In reality Escape from New York should be the supercool action flick and Big Trouble in Little China should be the throwaway film long since forgotten.
But this ain’t reality – Escape from New York is a relic of a bygone time and BTiLC remains a terrific low budget classic.
Both films star Kurt Russell. In BTiLC Russell plays Jack Burton, a big mouthed opinionated truck driver with misguided confidence to spare who talks loudly at all times, seemingly mimicking John Wayne’s cadence and speech patterns.
Now in real life a guy like Jack Burton would be an absolute tosser worthy of only your disdain and pity – in films he is a fucking cool guy!
Jack gets into the messiest of situations when he follows up a gambling debt and becomes embroiled in female trafficking, smuggling and dark Chinese magic.
What starts as a “mere” Chinese gang war becomes something far bigger, including huge battles, explosions, shape changers, monsters, sorcerers and big hats galore.
It turns out that a centuries old Chinese sorcerer named Lo Pan needs a woman with green eyes to ensure his continued immortality – so his gang steals one from the airport, lo and behold though when another falls into his clutches in the form of a young lawyer played by Kim Cattrall – who seeing this film was made in the early 80s must have been about 50 at the time.
Jack wants Kim, his gambling buddy Wang wants his own green eyed missus back , Lo Pan wants one or both chicks (one for the ritual / one for the after-party!) and it seems every Asian-American bit part actor ever just wanted to get paid.
The action runs non-stop from start to finish and while it is never especially violent it is always entertaining. Russell himself thinks he is so cool that we are momentarily fooled into believing him (all the way up to Death Proof for me).
Some of the effects are decidedly 80s and obviously low budget and the inclusion of monsters was perhaps a little too cartoony on top of all else, but when a film has enough funny lines and chuckle-worthy moments you can happily cut it some slack.
Big Trouble in Little China is perhaps overlooked when discussing the films of the 80s, perhaps dismissed as disposable lightweight fluff. I urge you to have another look and decide for yourself if something this fun – and funny should be written off so easily.
Final Rating 8 / 10. – Before John Carpenter lost his way he and Kurt Russell shared a dream run for a while, Big Trouble in Little China might not be a classic in the truest sense but it sure is a good time.