For fans of 1980s genre cinema, there’s no better partnership between a director and actor than that of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. Escape from New York, The Thing and Big Trouble in Little China all take place in vastly different genres, but all three have long since become legendary in their own right.
Snake Plissken became an instant icon in the dystopian actioner, MacReady was the stoic everyman forced into dealing with a shapeshifting extraterrestrial menace, and Jack Burton is arguably the character best suited to Russell’s easygoing charm and natural charisma. The handsome, cocky and roguish truck driver finds himself trapped in a mystical conflict unfolding around San Francisco’s Chinatown, in what might be the cult classic to end all cult classics.
Carpenter goes all-in on blending elements of action, comedy, sci-fi, fantasy, horror and martial arts together into one bizarrely fascinating and massively entertaining melting pot, all backed by a series of practically-driven set pieces and Russell on top form, holding the ridiculous plot together with a performance that’s perfectly balanced between winking at the audience and playing it straight within the context of the story.
There’s been talk of a sequel, remake or reboot at various points over the decades, with Dwayne Johnson hovering around the project at one stage before it didn’t really amount to anything, but Big Trouble in Little China should remain exactly how it is. It may have flopped after failing to recoup the $25 million budget in theaters, but it’s now streaming for free over on YouTube, where the beloved mash-up is sure to find a whole new audience.