If it's crap ... We'll tell you
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Arrogant truck driver Jack Burton gets more than he bargains for when he agrees to drive his friend Wang Chi to meet his fiancé, Miao Yin. The meet-up goes awry when Miao is kidnapped by a Chinese crime syndicate, but things get worse when the supernatural figure Lo Pan and the three magical warriors known as ‘The Storms’ get involved. From there Jack, Wang and a host of others must fight the worst Chinatown has to offer in order to rescue Miao (and get Jack’s truck back).
Big Trouble in Little China encapsulates (and subtly parodies) the 80’s campy action film. This movie has everything you would expect from the genre: cheesy one-liners, bad special effects, burly men, and women who get kidnapped a lot. But the movie is not only aware of its campiness, it revels in it: the expressions The Storms pull when fighting are exaggerated, the wire-fu is over the top and monster designs are ridiculously bad (yet somehow endearing).
The characters themselves are somewhat of an interesting mix, but all the stereotypes are here. Jack is the masculine, if not occasionally bumbling, action hero. The character Gracie plays the love interest (although her personality is a stronger than most women of the sterotype) and there is Egg Shen, who plays the ‘wisely sage’ role. None of these characters are particularly interesting by themselves, but they absolutely shine when put in a group situation (which is most of the film). Jack and Wang in particular have excellent chemistry, as the banter between them during the action scenes leads you to believe these characters have been lifelong friends.
The film itself is very fast paced. This is a combination of a chase and a rescue movie. Most of the film is either spent running away from something or running towards something. Since the storyline is simple, there is very little plot exposition. There is some confusing plot exposition near the start that gives the impression that the Chinese street gangs will play a big part in the movie, but this can be ignored as the gang rivalry is only relevant for one scene. With plenty of action and some great fight scenes, this film is very tight.
It’s hard to have any real complaints about this film given what it is. It may be a subtle parody of 80’s action, but it is also entertaining in its own right. If you are not a fan of ‘leave your brain at the door’ action films, you probably won’t be a fan of this, and Jack’s arrogance does get tiresome in places, but these moments are few and far between. The film sets out to do campy 80’s sci-fi, and it does it well.
==IN A NUTSHELL==
If you’re fan of 80’s action films, this film is an entertaining tribute the genre. If you’re not a fan of 80’s actions films, there is still plenty of fun to be had.