Big Trouble in Little China

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"All I know is, this Lo Pan character comes out of thin air in the middle of a goddamn alley while his buddies are flying around on wires cutting everybody to shreds, and he just stands there waiting for me to drive my truck straight through him with light coming out of his mouth!"
Jack Burton

One of John Carpenter's greatest films, written by J.D. Richter and released in 1986.

Kurt Russell is Jack Burton, a long-haul trucker with a penchant for making soliloquies over the CB. He's in Chinatown to meet his buddy Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) and pick up Wang's fiancee Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) from the airport, but David Lo Pan (James Hong) kidnaps her with the help of his Wing Kong street gang and the Three Storms.

Jack, Wang, lawyer Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), tour bus driver Egg Shen (Victor Wong) and the Chang Sing street gang join forces to rescue Miao Yin from the deathless Lo Pan, but Jack's really in it to get his truck back.

Subverts a few tropes of the action hero genre. Most notably, as stated by both Carpenter and Russell in the DVD commentary: "This is a movie about a guy who thinks he's the Action Hero when he's really the comic sidekick."

Don't confuse this with Chinatown. Hilarity will not ensue.

Tropes used in Big Trouble in Little China include:
  • Action Survivor: Jack Burton.
  • Affectionate Parody: The film lovingly spoofs action hero and magical martial arts film tropes.
  • Air Jousting: Wang Chi and Rain in an aerial sword duel.
  • America Saves the Day: Subverted throughout the movie only to be played straight in the final confrontation.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me
  • Arc Words: "It's all in the reflexes."
  • Attack Reflector: Egg Shen uses a mirrored fan to send Lightning's lightning bolt attack back at him.
  • Audience Surrogate: Jack Burton.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Subverted. Jack is so tense he accidentally throws his knife into a corner, and the fight is over by the time he gets back.
  • Badass: Jack tries... at least his dialogue is badass.
  • Balloon Belly: Thunder, when he inflates himself with air.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Jack and Wang bluff their way into the Wing Kong Exchange building by pretending to be telephone repairmen who'd been called in to fix a problem.
  • Beam-O-War: Lo Pan and Egg Shen duel in this way. The two beams, upon colliding, take the shape of dueling swordsmen. And then they twiddle their fingers like they're using video game controllers to direct the swordsmen.
  • Big Bad: David Lo Pan.
  • Body Horror: Thunder when he inflates himself to huge size and explodes.
  • Bound and Gagged: Gracie Law and Miao Yin.
  • Breath Weapon: David Lo Pan fires a blinding magical blast of light from his mouth.
  • Bring It: David Lo Pan does this to Jack Burton (using his index finger) as Burton is driving his truck toward him.
  • Call Back: The phrase "Cops got better things to do than get killed." is spoken twice by different characters.
  • Catch and Return: Jack Burton after David Lo Pan throws his knife back at him.
  • Catch Phrase: While he may not be badass in the standard sense, Jack certainly had the dialogue down pat.
    • "It's all in the reflexes", which serves triple duty as a Chekhov's Gun and a Post Mortem One Liner.
    • "You know what Jack Burton always says at a time like this?" "Who?" "Jack Burton. Me."
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Jack and friends pass a police car and fire truck on their way to the scene during their escape, which have apparently finally decided to respond to the explosions and gunfire.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Jack's knife trick.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Averted.
  • Covered in Kisses: And as a result, Jack has Gracie's lipstick smeared on his mouth when he's facing Lo Pan.
  • Curb Stomp Battle: Jack Burton vs. David Lo Pan.
  • Cutlass Between the Teeth: Jack Burton.
  • Cutting the Knot: In order to get into an elevator, Jack Burton hauls out a knife and cuts through the wall to get in, which works because the wall is made of paper.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Jack has the profile of the standard action movie hero, and anywhere else he probably would be. But he's in Chinatown, where Wang Chi is the real hero. Jack is thus more of a suped-up Audience Surrogate Fish Out of Water.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Jack Burton declines to stay with Gracie Law at the end of the movie.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Justified, as the heroes deliberately wait until after Lo Pan is married to fight him because he'll be mortal afterwards.
  • Diving Save: After kidnapping Miao Yin, the Lords of Death are escaping in a car. Jack Burton pulls a frozen Wang Chi out of the way of the oncoming car.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Two of Lo Pan's Dragons die after he does.
  • Drowning Pit: The elevator in Lo Pan's lair.
  • Elemental Embodiment: Thunder, Lighting and Rain.
  • The End - or Is It?: As Jack Burton drives off, we see that one of David Lo Pan's monsters is hitching a ride under his truck.
  • Evil Cripple: Lo Pan in his "old man" form, restricted to a wheelchair.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Egg Shen invokes this trope when he and Jack are beneath Chinatown.

Jack: That is not water.
Egg: Black blood of the earth.
Jack: What, you mean oil?
Egg: I mean black blood of the earth!

  • Eye Scream: Averted with Lo Pan's sentry monster. Despite being nearly made of eyes, it dies due to a precision sword strike between them.
  • Eyes Do Not Belong There: Lo Pan's spherical spy monster has eyes on stalks, on its back, and even one in its mouth.
  • Femme Fatalons: David Lo Pan can grow these at will.
  • Finger-Snap Lighter
  • Firing in the Air a Lot: Jack tries it, and Reality Ensues, with bits of the ceiling falling on his head and knocking him out.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: David Lo Pan's long wispy beard definitely qualifies as Evil Hair.
  • Green Eyes: Gracie Law and Miao Yin. Big Bad David Lo Pan has to sacrifice a woman with green eyes to become whole again.
  • Groin Attack: Gracie Law to Lo Pan's humanoid monster when it grabs Jack Burton.
  • Hand Wave: One of the classics. When Jack asks Egg Shen how he managed to get up above them, Egg replies, "Wasn't easy!".
  • Hellevator: How does it know which way to go without anyone pressing buttons? Ancient Chinese secret.
  • Hero-Tracking Failure: When the security guards are shooting at Jack Burton.
  • Hero Ball: Jack and Wang juggle it. Wang is more martially competent and properly motivated, but Jack is the one who comes up with the ideas and keeps saving everyone else's life.
  • Hey, Catch!: Jack Burton says "It's all in the reflexes."
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Margo invites Eddie over to her apartment in a very seductive way.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with a lawyer asking Egg Shen to explain what exactly went down in Chinatown. While the film does explain what went down, it doesn't explain what led to the conversation with the lawyer (who never appears outside the opening scene).
    • Well, the lawyer does say that a large segment of Chinatown exploded in green flame and that someone fingered Egg as connected to it. That is generally the kind of thing that could get you in legal trouble.
  • Humble Goal: All Jack really wants is to get his truck back.
  • If I Do Not Return: Jack tells Gracie:

Jack: If we're not back by dawn... (wink) call the President.

  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: David Lo Pan with Gracie Law and Miao Yin.
  • Indecisive Parody: Of martial arts/fantasy/action movies. If one doesn't know a lot about the tropes of martial arts movies (and back when it came out, most potential audiences didn't really), it can easily be mistaken for one instead of a parody of the genre.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Margo wants to be one.

Margo: "I feel like I'm in over my head."
Eddie: [kindly] "You are."