Welcome to a new segment of my blog, where I review every movie that I watch for the first time. As time goes on, I hope that this segment will become more regular. Also, keep in mind that what you’re reading are my initial thoughts on the film, what stuck out to me and what made the film either enjoyable, boring, horrible or somewhere in between. I will be doing these reviews literally after I finish watching the film.
Anyway, to start things off let’s take a look at John Carpenter’s 1986 film “Big Trouble In Little China.” Going into the film, I had heard a variety of different things about, including that the film was cheesy goodness with lots of great action sequences. To be fair, the film delivers on the action sequences and does throw in a hardy dose of comedy into a normally dramatic situation.
The plot of the film follows a truck driver by the name of Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) as he visits a friend, Wang Chin (Dennis Dun), in San Francisco’s Chinatown. But when Jack drives Wang to the airport to pick up his fiancee, she is kidnapped and the two are pursued by a Chinese gang. As the film progresses, we learn more about why the gang wants Wang’s fiancee and that there is a dark ancient history behind a man who wants her for himself.
My immediate feelings on the film are that it comes across like a combination of a 1970’s Kung-Fu movie, complete with over the top stunts and wacky martial arts, and “Ghostbusters,” mostly through the use of the super natural, the effects which are used to portray said other worlders, and the straight-man to watch the insanity ensue.
At first, I found myself asking, “Why is Kurt Russell in this movie? He really doesn’t belong in this scenario. What does he bring to the table?”
But as the film progressed, my question was answered in much the same way it was used in “Ghostbusters.” If you were to remove Kurt Russell from this movie, the playful and energetic atmosphere would be removed from the movie. All of the best lines and moments in the film revolve around Russell’s character, and it’s his resolve and ability to take everything in stride that makes this whole event some much fun.
Without Russell, this just becomes a very strange and forgettable Kung-Fu movie with some halfway decent effects. Though I guess another saving grace for the film would be the unique yet compelling mythology the film develops through it’s villain, Lo Pan (James Hong). This is mostly accomplished through Hong’s performance as an old and creepy wheelchair bound warlord, but then also as a teeth-grinning psychopathic wizard. Hong works both in different ways, but still comes across like they’re the same character.
It is also interesting to watch “Big Trouble In Little China” after watching so many other John Carpenter films. Having seen “The Thing”, “Assault On Precient 13”, “Halloween” and “They Live!” already, I can safely say that John Carpenter is able to take the most basic plot lines and add just the right amount of zest and flavor to them to make the film compelling to watch for a whole different reason. “Big Trouble In Little China” is no exception to that rule. Though I will say that this particular film takes a lot more chances than many of Carpenter’s other works, it succeeds at most simply because of Russell and Hong’s performances, as well as Carpenter’s love for his craft.
You can tell that John Carpenter is enthralled with what he does and puts every ounce of his heart and passion into his films. That passion comes through in his films and gives it an extra kick that many other films lack. While his films may not always be big financial hits, they’re always a joy to watch and each one I’ve watched as put a simile on my face.
Final Grade: B+