A rough-and-tumble trucker and his side kick face off with an ancient sorcerer in a supernatural battle beneath Chinatown.A rough-and-tumble trucker and his side kick face off with an ancient sorcerer in a supernatural battle beneath Chinatown.A rough-and-tumble trucker and his side kick face off with an ancient sorcerer in a supernatural battle beneath Chinatown.
Truck driver Jack Burton (Russell) agrees to take his friend Wang Chi (Dun) to pick up his fiancée at the airport. Little does he know that he is about to get involved in a supernatural battle between good and evil beneath San Francisco's Chinatown district.
A box office failure upon its release, and known to be the moment when John Carpenter gave up on Hollywood, Big Trouble in Little China has gathered "cult" momentum over the years and shows up rather well these days. Blending Chinese mysticism with chop-schlocky adventure, Carpenter's movie is at once daft but also a ball of energetic fun - propelled by a handsome, but inept action hero. Carpenter had always wanted to tackle a martial arts movie, and here he gets to do it whilst laying on the comedy and playing with effects work as his movie mostly comes alive in a magical underworld of monsters, magicians and sexy green eyed women.
It's evident now that the film was ahead of its time, not from a technical viewpoint, but from the point it tried to Americanise chopsocky. This is some time before Chinese style wire-work and mythology became common to Hollywood, one has to believe that Tarantino was nodding approvingly around about this time. It's also worth noting that although this "American" movie has an American beefcake as its main protagonist, it's the Asian Americans who actually are the heroes of the piece, with Dun's sidekick the stand out hero as Russell's Burton bumbles his way from one sequence to the next. It was a bold move by Carpenter to structure the narrative this way, something that annoyed the executives at Fox and kept the paying public bemused. It's easy to see why the film failed, contrast it with the similarly themed Eddie Murphy movie, The Golden Child, from the same year, which was a box office success. There the public got what they wanted (or what they were used too), the standard American hero fluff where Murphy saves the day and gets the girl.
Carpenter dared to be different and clearly had a lot of fun along the way, as evidently did his cast. It may have taken a decade of VHS and DVD releases to prove he was right, but right he was, Big Trouble in Little China is a damn fine popcorn movie. Russell plays it meat head style, with swagger in tow and tongue stuck in cheek, nicely toned physique for the girls to enjoy, and making vest wearing cool two years before Willis did in Die Hard. Cattrall is wonderfully alluring, red lips and green eyes shimmering bright in a world of colour; and boys do look out for her wet scene, it's wolf whistle time! Dun is likable and athletic, while Hong as Lo Pan gives the action/adventure genre a truly memorable villain. The film is briskly paced and not found wanting in the set piece department either. Not all the effects are high grade stuff, but in a film with such zestful comic book traditions at heart, it hardly matters one jot. With a great home format package doing it justice, Carpenter's movie is now, at long last, getting the appreciative audience it fully deserves. Amen to that. 8/10
- Sep 13, 2010