Big Trouble in Little China Reviews
The plot is wacky and all over the place, and trying to describe it would make it sound dumb, but I think that's part of the charm. It's is goofy, but in the best way possible, The film is purposefully larger than life, and isn't mean to be taken too seriously.
If you want to have a good time, then look this one up.
As with Prince of Darkness, Carpenter's subsequent failure, there is something inherently interesting in the central concept of this film. It aims to do for martial arts movies what Indiana Jones did for matinee idols: take all the clichés and conventions of those films, restage them with the budgets they deserved, and pay tribute to the aspects that worked while sending up those that didn't. The twist with Big Trouble is that this story does not have a period setting, with Carpenter attempting to marry ancient Chinese mythology to the technology and social attitudes of the 1980s.
Carpenter may not have Steven Spielberg's track record when it comes to blockbusters, but he had shown his knack for directing action movies on Assault on Precinct 13 and, to a lesser extent, Escape from New York. And to give credit where it's due, the design elements of Big Trouble are pretty good. Dean Cundey, Carpenter's long-time cinematographer, gives the film a grainy B-movie look while utilising anamorphic lenses (another Carpenter trademark) to make the action feel very modern. The stunt choreography by James Lew is balletic but playful, creating stunts which are cartoonish without prompting us to look where all the wires or trampolines are hidden.
Unfortunately all the good work of Carpenter and his colleagues comes to nothing. After a pretty decent opening, Big Trouble in Little China slowly descends into the very formulas it was trying to send up, resulting in a film which is repetitive, uninvolving and lacking in narrative direction.
The central problem lies in a further comparison to Indiana Jones, namely in the business of being tongue-in-cheek. Although Raiders of the Lost Ark was clearly motivated by a desire to send up its subject matter, Spielberg understood that it wasn't enough to simply stand around making fun of old film clichés. In order to sell the film to an audience, it had to be entertaining in its own right, with enough in the way of pace and punchy action to wow an audience who hadn't grown up on John Ford or Howard Hawks.
One of the great successes of Raiders - in fact, of all the original trilogy - was its combination of pace and narrative; the story was pulpy enough to be gripping when married to the action, but even if you weren't that interested in what was going on, you could just sit back and enjoy the spectacle in blissful ignorance. Big Trouble in Little China doesn't have this perfect pacing: it barrels along so quickly that the story keeps getting lost, with characters having to stop and explain the plot to each other in an increasingly incoherent manner.
Because the film keeps losing its narrative thread (what there is of it), its ability to work as an affectionate pastiche or parody begins to gradually desert it. Certain elements remain faintly subversive, such as Dennis Dun's character, whose resourcefulness and intelligence sends up Indie and Short Round in Temple of Doom. But elsewhere the film bears an uncanny resemblance to The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers' final film which attempted (unsuccessfully) to send up similar stereotypes. The film forgets about its desire to be ironic as soon as it becomes convenient, settling for spectacle where we expect to see so much more.
Even if we attempt to enjoy Big Trouble as empty-headed entertainment, we still don't get very far. One of the pleasures of classic martial arts films was the scale of the fights and the seamless way in which they were filmed. Bruce Lee's fight scenes would be filmed like Gene Kelly's dancing, in long continuous shots which created a natural sense of scale and continuity. A lot of both Lee and Kelly's film work was somewhat lacking narratively, but again it didn't matter because of the inherent physicality and tactility of their fighting and dancing respectively.
Big Trouble, on the other hand, has precious little in the way of physicality. The fight sequences may be inventively choreographed, but they are shot from such odd angles and edited so rapidly that you can't tell what's going on or who is fighting whom. Then there are the cheesy special effects, which include beams of light coming out of people's mouths or characters conjuring up lightning like Emperor Palpatine. These effects were created by Boss Films, who did the effects for Ghostbusters, and as with that film the characters become lost in a lot of uninvolving visual trickery.
In most cases, the special effects in Big Trouble are there to pad out the action rather than contribute to the story. The laser beam fight between Victor Wong and James Hong, in which imaginary warriors are conjured from rings and battle it out, is like watching a boring video game and breaks up the more interesting duel involving Dennis Dun. Even the old-fashioned monsters are no good, with neither the wookie-like creature nor the floating head with many eyes getting anything like the screen time they need to set them up as sustained and believable threats to the characters.
