Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 inspired me to watch Big Trouble in Little China, a Kurt Russell cult classic that now gracefully sits on fanboy’s DVD shelves and Netflix queue. Now, I’m a fan of Kurt Russell from what I do know of his work, but by no means am I a bona fide Russell enthusiast. I had always pictured him as a slightly less serious Clint Eastwood, same level of badassery, but willing crack a smile at a dad joke every now and then.
I think my perception of Russell was flawed after watching his Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China, a rip-roaring, campy adventure through the mystical world of San Francisco’s Chinatown, encountering ancient enemies, otherworldly beasts and threats, and street-smart gangs who know how to hustle. Russell doesn’t give us the hero-to-end-all-heroes, nor is he even really that bad of an ass. He’s a guy with grit and gusto, willing to be serious but not afraid to get silly. Hell, Burton’s friend Wang Chi does most of the heavy lifting in fight scenes, jump kicking and karate chopping enemies with ease while Jack sits back, wondering if he should just take five until this whole fight stuff has blown over. Russell is totally game in this movie, not afraid of looking dumb or uncool and as a result, we’re having a ball.
Russell’s contributions to this movie wouldn’t have been possible without director John Carpenter, who does a very delicate balancing act in Big Trouble in Little China. Carpenter gives us what feels like an authentic kung fu movie and a kung fu tribute movie. We laugh at the over-the-top characters but never do they devolve into offensive caricature. There’s a humor and aloofness to Carpenter’s direction but more importantly a respect that shines through. Carpenter and his movie don’t take itself too seriously or not seriously enough, its got everything we need and nothing else more.