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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


‘Big Trouble’ at the Loft Cinema brings together Tucson fans

Ian Green

Big trouble hit Tucson at precisely 10 p.m. on March 31 at The Loft Cinema, located on Speedway Boulevard. People gathered to view the 1986 John Carpenter film, “Big Trouble in Little China”, on the big screen as part of the Loft’s cult classic series. Initially, “Big Trouble” failed at the box office when it opened in July 1986, but in the years following it has metastasized into a cult classic, faring well with audiences on home video.

A cult classic generally means that a film has acquired a large following of people from either a wide range or small niche in society. Cult classics generally develop over time, but there is such a thing as an instant cult classic. We love ‘em, and we certainly don’t leave ‘em. 

However, in the case of “Big Trouble in Little China,” the cult following gradually expanded and thus is the reason why it was so popular on home video. People that follow cult classics passionately recall their favorite scenes, favorite quotes and favorite characters. 

One guest at the showing was Hank Tusinski, a painter and sculptor. He described what makes a cult classic.

RELATED: The Loft Cinema to host ‘Science on Screen’ event

“In terms of language, [it’s] something that has taken hold onto a group’s consciousness that becomes something that speaks to them or their lives in a, kind of a deeper, almost symbolic, sort of way,” he said. “The thing about a classic is sometimes it’s beyond being able to be defined like a work of art…you can say what you want about it, but it’s also more than anything you can say.” 

At the showing of “Big Trouble,” it was clear everyone’s favorite character was Jack Burton, played by Kurt Russell. Russell has many memorable, and amusing, lines in the film that stuck with audiences, even 31 years later. In fact, the moment Jack Burton appeared on screen driving his truck in a rainy storm, the entire audience cheered and clapped at his arrival. 

Gregory Siow, who works at a PC repair shop, stated that one of the reasons why “Big Trouble in Little China” is a cult classic, and why it’s so unique, is because of Russell. 

“Everyone loves Kurt Russell,” Siow said, “Second of all, just the scenario it’s in..ancient Chinese ghosts and mythology shown in a Western-American film in kind of a campy way. But it’s just a lot of fun; it’s just a really classic, hero saves the girl kind of thing… a movie [that] doesn’t take itself too seriously.” 

Arin Haverland, a research scientist at the Institute of the Environment, said that the film’s entertainment value and quotable lines were what made the film extraordinary. 

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“I love the fact that the animation and the overlay of the effects, even 30 years later, they’re still impressive,” Haverland said. 

Not only does the film feature fan favorite Kurt Russell, it holds a fun and entertaining plot line as well. 

The story takes place in San Francisco, specifically Chinatown. Jack Burton is a truck driver that wins a bet with his friend Wang Chi, played by Dennis Dun. Before he can fetch the money he owes Burton, Chi must pick up his fiancé from the airport, and Burton accompanies him. There, the action unfolds.

Chi’s fiancé is kidnapped by a Chinese street gang, and this leads Chi and Burton on a memorable chase that involves Chinese sorcery, ghosts, history and urban legends. Kim Cattrall is among the cast, playing nosy lawyer Gracie Law, who joins Burton, Chi and sorcerer and tour bus driver Egg Shen, played by Victor Wong. The story ultimately becomes a battle against the nefarious David Lo Pan, played by James Hong.

Action, witty one-liners and humor are certainly not spared. It’s no mystery as to why this film became a beloved cult classic in future years.

One audience member, Manish Shah, who owns local business Maya Tea Company, was revisiting an old favorite and brought along his two sons, who had never seen the film. Shah wanted them to experience the film on the big screen instead of a platform like Netflix.

“I remember being 17 and seeing the movie for the first time,” he said. “I probably watched it like 35 or 40 times in the first five years after [its release]. It’s probably one of the first movies I actually got on videotape.”

“Big Trouble in Little China” has certainly left an impact on audiences, especially in the years following its initial release. The fact that it’s still celebrated and beloved over three decades later is proof of its success as a cult classic.

Those in attendance spent Friday night lost in Chinese mythology and San Francisco’s Chinatown, along for the ride with Jack and his friends as they fought Lo Pan and the Three Storms. 

We hauled ass in the Pork Chop Express as Jack navigated a world that made little sense, dropping his witty quotes along the way and ultimately watched him overcome urban legends with a simple, “It’s all in the reflexes.” 


Can’t decide whether or not to give this film a try? Just remember what ol’ Jack always says…”what the hell?”

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