MOVIE REVIEW: “Big Trouble in Little China” stars Kurt Russell (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Hateful Eight), Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City [TV series], Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), Dennis Dun (Prince of Darkness, Year of the Dragon), James Hong (Kung Fu Panda 3, Wayne’s World 2), Victor Wong (Tremors, The Last Emperor), Kate Burton (Unfaithful, Max Payne), Donald Li (Deep Core, Falcon Down), Carter Wong (Rambo III, Kung Fu Arts), Peter Kwong (The Golden Child, Gleaming the Cube), James Pax (Shootfighter: Fight to the Death, Nasty Boys [TV series]), Suzee Pai (Sharky’s Machine, Jakarta), and Chao Li Chi (The Prestige, Blood Work). It is directed by John Carpenter (Halloween , The Thing ) and written by Gary Goldman (Total Recall , Navy Seals) and David Z. Weinstein. Jack Burton (Russell), a truck driver, gets entangled in a deep battle within Chinatown that dates back centuries. He is called to action by his pal Wang Chi (Dun) to rescue his fiancée with green eyes from the hands of an evil sorcerer wishing to use her for a ritual.
I like to think I’m no stranger to campy cinema, but then I see “Big Trouble in Little China” and my head explodes. Good grief, what did my eyes just witness? This has to be one of the most ludicrous films I’ve seen in a while. Before you ask, I must say that I had no clue what I was getting into. Outside of the concept of a truck driver getting caught in some crazy crap in Chinatown, I didn’t know what would unfold in front of me. My interest is owed in part to an article I read a few years ago on an anniversary of the movie (I believe 30th) and how it went from critical blunder to cult classic. What makes this thing so loved by audiences now? Why did it do so poorly long ago? It was my mission to find out, and since emerging from this experience a night ago, the answer seems clear: this film was purposefully bad for the sake of a different kind of entertainment; one on another level of cinema. It goes without saying that “Big Trouble in Little China” puts forth little effort to make anything cohesive, let alone Oscar-worthy, however it sure does take its time to craft something horrifically beautiful. I’ve never seen a John Carpenter flick, not even his beloved “Halloween” or rendition of “The Thing.” I simply know the guy by name and have to say I was intrigued by his approach and style with this film. As I’ve said, “Big Trouble in Little China” doesn’t take itself seriously by any means. I mean, we see a truck driver battle powerful Chinese guys who wear baskets on their heads all in order to save a Chinese woman with green eyes; it doesn’t get crazier than that. The effects are cheesy, the dialogue is hokey, and the character development is hollow. However, above all of this, the movie holds a charm. You can tell the people who made this enjoyed creating it (at least I think). The action sequences are punchy and laughable, and the characters are so one-dimensional that you can’t help but just bask in the zaniness of this project. I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end. If there were a movie that symbolized 1980s cinematography, this would be amongst the top. It has a “Goonies” look with an atmosphere of “The Temple of Doom,” both of which were staples of the 80s (though “Temple of Doom” is debatable). Most of what takes place seems to be for the sake of lunacy or humor, never implementing smart dialogue or intricate story building. Everything is expositional, with so many characters explaining what is going on or why something is the way it is. Heck, Jack’s companion throughout the adventure, Wang Chi (what a name) seemed to serve the purpose of just being a Chinese encyclopedia of ancient lore (besides having wicked fighting skills that saved their rear ends at every turn, that is). Nothing is spent too much time on besides puppetry and set design, leaving us with a story that travels at hyper speed. When you begin the adventure, you are quickly thrown into action, witnessing a big Chinese battle that leads to so much lore that your head oozes with it. Seriously, it was often hard to keep track as to what was going on at any given time, whether it be a weird god who needs to gain his flesh or a creepy orangutan man who lives in a sewer. “Big Trouble in Little China” has it all, and begs to be rewatched just to soak in everything that took place. The question is, do you even watch it to begin with? Well, it depends on your tastes. For me, it’s hard to really judge this film based on the principle that it never tries to be good; people argue (and I’m sure the filmmakers do as well) that the fact it doesn’t take itself seriously is what makes it so fun and loveable, therefore earning it a high grade. It’s not that easy for me to just take this and run with it, as it all boils down to whether or not I even liked the movie. Did I? For the most part, yes. While “Big Trouble in Little China” is a terrible piece of cinema, it’s so fun to explore and watch unfold. Something about seeing a truck driver running around in a wife-beater and jeans while firing at Chinese men with electricity powers makes for a blast of an experience. Sure, the writing is corny beyond belief leaving everything to crumble in its wake, but the story has enough charm and charisma to keep me entertained. In the end, that’s what you are expected to receive by this Carpenter flick: something to watch, eat popcorn, and laugh at. So, unless he actually didn’t intend for it to be horrible, I’d say Carpenter accomplished what he set out to do. If you enjoy campy movies that are fun and not serious by any means, then this is the one for you. It’s chocked full of stuff to see and never ceases to let up in its pacing, throwing story element after story element at your face with no regard as to if it even makes sense or not. It’s a perfect mindless film with enough to actually explore as to not just have it playing in the background. Next time you find yourself wanting to watch something without having to get really invested, I’d say queue up “Big Trouble in Little China.” FINAL SCORE: 71%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: