|Big Trouble in Little China|
|Directed By||John Carpenter|
|Written By||W. D. Richter|
|Screenplay By||Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein|
|Cast||Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong|
|Produced By||Larry J. Franco|
|Film Editing By||Steve Mirkovich, Mark Warner, Edward A. Warschilka|
|Cinematography By||Dean Cundey|
|Music By||John Carpenter, Alan Howarth|
SLM Production Group
July 2, 1986
20th Century Fox
Big Trouble in Little China is a 1986 American action comedy film directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, Victor Wong, and James Hong.
All American and all-around macho skeptic Jack Burton is a simple truck driver who inadvertently becomes entangled in an effort to rescue a damsel in distress in the heart of Chinatown. No problem! Ol' Jack can handle anything!
Of course, nobody told him that aside from Chinese mafia gangs; he'll have to face off against a trio of supernaturally empowered martial artists, ghosts, ancient Chinese black magic, demons, monsters, the odd immortal Chinese sorcerer laboring under an ancient millennium old curse or two, and the fate of the world hanging in the balance. You know ... Ol' Jack might be in a bit over his head; he might be in some real big trouble here...
After a long freight haul, truck driver Jack Burton is blowing off some steam with some high stakes gambling in San Francisco's Chinatown. He beats his friend Wang Chi, winning a huge pot of money. However Wang sheepishly admits that he doesn't have the money on him to cover his losses and that he'll have to run to his restaurant and pick up some cash to pay Jack off. Burton cynically proffers Wang a ride; suspecting that Wang is trying to pull a fast one on him.
Wang accepts but on the condition that they run an errand to the airport so that they can pick up Wang's fiancee Miao Yin. While waiting for the passengers from China to deplane, Jack notices a lovely young woman, Gracie Law who is also waiting to pick up a passenger from China and unsuccessfully tries to flirt with her only to be summarily shot down.
Things become complicated when a local Chinese street gang, the Lords of Death attempt to grab a few newly arrived Chinese girls to sell them off as sex slaves. When one of them tries to grab the girl that Gracie was picking up, Jack tries to intervene to impress her and gets easily knocked down. His interference however enables Gracie's friend to escape but Miao Yin is kidnapped.
Jack and Wang immediately pursue them into Little China only to run into a funeral procession being run by the Chang Sing, an ancient Chinese society. Then, the funeral is attacked by their rivals, the Wing Kong. Jack and Wang find themselves hapless bystanders and witness the arrival of the "Three Storms", a trio of supernaturally empowered martial artists who proceed to slaughter the Chang Sing. Shortly afterwards, Lo Pan makes an appearance and Jack and Wang are forced to abandon Jack's truck and flee on foot.
Back at Wang's restaurant, the pair recuperate and Wang tries to explain just what they encountered to a disbelieving Jack. They are interrupted by Gracie Law who has been doing some investigating and has managed to learn that the Lords of Death have sold Miao Yin to a brothel. Wang promises to pay Jack later with interest and help find his missing truck if the reluctant Jack helps by posing as a customer to infiltrate the brothel and find Maio Yin.
Jack agrees but before he can rescue her, the Three Storms invade the brothel searching for Maio Yin and kidnap her for Lo Pan. Jack and Wang bluff their way into the Wing Kong Exchange, a front for Lo Pan and his Wing Kong Society only to promptly captured. Worried about the overdue pair, Gracie brings in a reporter friend, Margo to claim that they are investigating the Wing Kong in an attempt to intimidate them. However, they badly underestimate the resolve of the Wing Kong and are simply imprisoned as well.
The captive Jack and Wang manage to temporarily overpower the Storm known as Thunder and escape their cell. Freed, they discover and free Gracie and Margo along with dozens of captured Chinese girls and escape. Gracie who is bringing up the rear, however is recaptured by one of Lo Pan's servants; a strange humpbacked orange furred ape-like creature.
Jack and a distraught Wang learn from Egg Shen, the local authority on Lo Pan that over 2,000 years ago; Lo Pan was a mortal who was a great warrior and powerful sorcerer who tried to conquer China only to be defeated by the First Emperor who cursed him and condemned Lo Pan to live in an ancient, crippled body although he can manifest himself briefly as a ghost with no flesh or bones. It was prophesied that Lo Pan could only break the curse by marrying a woman with green eyes and then sacrificing her; the many women being held by the Wing Kong Exchange was simply the result of his attempts to find such a girl whom he has found with Maio Yin.
Lo Pan meanwhile is struck by the coincidence that Gracie Law also possesses green eyes and decides that it is fate that he marry both women. Further, he will sacrifice Gracie, appeasing the curse and allowing him to live out his earthly lusts with Maio Yin and begins his wedding preparations. Jack, Wang, and Egg Shen break into the Wing Kong Exchange once more with the help of the surviving members of the Chang Sing and Egg gives them all a potion that enables them to "see things no one else can see and do thing no one else can do". Empowered, the ragtag group interrupts the ceremony and engage in a furious battle against the Wing Kong Society, the various monsters and servants creatures, and the Three Storms which culminates in Jack throwing and missing a knife throw at the now mortal Lo Pan. Contemptuously, Lo Pan picks up the knife, admires it for a moment and then throws it at Jack who miraculously manages to catch it and fling it back, impaling Lo Pan in the skull, killing him.
With the Wing Kong Exchange collapsing around them, the survivors discover Jack's stolen truck and escape. Afterwards, the group is celebrating and Jack decides to take off. Unknown to him however, the humpbacked orange furred ape-like creature has stowed away on his truck...
- Kurt Russell as Jack Burton
- Kim Cattrall as Gracie Law
- Dennis Dun as Wang Chi
- James Hong as David Lo Pan
- Victor Wong as Egg Shen
- Kate Burton as Margo Litzenberger
- Donald Li as Eddie Lee
- Carter Wong as Thunder
- Peter Kwong as Rain
- James Pax as Lightning
- Suzee Pai as Miao Yin
- Chao-Li Chi as Uncle Chu
Based on a screenplay submitted in 1982 to 20th Century Fox, it was written by Gary Goldman and David Z. Weinstein who had originally set the film as a western combining Chinese fantasy element with the events taking place in turn of the century San Francisco of 1880 with Wiley Prescott (Jack Burton) as a buffalo hunter who rides into town and becoming involved with the battle aganinst Lo Pan after his horse gets stolen.
However, 20th Century Fox demanded certain changes including modernizing the film to the present day. However Goldman and Weinstein refused to do so and Fox ended up with W.D. Ritcher extensively rewriting the entire screenplay, keeping only the Lo Pan part of the storyline and renaming the lead character as Jack Burton. Ritcher previously directed The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension and heavily influenced the script as a result. On the verge of being left out entirely of the credits, Goldman and Weinstein went to the Writers Guild of America, West for arbitration which determined that "written by" credit would go to Goldman and Weinstein despite it had been almost completely rewritten by Ritcher who only received minimal credit as "adapted by".
John Carpenter was brought in to direct in 1985 but found himself being constantly forced to do changes due to the studio demands although he firmly refused to recast Gracie Law with a rock star and instead stuck with his choice of Kim Cattrall. Carpenter tried to cast Clint Eastwood or Jack Nicholson into the role of Jack Burton but both had other commitments and was prompted by Fox to consider Kurt Russell who had previously appeared in several of his former films for the role as they considered him a promising up-and-coming actor. Russell reportedly was originally somewhat reluctant to take the role on his first reading of the script; "it was fun, but I was soft on the character. I wasn't clear how to play it. There were a number of different ways to approach Jack, but I didn't know if there was a way that would be interesting enough for this movie."
Carpenter however was finally able to persuade his former collaborator to accept the role and they both shifted him to a more comedic relief role with Dennis Dun took on the more challenging physical marital arts sequences. He was also forced to rush production and shooting schedule when Fox learned that rival studio Paramount Pictures was producing a film with a similar asian-supernatural theme The Golden Child starring Eddie Murphy and wanted to have the film in theaters before it, giving him only 10 weeks to complete it.
As a result of the rushed shooting schedule, Carpenter recruited most of his former crew from previous films such as Line Producer Larry J. Franco (Starman); Production Designer John Lloyd (The Thing); and Cinematographer Dean Cundey (Halloween, Escape from New York, and The Thing).
Opening up on July 2, 1986 in 1,053 theaters nationwide, Big Trouble in Little China grossed $2,723,211 on its weekend run and only ranked 12th overall. It failed to topple a number of other previously released films including Top Gun and Ferris Bueller's Day Off and faced competition from several other films that debuted that weekend including Psycho III and The Great Mouse Detective. It's lackluster performance caused it to be quickly pulled from theaters after only a disappointing 2 weeks to make room for James Cameron's blockbuster Aliens which debuted on July 18.
In total, Big Trouble in Little China would rake in $11,100,000 nationwide and was not released internationally. It was considered a bomb, even failing to earn back its production costs of $25 million. It was received with mostly negative reviews by the critics at the time.
The commercial and critical failure of the film resulted in director John Carpenter's disillusionment with Hollywood and prompted him to focus on becoming an independent filmmaker. He disliked how he was forced to make a number of changes and alterations to the film; how the studios demanded he rush his production; and yet chose to do only a marginal marketing campaign to promote interest in the film as they were apparently more focused on promoting the forthcoming Aliens.
Nevertheless thanks to video rentals and TV reruns, Big Trouble in Little China became exposed to a wider audience who have come to view it as a cult classic and some critics have retroactively reversed their opinion regarding the film, garnering it with mixed reviews. It's popularity however has prompted rumors of a sequel for years and Empire magazine has since awarded the film with a spot on their list of the "500 Greatest Movies of All Time" in 2008.
Big Trouble in Little China has been commercially released on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray. It has managed to inspire a limited comic book series based on finishing the unresolved plot threads of the film and is credited with heavily inspiring the video game series Mortal Kombat released in 1992 and has been parodied by several other series as well.
In June 2015, actor Dwayne Johnson reported that he is a huge fan of the original film and would love to remake it for modern audiences and is hoping to convince John Carpenter and Kurt Russell to participate in the project. Carpenter has admitted that he is "ambivalent" about a remake.
- Jackie Chan was originally director John Carpenter's first choice for the role of Wang Chi only was overridden by 20th Century Fox who felt his inability to speak English would be too noticeable.
- Kurt Russell reused the same outfit he wore in his 1980 film, Used Cars when he was infiltrating the Chinese brothel.
- The opening scene where Egg Shen is talking to a lawyer regarding the disappearance of Jack Burton was made at the insistence of 20th Century Fox who wanted Burton to be more "heroic" appearing. John Carpenter complied but believes that the studio execs failed to understand that Burton was not the main hero but rather the comedic foil and "sidekick".