Character: Short Round
Actor: Jonathan Ke Quan
Film: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Role: An eleven-year-old taxi driver in Shanghai, Short Round befriends archaeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones as they travel to India to rescue enslaved children.
Short Round, or sometimes just Shorty, is clever and resourceful, first meeting Indy (Harrison Ford) in Shanghai as he helps him escape from Lao Che‘s (Roy Chiao) thugs in his yellow taxicab. Tagging along with “Dr. Jones” and the nightclub singer Willie Scott (Kate Capshaw), the child becomes invaluable as Indy’s sidekick, his loyalty and courage a hallmark of the character.
The Moment: On the trail of three stolen sacred Sankara stones from a tiny village in India where all the children have been captured by an evil cult, the trio travel to Pankot Palace. There, they are invited in for a lavish meal and later discover a secret tunnel that leads to a mining operation where the children are put to work in hopes of uncovering the remaining two Sankara stone. They also find the cult, who are conducting human sacrifices under the evil leadership of priest Mola Ram (Amrish Puri). After a failed attempt to rescue the children, Indy is taken prisoner and brainwashed, becoming a cult follower, helping to lock up Willie and commit her to the Hindu goddess Kali. Despite her pleas to set her free, Indy is under the spell of Mola Ram and secures her for sacrifice. Meanwhile, Short Round, who was tossed into the mines with the other children, makes a daring escape and works his way to the sacrificial platform and tries to snap his friend out of the trance. After Jones smacks the boy down, Short Round grabs a lit torch and thrusts it at the archaeologist, freeing him of the spell and allowing him to rescue Willie just as she is about to fall into the molten lava pit she is being lowered into.
Why It Matters: Short Round is nothing if not pure devotion. Once Indy makes him his sidekick, the boy takes to it with unblinking allegiance. While to this point in the film he has shown his cleverness and quick-thinking many times, here he proves his love and fearless dedication to everything that Indiana Jones stands for, putting his own life in jeopardy to rescue his friend. This moment is perhaps the most pivotal in the film as it frees Jones from the mental clutches of Mola Ram, and begs the question of who really is the movie’s hero. Without this one selfless act, Indy would succumb to the dark forces of the cult and Wille would perish into the fires below. When Short Round, having already been stuck by his hero, decides he must burn his friend to break the trance, it is already powerful, but when he shouts, “Indy, I love you,” as he shoves the flames into Indy’s face, we feel the impact with even more emotion. This is a kid that has only one person he can call family, and only one person with whom he trust his life. He’s not going to let him go without a fight. It’s a great character moment.