that “China is here” meaning battles from the old world have carried over to America. Eddie Lee (Donald Li) tells Jack that his truck was stolen by the Lords of Death. Gracie Law comes into the back of the restaurant. Eddie and Gracie give parts of the story, that the Lords of Death, were just looking for a girl to steal and sell, and were not ordered to capture Miao Yin.

They send Jack into the girl purchasing place, to buy a girl with green eyes. Gracie, Wang, and Eddie wait outside. Gracie meets with another woman, Margo, who wants to get a news story. When they find out he is looking for a girl with green eyes, one of the hookers goes to check where they have Miao Yin tied. A green blob appears over the building, and the three storms float down through a hole in the roof. Jack hits one but to no avail. They capture Miao Yin and fly away.

Back at Gracie’s office, they believe David Lo Pan is behind the storms. Wang wants to go to the Wing Kong exchange, that David Lo Pan owns, so he can rescue his fiancé. Jack and Wang go in pretending to be telephone repairmen. The others wait at the restaurant. Egg is there to help the group. Jack and Wang make it to the basement and find a secret entrance. Behind it is an elevator. They start down and but the elevator stops. The elevator starts filling with salt water. Jack pries the door open, and they swim by chained rotting corpses. They are caught by one of the storms, tortured, tied to wheelchairs and brought to David Lo Pan. Lo Pan is frail and, in a wheelchair, also. Lo Pan needs a green-eyed girl to lift his curse and turn young again. On the monitor, Lo Pan sees Gracie, Margo, and Eddie at the main desk.

A different storm comes and says he can help the three. Jack and Wang are left in a room with some skeletons. Jack knocks his wheelchair over and gets the knife out of his boot. Gracie and company are gassed in the elevator. The storm brings in Eddie, and Jack jumps him with his knife. They escape and gets some guns.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Lo Pan converts to his demon form. He floats to Miao Yin but cannot touch her because of the curse.

Wang is a Kung Fu madman as he looks for his fiancé. Jack, Wang, and Eddie take the elevator up still looking for the females. Margo is in a cage with other women nearby in cages. Gracie is hog-tied. Eddie and Wang try to trick their way in while Jack crosses on a pipe. As Eddie and Wang fight the female Wing Kong guards, Jack frees all the prisoners. The five escape by jumping in a tank and swimming out of a pipe.

The five and some of the escaped girls make it to a central room. Jack goes up the ladder, and they are back where they got on the elevator. When Jack opens the door, a bunch of Wing Kong are on the other side. Everyone but Jack and Wang hide. Jack uses a gun and Wang Kung Fu’s all of the Wing Kong.

The group makes it to the exit and Egg’s bus is waiting outside. Gracie is bringing up the rear and is grabbed by a red hairy demon. The bus rolls away as the guards open fire. The people on the bus are happy until they realize that Miao Yin and Gracie are still inside.

The furry demon chains Gracie in a room. Two of the storms come with Lo Pan who is pleased by Gracie’s green eyes.

At the restaurant, Jack and Wang are preparing for war. Egg brings in some Chang Sing, and they head to Lo Pan’s place to rescue the two green-eyed ladies. Gracie is put in a room with Miao Yin, and the demon form of Lo Pan comes in. Lo Pan says the green-eyed girl he will marry must be able to face the burning blade.

They go to Egg’s place, and he gathers some magic potions before they take a bat pole into the bowels of the universe where Lo Pan is located.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Storms do some Kung Fu forms while Miao Yin and Gracie watch. Egg leads his crew by the blood of the Earth.

Rain performs with two swords and Gracie and Miao Yin each grab one. They float into the air holding on to the blade. Both women hold onto the burning blades and touch the pearl on the ceiling.

Some monster pops out of his hole and Egg uses a magic pellet on it.

Gracie and Miao Yin are dressed for the wedding, but Gracie is not under the trance until lighting comes in and reapplies.

Egg tells them that Lo Pan will kill the girls after the marriage. Egg has a potion that can kill the evil dream that is Lo Pan. They head towards the wedding.

The wedding is taking place at Skeletor’s hideout.

A seeing-eye demon finds Egg, and Lo Pan can see them. Jack finally shoots the floating monster. Jack thinks is a setup. Wang finds a secret passage to an elevator. Egg lets them all drink some of the magic medicine he has brought. They feel pretty good but the lower the elevator goes, the more the feeling wears off. They come out in the back of the wedding.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Eggs says they have to wait until Lo Pan becomes human before he can be killed. Lo Pan sticks a pin into Miao Yin arm and beings to change. The seeing eye demon finds Jack and company and lets Lo Pan know. Wang kills the demon. Lo Pan orders his men to attack. Jack shoots his gun into the roof and is knocked out by falling stone. Egg uses exploding potions. Lo Pan is still trying to stab Miao Yin, and Gracie is fighting him. Jack wakes up, and Wang goes to battle with Rain. The two do some aerial fighting. Egg and Lo Pan face off, and they use beams of light that form warriors and fight at the end of the beam. Like Jedi but cooler. The fight is a tie. Lighting comes down, but Egg zaps him.

Wang kills Rain and Lo Pan escapes with Miao Yin. The furry demon grabs Jack and Gracie kicks him in the testicles. Her and Jack escape into an elevator. They kiss on the way up, so Jack has on red lipstick for the rest of the fight.

Lo Pan has become flesh and is with Miao Yin and Thunder. Jack starts to talk, and Wang flies in. Jack always says what the hell. Wang start fighting Thunder, and Jack throws his knife at Lo Pan. He misses badly. Lo Pan takes the knife and throws it at Jack. Jack catches it and throws it back killing Lo Pan by hitting him in the head.

Jack goes to help Wang with Thunder. When Thunders sees that Lo Pan is dead, he begins to swell until his body explodes. The two couples get away, but Lighting is blocking their escape. All four escape through a hole in the ceiling. Egg shoots a crossbow with a rope to help them get up. Jack drops a statue on Lighting, killing him.

As the good guy team escapes, Jack finds his truck. They all get in and drive away. The police and ambulances are coming as Jack and company escape.

Back at the restaurant, there is a big celebration. Jack asks Egg where he is going. Egg says he owes himself a vacation. Jack says why don’t go visit China. Egg says China is in the heart.

Jack offers to let Gracie come with him. She refuses. He leaves without kissing her goodbye in his recently retrieved truck.

He is shown driving on a rainy night. He is talking on the C.B. Riding on the back of the truck is the furry demon.

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

World-Famous Short Summary – China is in the heart

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Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

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