On top of all that, the film is populated by a cast of characters which are poorly drawn and unlikeable. Kurt Russell, who has never topped his performance in The Thing, spends most of his time mugging at the camera. While his Clint Eastwood impression in Escape from New York had a certain amount of appeal, his John Wayne impression in this film is off-putting and obnoxious. Kim Cattrall is equally annoying and largely wooden, and the film only seems properly interested in her when she's been dolled up in buckets of rouge. Dennis Dun's character is underdeveloped beyond his one-liners with Jack, and Victor Wong is as criminally underused here as he was in Prince of Darkness.
One factor that might mitigate Big Trouble's poor execution is the conditions under which it was made. The film went into production around the same time as the Eddie Murphy vehicle The Golden Child; Carpenter was hired because he could work fast, enabling the studio to get their film out first. Certainly one cannot accuse Carpenter of bottling it in the presence of more money; as his 1990s output shows, he was capable of making bad films regardless of how much they cost. But even with the rushed production schedule, you would have expected someone of his mettle and genre experience to come through with the goods.
Big Trouble in Little China resembles a dumb mix of Indiana Jones and Year of the Dragon, albeit without the overt racism of the latter. It disappoints as empty action and as an attempted subversion of martial arts clichés. It still has pockets of humour, whether intentional or otherwise, which keep it from being either depressing or Carpenter's worst film. But it simply doesn't cut the mustard either as a Carpenter film or on its own terms - it's no fun, and nothing but trouble.
Jack Burton is a loud mouth, wise cracking truck driver, who while helping a friend, is drawn into a world of centuries old Chinese mythology with magic, danger and evil sorcerers.
The film is basically done with a B-movie style and is an absolute riot from beginning to end. Kurt Russell has never been better as the so called "hero" with endlessly quotable lines and a perfectly pitched performance. Burton has to be one of the most enjoyable, buffoonish characters I've seen in films and Russell nails it brilliantly. He's a bit like Indiana Jones without the intellect.
An all round crowd pleaser.
An All-American trucker gets dragged into a centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown.
Okay. The title should identify that this is not a serious movie. And believe you me, it isn't (I mean that positively). Kurt Russell plays Jack Burton, a truck driver who sounds like he spends all day watching reruns of sitcoms and Sylvester Stallone movies. Then, when Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) is captured, Jack and several other people have to go underground in San Francisco's Chinatown to try and rescue her. Down there, they find evil sorcerer Lo Pan and his empire. From there, the movie is basically a litany of various forms of ass-kicking. My favorite scene was the fight scene where everyone is just flying at each other.
"Big Trouble in Little China" is completely silly - and rather ridiculous - from beginning to end, but the good kind of silly and ridiculous. If nothing else, the whole thing is worth seeing just to hear Kurt Russell's hilariously sarcastic comments.
"Big Trouble in Little China" is a great movie. Everything about it is great. It has elements of many different kinds of movies such as comedy, action, adventure, and even horror to just name a few. The special effects with the magic are well done, the monsters look cool, the martial arts fights are exciting, the acting is good, and even the score goes great with the movie.
In this movie, there really was big trouble in little China. I recommend anybody who likes great movies to get "Big Trouble in Little China." NOTE: That was my Amazon review from the year 2001.
'have you payed your dues Jack?'....'yes sir the cheque is in the mail'
'everybody relax..Im here'
Jack Burton: Jack Burton... ME!
This movie is about a truck driver and his Chinese buddy taking on underground Chinese gangsters and dark magic.
Jack Burton: You know what Jack Burton always says... what the hell?
Kurt Russell delivers as many one-liners as possible amidst this ludicrous fantasy plot, that is fun only because no one really cares about what is going on.
Jack Burton: What is that stuff?
Egg Shen: It is black blood of earth.
Jack Burton: You mean oil?
Egg Shen: No, I mean black blood of earth.
John Carpenter and Kurt Russel have made another film together that is completely the opposite of The Thing, or Escape From New York. It is goofy fun that puts Russel in a hero role, despite the fact that he is the sidekick by the way the story works.
The movie moves extremely fast through a ridiculous amount of plot points in favor of keeping everything moving and full of action, special effects, and goofy moments.
[On phone to insurance company]
Jack Burton: I'm gonna tell you about my truck, and I DON'T wanna hear "act of God"!
It's a fun cult movie, that gets better every time I watch it. It's filled with camp, special effects, and Kurt Russel coolness.
Jack Burton: I feel pretty good. I'm not... I'm not scared at all. I feel kind of... feel kind of invincible.
Wang Chi: Me, too. I've got a very positive attitude about this.
Jack Burton: Good, me too.
Jack Burton: Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?