Ever since I first witnessed Jack Burton fling a combat knife into the evil sorcerer Lo Pan’s forehead and blurt out, “It’s all in the reflexes,” I’ve secretly been in love with Kurt Russell. Not quite like Goldie Hawn in Overboard, but let’s just call me a fan. I even stand by his performance in Soldier, in which he's basically dog shit on steroids, but still, I prefer my action heroes rugged. It turns out that lots of people share this affinity for square-jawed heartthrob, too, as shown by all of these Big Trouble in Little China tattoos that are so good they’ll make your head explode like a rage-filled balloon.
Big Trouble in Little China is one of John Carpenter’s best contributions to cinema (although I’m a bigger advocate of The Thing, which also stars you-know-who). This critical acclaim is largely due to Russell’s portrayal of Burton, whose lion’s mane of a mullet alone is tattoo gold. Given his lack of social graces, it’s difficult to account for what makes Burton so charismatic, but his charm is undeniable. He’s the sort of hero that proves being all brawn and no brains isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the spirit of all the times he puts his foot in his mouth yet still saves the day, tons of fans have gotten portraits of him in all of his picaresque glory, even in disguise as Henry Swanson.
Burton’s not the only character from this cult classic that’s made an appearance in body art. There are nearly as many depictions of Lo Pan as there are of the captain of the Pork Chop Express, and these portraits of the creepy antagonist look as if they were inked with the black blood of the earth. Paul Acker even did a sleeve that features almost every character from the film, including the Egg Shen, the Three Storms, and even the tumor of a floating head with multiple eyeballs.
Though Burton doesn’t have any tattoos of his own, like the cobra on Snake Plissken’s stomach in Escape from New York, his personality speaks to the sort of daring that it takes to get one. An image of him on your skin suggests that you’re the type of person that looks a tattooist — even if he’s some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac — right square in the eye and says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”
To see more homages to cult classics, and maybe even a few more portraits of Russell in various roles along the way, check out these tattooists’ Instagram. If you’re a diehard fan of Big Trouble in Little China, too, you know what ol’ Jack Burton always says — what the hell, go get a new tattoo.