Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Genre Character of the Week: Jack Burton

Okay – full disclosure – Big Trouble in Little China is one of my favourite movies of all time.  Yes I know it’s silly, yes I know the dialogue is corny and the action is over the top, but you know what?

I don’t care.

For me this movie, with all of its great twists and turns, sets and characters, comes down to one guy, our genre character of the week, Jack Burton.

Jack is a little hard to like – on the one hand he’s so self-involved and full of himself that he can’t stop talking about how amazing he is in every scenario, but on the other hand he is incredibly fun to watch.  Watching this film with my family a few months ago it became pretty obvious to all of us that although Jack is the main character of the film, he is actually the sidekick in the events happening to his friend Wang.

Looking at the film from this point of view, it’s actually even better than I remembered it the first time through.  So much of Jack comes down to telling everyone how great he is while great things are actually happening just behind him or off screen.  His role in the various fight scenes in the film move from observer to hero and then to even less than an observer (he gets knocked unconscious a lot.

Honestly, a huge part of the character comes down to actor Kurt Russell, who just a few years earlier had played one of the great action anti-heroes, Snake Plissken inEscape from New York, wherein he speaks very little, but spends almost the entire film kicking butt.  A lot of the humour of Jack in Big Trouble in Little China comes from Russell playing against type – it’s sort of like he wandered onto the set of a Martial Arts/Fantasy film and would leave.

If you’ve never seen the movie before, it is great – a lot of fun, a lot of funny and some pretty spectacular action throughout as well.

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