Cocktails and Movies Take Out Theater: “Big Trouble in Little China”

by Tim Barley

For a young Kurt Russell, “It’s all in the reflexes”

big-trouble-in-little-china take out theaterAs creator and current president/Supreme Overlord of Cocktails and Movies, I have an extensive knowledge of odd, weird and fun films – some of them great, most of them bad, some of them seen by millions, others only viewed by the most ardent of film purveyors in little art houses across the nation. It’s those movies that we try to bring to everyone, to share with them something they might have missed. And then, once in a while, when housesitting, I get a chance to flip through some of the channels I don’t have at home and there comes on a movie that I remember thoroughly enjoying for its crazy fun, big story and quotable scenes. It’s in that vein, that I present to you a movie that I first saw in high school (yes, I AM that old) and is one that I can still watch again and again. But, now I do it with cocktails.

It’s a movie that any 80’s child will tell you encompassed the rise of Asian Culture, John Carpenter at his best, the youth and machismo of Kurt Russell and a whole lot of fun.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you this week’s “Take Out Theater” selection, Big Trouble in Little China.”

The Film

Big Trouble in Little China Take Out TheaterBig Trouble in Little China
Directed ByJohn Carpenter
Year Released: 1986
Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox

You’ve probably seen the movie, but let us set the scene: Truck driver Jack Burton (Russell) is the ultimate rolling stone – a truck driver, a charismatic self professed ladies’ man with luck on his side. Russell plays him to the hilt, with swagger and confidence oozing like the cheap aftershave he’s probably wearing. While in San Francisco, he goes with his friend, Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), to the airport to pick up Wang’s fiancee Miao Yin. They cross a Chinese street gang called the Lords of Death, who are there to kidnap another girl being met by Gracie Law (Cattrall), and Jack and Wang chase the to Chinatown and get mixed up in a gang war, which includes the supernatural Lo Pan (James Hong) and the Three Storms. Jack and Wang flee as Jack’s truck is stolen and they regroup at Wang’s restaurant and meet with Gracie, Eddie Li and magician/Lo Pan expert egg Shen (Victor Wong).

John Carpenter’s imagination, along with the screenwriters’ complete overhaul of the original script make for a fun, if not cultish tale about the legend of Lo Pan, who is immortal and how he can return to human form. Jack at first does not believe the tale that is told to him, wanted just to get his truck back. But, he’s convinced to help Gracie and Wang get their girls back if it will return his truck to him. Together with the good street gang, the Wing Cong, they invade Lo Pan’s labyrinth and free Maio Yin and Gracie’s friend and destroy Lo Pan and the Three Storms in the process.

jack-burton big trouble in little chinaIt’s hard to imagine anyone BUT Kurt Russell playing the part of Jack Burton. And Russell played him perfectly as the wannabe Indiana Jones type who falls on his ass a lot more than he means to. He was just coming off of Silkwood, Escape From New York and Swing Shift, so his star was rising. Still director John Carpenter wanted a big name to compete with a rival production called The Golden Child. Clint Eastwood and Nicholson were rumored to play the role. In the end, the studio felt that Kurt Russell was the up and coming star to be featured in the role and for that we can thank the studio execs (just this once!).

John Carpenter is one of the most underrated, creative writer/directors (and movie scorers) that America has produced. Big Trouble in Little China, coming out in 1986, was his first film since he had directed Starman, The Thing and prior to that he had created The Fog, Halloween and Escape From New York. But, what came out of Big Trouble in Little China was a newfound turn toward the fun, “what if” type of filmmaking, including They Live and Prince of Darkness. The script is very tongue in cheek with some of the funniest one-liners that can be quoted easily, with references to the multitude of Chinese Hells and twists of the language by Wang that remain fresh in your mind even days after viewing. And, as always, Carpenter does a great job of scoring his own films. This film is no exception.

Big Trouble in Little China does a great job of mixing American 1980’s swagger with the history and mysticism of Asian culture that crept into the social landscape in the 1980’s. It offers up some strong, if not entirely flawed, characters, including Cattrall’s character of Gracie Law. But, Little China was a box office dud, making only half of it’s $25 million budget and was a mix with the critics. But in the years since, it has gained a cult following that has it scoring 83% freshness with Today, when you watch it, it’s fun to enjoy the way that John Carpenter used to make movies with such creativity and fun at the same time. Find it on whatever medium you can and enjoy it with a couple of buddies. It’s not necessarily a “date movie.” (although if it IS, ask your girlfriend if she has a sister I can date…). This is one of those movies where empty pizza boxes and bottles of beer abound when the final credits begin to roll.

The Drink

tsintao beer take out theaterBecause this is a “guys'” (or a cool girl’s) movie, I’m eschewing the cocktail on this one for Tsingtao Chinese beer.


As far as we know: water, malt, rice and hops.


Pop the top and drink. Mix with pizza.

That’s all we have time for this week, friends! Remember to stay warm, dry, safe and don’t drink and drive! And enjoy this week’s movie in our Take Out Theater selection.