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Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

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A rough-and-tumble trucker helps rescue his friend's fiance from an ancient sorcerer in a supernatural battle beneath Chinatown.

Director:

John Carpenter
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1,268 ( 106)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Kurt Russell ... Jack Burton
Kim Cattrall ... Gracie Law
Dennis Dun ... Wang Chi
James Hong ... David Lo Pan
Victor Wong ... Egg Shen
Kate Burton ... Margo
Donald Li ... Eddie Lee
Carter Wong ... Thunder
Peter Kwong ... Rain
James Pax ... Lightning
Suzee Pai ... Miao Yin
Chao Li Chi ... Uncle Chu
Jeff Imada ... Needles
Rummel Mor ... Joe Lucky
Craig Ng ... One Ear
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Storyline

Truck driver Jack Burton arrives in Chinatown, San Francisco, and goes to the airport with his Chinese friend Wang Chi to welcome his green-eyed fiancée Miao Yin who is arriving from China. However she is kidnapped on the arrival by a Chinese street gang and Jack and Wang chase the group. Soon they learn that the powerful evil sorcerer called David Lo Pan, who has been cursed more than two thousand years ago to exist without physical body, needs to marry a woman with green eyes to retrieve his physical body and Miao is the chosen one. Jack and Wang team-up with the lawyer Gracie Law, the bus driver and sorcerer apprentice Egg Shen and their friends and embark in a great adventure in the underground of Chinatown, where they face a world of magicians and magic, monsters and martial arts fighters. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A Mystical, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Kung Fu, Monster, Ghost Story! See more »


Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Cantonese

Release Date:

2 July 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,723,211, 6 July 1986, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$11,100,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Kurt Russell based Jack Burton on John Wayne. In Escape from New York (1981), he based Snake Plissken on Clint Eastwood. See more »

Goofs

During her first scene at the airport, the color contacts on Gracie's "green" eyes are sometimes visibly out of place (look at her right eye when she turns to Jack after asking "what are they doing here?"). See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Pinstripe lawyer: What I'd like to do today is get your version of what happened.
Egg Shen: Oh, you mean the truth.
Pinstripe lawyer: Of course. First, just state your name and your occupation for the record.
Egg Shen: Oh, Egg Shen. Bus driver.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in An Evening with My Comatose Mother (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Big Trouble in Little China
Written by John Carpenter
Performed by The Coupe de Villes
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Do you believe in magic?
31 August 2004 | by mastac-1See all my reviews

Despite his recent slide into mediocrity, John Carpenter is responsible for what could be termed some of the biggest cult movies of the 1980's. Following his resounding success with Halloween he went on to direct a number of quirky yet excellent movies that began to tail of toward the end of the 80's with the release of such dross as Prince of Darkness. Carpenters movies are probably some of the most under appreciated pictures of recent cinema history on a commercial level, and none more so than perhaps one of his finest, the delightfully absurd action movie Big Trouble in Little China.

The plot is as daft as they come. Loud mouthed truck driver Jack Burton (played by Carpenter's long time collaborator Kurt Russell) arrives in San Francisco's Chinatown where he agrees to help out old friend Wang (played by Denis Dun) by driving him to the airport to pick up his green eyed fiancé. Things quickly go south however when a band of street punks kidnap the girl and the motley duo set off in pursuit. The pair soon find themselves caught in the middle of gang war that takes on a decidedly mythical bent and are forced to flee while Jack's truck is stolen. All this occurs within the first fifteen to twenty minutes.

If there's one thing you can say about Big Trouble, it's that it's action packed. The plot (such as it is) moves at an incredible pace and the film rarely slows to take breath as it rolls from one action set piece to the next. In such movies, normally the dialogue, and subsequently the acting suffer from a lack of any real attention. Not so here. Carpenter balances everything so perfectly that it's a wonder his career took such a slide. Although the actual story may be incredibly absurd and at times suffers from some rather obvious gaps of logic, the dialogue never fails to sparkle. Russell gives his very best wise ass shtick as Burton, the confused have a go hero who's so out of his depth he should really be fish bait, while Dun excels with a character who is consistently more heroic and capable than the lead. Another wonderful turn comes from an appearance by a young Kim Cattrall (of Sex and the City fame) as Gracie Law, a downmarket lawyer with an ability to talk at incredible speed. Some of the scenes between these three are pure comic genius, as Dun and Cattrall rattle out plot information at a rapid staccato pace while an increasingly bewildered Russell tries desperately to keep up.

Despite such positive remarks, Big Trouble was perhaps one of Carpenter's biggest commercial flops. While many of the movie's fans find this difficult to understand I do not. The reason for its failure is really incredibly simple. In terms of its style and the underlying comedy behind the piece, Carpenter's loving part tribute, part send up of all things Kung Fu was way ahead of the curve in every important respect. Take the relationship between our 'hero' Jack and his 'sidekick' Wang. The true dynamic of this relationship is a wonderfully post modern slant on the cliché buddy dynamic that existed in the 80's and it was done long before post modernist humour became truly fashionable in films (the most obvious example of post modern piece of cinema being Scream). Despite receiving star billing, Russell's Jack is actually a sidekick to Wang. While Wang has the knowledge, the skill and the courage to make him a true classic hero figure, Jack lags behind, being brash, ignorant and of little actual use in a fight. Similarly the action, although remarkably quaint by today's standards in both its look and execution, is a surprisingly accurate foreshadow of the current Hollywood move toward the more graceful, balletic chaos exhibited by movies like The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Ultimately Big Trouble in Little China is a movie that survived thanks to the home video market and for that we can only be grateful. While its looks may have aged, its sense of humour and style is as fresh today as the day it first rolled out in cinemas. In short, it's pure escapist magic.


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