Before joining the service, I thought everyone in the military was somehow fighting and killing bad guys. I looked to movies and television to try to put myself into the mindset of who I wanted to be if I had to fight a real battle.
Clearly, I no idea what I was getting into. That's where the similarities between the badass anti-hero from Big Trouble In Little China and myself end.
Years before Die Hard changed every action movie that came after it into some version of Die Hard, the dream-team duo of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell brought us this bizarre but awesome story of a man determined to help save his new friends that have been captured by a mystical, ancient Chinese cult.
Jack Burton was a John Wayne in a world full of Bruce Lees. But it wasn't swagger that made me admire this custom-booted character. Jack Burton was way deeper than he seemed — all you had to do was look.
He had heart. He had dedication. Dammit, he had fun.
Jack Burton drops pearls of wisdom.
The saltiest warriors have been around the world and they've seen some things most us can't comprehend. When they try to tell you about it, it all just seems unbelievable. That's why wise, older warriors impart wisdom by giving practical advice, not by relating one specific story. Just listen to Jack Burton:
When some wild-eyed, 8-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."
Jack Burton is okay with being the sidekick.
Being in the military isn't about glory, it's not about being in the spotlight, and it definitely isn't about the money. Big Trouble in Little China is about Wang Chi rescuing his girlfriend. When a Chinese street gang abducts her, Jack Burton is right there to fight the good fight, because it's the right thing to do.
Even when the sh*t gets deep, Jack Burton does not run.
Jack Burton is just an average, ass-kickin' kind of guy (with amazing reflexes). He's used to a good, fair fight and knows when to back off. But just because he's seeing some sh*t he's never seen before doesn't mean he's going to turn and run. He's going to stay and fight until he knows he can't win.
Jack Burton has the right gear for the job.
Those boots, my dude. Those boots are custom.
Jack Burton is all about intel.
It's not all about throwing around weight and fists for Jack Burton. When the situation demands it, he's willing to be more subtle; less swagger and more cloak-and-dagger. He gathers all the information he can before he starts kicking in doors.
People want to follow a leader like Jack Burton.
Some may call it cockiness, but I see self-confidence. Jack Burton stands up for what's right: saving ladies in distress, helping people who've been abducted, good fighting evil, etc. People fighting with him see it and they love him for it. Remember: Jack Burton only ever met one person in all of Big Trouble In Little China and he is still fighting with them.
Despite his shortcomings, Jack Burton gets the job done.
He's not John McClane. He's not James Bond. There's very little about Jack Burton that can be called "smooth." He can stay up all night drinking and gambling, but will keep fighting for days. Like the professional he is, he operates just as well on the third day of combat as he did on the first.