Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen (Big Trouble in Little China, 1986)
The fourth outing for Carpenter and Russell is an entertaining blending of genres. Big Trouble In Little China is part action film, part Kung Fu, Part fantasy and all comedy. Russel is the cocky but lovable Jack Burton. Jack’s favorite person is himself and his mouth often seems to get himself in trouble. And he has found it in spades when he visits a friend in China town. His friend, Wang Chi, is raising money to bring his bride to be (Miao Yin) to America. But when she arrives, she is captured by the henchman of the mysterious crime lord David Lo Pan. Lo Pan is seeking her because she has green eyes. And a girl with green eyes are part of a curse.
Along with Wang, Jack is joined by intrepid reporter Gracie Law, her friend Margo, Eddie Lee and Egg Shen, a mystical old Asian man. Jack is an interloper, but is drawn deep into a fight to save Miao from Lo Pan. He has three warriors, each with an elemental super power. While Jack fumbles his way through heroism, it leads to a great battle of both brawn and wits.
Big Trouble in Little China is a loving send-up of both American and Asian Martial Arts action films. This means that…well, yeah…all the Asian Characters know martial arts. But at the same time, the central characters are all individuals. Lo Pan is probably the closest to a stereotype, with James Hong really laying on the accent. Jack is not the last samurai, rather we start with him and stumble into the fight. He is there for his friend. Truth is, the movie makes it clear they do not need Burton, but he is brash and rushes headlong in with a friend.
The film is full of humor, even in action packed moments, it finds the time to give a wink to the viewer. Jack often succeeds by failing in spectacularly amusing ways. The cast is great, Dennis Dun plays Wang Chi as a sincere and heroic young man in love. Kim Cattrall is charming and full of fire as Gracie Law. Donald Li is great fun as friendly tough guy Eddie Lee.
Carpenter does not flex his “fun” muscle a lot. I mean, he does not avoid humor, but this is a straight up action comedy, among other things, and Carpenter shows a real flair for it. Big Trouble in Little China is definitely one of Carpenter’s funniest films and is best viewed with a group.
Oh yeah…and this film had more roles for Asian actors than the live action Ghost in the Shell.