John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China didn't make a ton of money at the box office back in 1986 -- taking in a measly 11 million dollars during its theatrical run -- but it has gone on to become a cult classic thanks to home video. It's hard to pick a favorite Carpenter flick for me -- Halloween, Escape from New York, and The Thing are all contenders -- but Big Trouble will always have a special place in my heart because it's so different and well -- bizarre. In a good way, of course.
Big Trouble satisfied the filmmaker's urge to make a martial arts film, but not just any hand-to-hand combat flick. Carpenter's movie is an action comedy with a healthy dollop of Asian mysticism thrown into the mix to balance out a hilarious performance from Carpenter's frequent collaborator Kurt Russell.
Russell plays Jack Burton, a loveable doofus who becomes embroiled in supernatural shenanigans in San Francisco's Chinatown. When his friend Wang's green-eyed girlfriend is kidnapped by the villainous (and ancient ... ) David Lo Pan (James Hong), it's up to Burton to join forces with a ragtag assortment of Chinatown residents to save the girl. Part action, part comedy, all Carpenter, this is a prime example of what makes a cult classic.
In this particular scene, Jack and Wang meet Lo Pan in his normal form for the first time. When they see him earlier in the film, he's seven feet tall and shoots strange light out of his mouth, so Burton's taken aback when the man who's captured them turns out to be a frail and ancient looking fellow stuck in a wheelchair. Lo Pan is nice enough to explain his master plan -- and why he needs Wang's green-eyed girlfriend. It's a doozy. The scene works because Russell and Hong play off of each other so well. Russell is the star of the film, but Hong threatens to steal every scene he's in -- including this one. The two banter back and forth (indeed!) with Burton being the smart alec even though he's the one tied to the chair and in genuine danger. The only downside to this clip is that Dennis Dun, who plays Wang, is completely overshadowed by Russell and Hong. Whenever he does get a line, it's almost a distraction.
Carpenter deserved more recognition for Big Trouble in Little China and this scene is just one example of why. The film is hilarious, and Carpenter and Russell have a real synergy that's made each of their collaborations unique and entertaining -- well, maybe not Escape From L.A., but all the other ones are a good time. This clip is just one example of why I adore this particular film. If you've never seen Big Trouble in Little China, you're missing out.