Netflix B-sides is a twice-monthly column that takes a look at the lesser-known entries of Netflix’s vast catalogue. We will dive deep in to the cavernous universe of B-movies to find the best of the worst, the worst of the best, and those movies that celebrities would rather you forget.
Big Trouble in Little China is a heartfelt homage to classic Kung Fu from the ‘70s that is saturated with western action tropes and charming mid ‘80s humor. Kurt Russell’s whiskey soaked Jack Burton is a classic testosterone fueled trucker making a living in the still somewhat untamed portion’s of America’s West. While the fast-paced action many times outpaces plot and character development, it doesn’t really matter due to Director John Carpenter’s unflinching attention to overwhelming fun and engaging storytelling. Carpenter is at his finest in creating this over-the-top classic that is one of the strongest films that the action/comedy genre has to offer.
Kurt Russell shines as Jack who surprisingly plays more of an entertaining and bumbling sidekick than capable lead protagonist. Time after time Jack is outshined and literally outgunned by his buddy Wang who was clearly introduced as the stereotypic minority sidekick, but quickly becomes more capable than Jack in nearly every way. Jack is an entertaining chaotic good that is unpredictable, unstable, witty, and far too full of his own machismo for his own good. Time after time Jack makes classic action movie dictums related to his ass-kicking prowess just to be immediately subdued, leaving Wang to clean up the mess and save the day. Wang proves to be a strong and capable lead protagonist who clearly overshadows Jack in all the skills necessary to rescue the girl and win the moment.
Overly powerful but ridiculous thunder gods, disgusting monsters, gaudy enemies, and ancient evil forces are all met with hilarious one-liners and running jokes that continually keep the viewer interested in the world that has been created for them. Fight sequences are colorful and fun affairs where high-flying martial arts and mysticism are met with Jack’s personal brand of old school bar brawling, but unlike many other movies of this genre western badassery comes up short more times than not. Kurt Russell’s comedic timing is fantastic and his acting, just like everyone else’s, is not overly good yet it all fits perfectly in the overarching theme of fantastical satire, over-the top action and irreverent comedy.
If you are looking for a nostalgia filled way to spend two hours on Netflix, Big Trouble in Little China is a chaotic and fun experience that pays heartfelt tribute to the campy Kung Fu classics that came before it. I give this Netflix B-side 4.5 shots of Jack Daniels out of 5.