Martial Arts Action
Big Trouble in Little China
.
Dir: John Carpenter
Star: Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall, Victor Wong
Cert / Year: 15 - PG13 / 1986
Format: DVD R1
'

Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is a lorry driver making deliveries to China town. While collecting a debt from his mate Wang Chi (Donnie Dun) he witnesses the kidnapping of Chi's girlfriend. Thus he gets drawn into what starts of as a Chinese gang war, but becomes a supernatural battle between the undead fiend David Lo Pan (James Hong) and ancient sorcerer Egg Shen (Victor Wong). In order to get Chi's girlfriend back and to retrieve his lost truck he, Chi, and a lawyer called Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) must face Lo Pan and his army who (that includes three supernatural warriors called the three storms). Their only help in this adventure comes from Egg and his six demon bag!

This is a strange movie to classify. It is an action adventure flick, and martial arts film in equal measure with a generous topping of comedy. Like the two heroes it is east verses west, guns verses swords, fact verses fantasy. It is John Carpenter's take on martial arts movies, and as such represents one of the few attempts of the west trying to create eastern cinema. This could have been an almighty mess if it had tried to be just a martial arts film. Thankfully a lot of comedy and more traditional gun play has been added to give it a unique feel.

The story is pretty far fetched, almost silly, and a does suffer from lapses of continuity (Just who was the girl at the airport Gracie Law was meant to meet?). However the silliness is usually avoided, all be it only just, by the use of comedy and the scepticism of the Jack Burton. Whereas the story may be patchy the script is fantastic, providing a wealth of memorable dialogue and comic one-liners, most of which are given to Jack Burton.

As you may be able to tell the key to the film working is the central character of Jack Burton, and here we have another inspired performance from Kurt Russell. We are given a character who has a massive ego (and a bad eighties mullet) and yet is quite useless. He is a strange sort of hero, on one hand he acts cool on the other he is completely outclassed almost to the point of being comical. Kurt Russell brings to this the cool of an action hero (like Snake Plisskin) and yet displays a good understanding of comic situations.

Alongside Kurt we have Dennis Dun who provides a likeable sidekick (who in this case is more of a hero than Jack). The chemistry is initially lacking but it does improve, and by the end of the film you can't help but like him. Love interest is provided by Kim Cattrall and Suzee Pai, and while Kim Cattrall provides a strong kooky performance Suzee Pai is a total non entity. James Hong is great both as the wizard Lo Pan and the mad old wheelchair bound Lo Pan. However I have saved the best for last Victor Wong is perfectly cast, yet again, in the eccentric mystical oriental role which he plays so well.

The production values in the film are a mixed bag. We have some fine direction (especially during the fight scenes) from John Carpenter. This film is interesting as it marks the end of the period of his most popular work (and some would say the start of a decline in the quality of his films). On the down side the usual John Carpenter music really doesn't work here. Added to this are some odd set designs, with the neon Buddhist temple set from the big final fight being especially tacky. The saving grace is the very good job that has been made of the special effects, and this is best exemplified by the lighting effects.

This film probably won't be everybody’s cup of tea, but personally I like it. It is fun, and contains both good performances and some great lines. The action, while not up to Hong Kong cinema standard is well shot and well done. As a mixture of two genres it works better than you may expect, but it is not perfect. Carpenter \ Russell fans will know what to expect and will not be disappointed, as for everybody else it certainly worth a viewing, you may just like it.

Quotes

(Jack Burton on the CB) "Take my advice on a dark and stormy night when the lightning’s crashing, and the thunder’s rolling, and the rain is coming down in sheets thick as lead. Just remember what old Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right square in the eye, and he says give me your best shot Pal. I can take it."

Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD
Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Clear picture with slight print damage.
Audio Dolby Surround or Dolby 4.1 DTS Not 5.1 as the box claims, although this is a good thunderous mix.
DISC 1
Features The Main Feature
commentary track by both John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, this is fun but a little irrelevant at times
Some very good animated menus.
DISC 2
Features Extended \ deleted scenes
Trailers and TV Spots.
Extended Ending.
Extensive production notes.
A horrendously dodgy music video of the theme music.
A short making of featurette.
Magazine articles.
An interview with special effects man Richard Edlund
An extensive photo gallery
Some cast and crew biographies
Plus more of those groovy menus.
Verdict This is a great set for such a cult film. For such an old film a big effort has been made to collect every possible extra. In short well worth it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Link Back Top Home