Big Trouble in Little China Reviews

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Super Reviewer
October 1, 2010
Tonally different from anything John Carpenter has ever done, "Big Trouble in Little China" follows Dennis (Kurt Russell) on a wild goose chase to find a friends fiancee after she's been kidnapped. Once realizing that the kidnapper's have more to them than meets the eye, this picture becomes bizarrely original. The main plot may have been a little tired to begin with, but once everything kicks into high gear, it is a genuine blast. Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall are the two standouts here as they drive this film into another level of fun. With a sweet undertone and some downright creepy and awesome sequences, this is not a film to miss. In the end, there are some slow moments that I felt could have been trimmed down, but aside from that, it is a great film. "Big Trouble in Little China" is a rare treat.
Super Reviewer
½ February 6, 2014
John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China is a top notch action comedy with some intense action, great performances, a fun and entertaining story and effective direction. Kurt Russell delivers yet another great performance here. The film has a highly entertaining premise, one that delivers for midnight movie fans. If you enjoy Carpenter's work, Big Trouble in Little China is a no brainer. The mix of action and comedy is well done, and John Carpenter manages to make yet another strong picture. This is a well made film, one that is sure to delight action fans looking for that pure 1980's flavor that period films had. In terms of story, the film has a well thought out script, and this is among one of Carpenter's finer films outside the horror genre. Upon its initial release, the film had a hard time finding an audience, and I think that's a great shame because, for me, John Carpenter is among my favorite directors, and with Big Trouble in Little China, he made an ambitious picture, on e that definitely captured key genre elements into one film to create an engrossing film, one that deserves much more praise. Than what it first garnered. Big Trouble in Little China may not be Carpenter's strongest directorial effort, but it's far from the worst. I really loved the film, and if you enjoy a fun, thrilling action packed film that is cheesy as much as it is eccentric, then this film is a must watch. Big Trouble in Little China is a film that is ambitious in scope, and it's one of Carpenter's most exhilarating works in the action genre. However, I still believe that Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from New York are his finest action films. Still, for an effective popcorn thrill ride, Big Trouble in Little China delivers.
Super Reviewer
½ June 9, 2006
A highly entertaining B movie from the 1980's. Not the greatest film John Carpenter has ever done, but it's still pretty fun. This movie has everything: sci-fi, kung-fu, fantasy, action, romance, comedy, and of course, Kurt Russell. This is a great flick to watch while chowing down on some popcorn and drinking a beer.

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.
Super Reviewer
½ June 15, 2008
Big Trouble in Little China is focused on a colorful cast of characters. Where else can you go toe to toe with a villain that will blind you by staring into his glowing eyes or the energy blasts from his mouth? Those powers are embodied in evil sorcerer Lo Pan memorably played by James Hong. He's flanked by The Three Storms (Rain, Thunder and Lightning) lesser sorcerers who look like they're wearing huge lamp shades on their heads. Their first appearance is a wonderful showdown that combines two warring gangs: the Wing Kong, commanded by Lo Pan and the Chang Sings (the "good" guys). I've never seen or heard so many thunderclaps and animated lightning bolts discharging from people's hands. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention those bizarre creatures. Words cannot accurately describe one I'll simply call the Floating Eyeball Monster. It must be seen to be truly appreciated. At times the narrative is a bit disjointed and difficult to follow. But in the end, none of that really matters because this is a picture that aims to simply entertain and largely succeeds. The tone is goofily tongue in cheek with many laughs sprinkled throughout sensational action sequences. I think the film's purpose is best encapsulated in this exchange:
Super Reviewer
August 3, 2010
Mediocrity has never been so entertaining, in another John Carpenter cheese fest, fresh for laughter and strange action packed scenes of ungodly tripe. The reason this Carpenter film works so well, is that it never takes itself extremely seriously. The film is meant to be a spoof on the martial arts films of the past, and yet it's a myriad of genres put together as well. The martial arts are really well done, but most of the time they are laugh out loud hilarious, as the facial expressions of the fighters reflect someone with digestive problems rather than a serious foe. The main character is that of Jack Burton, an ordinary truck driver hauling a load through San Francisco's Chinatown. Throughout the film he is painted as an ordinary guy, even when faced with danger. He frequently falls down, misses his enemy by inches, and gets knocked out by rubble. Still, he continues fighting, and his perseverance is the cornerstone to a true hero. The performances were genuine, though the dialogue was subsequently tailored for disaster. Russell is a bit callous, but certainly has empathy under the surface, and Cattrall's lines are plain annoying, ranging from desperate to spunky. Because the film is set in America but has the trappings of a Chinese kung fu film, we're given the best of both genres, a world between that of comical fight scenes, and the reasonable Average Joe common sense of Russell. It's funny, ridiculous, and full of bevy 80's special effects that will remind you of your childhood. All around a good time.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
May 5, 2011
One of the ironies of being in the film business is that when you finally get the chance to make your dream project, it often ends up being your worst film. In 1985 John Carpenter was on a roll, enjoying both the commercial success of Christine and the Oscar buzz for Starman. Having long dreamed of making a martial arts movie, he leapt at the chance to direct Big Trouble in Little China - a decision which ended his relationship with Hollywood, and ultimately resulted in one of his weakest films.

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.
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2010
This movie is stupid and cheesy, but for some reason it's also funny and enjoyable once in a while, so I'll just say it's okay.
Super Reviewer
June 12, 2010
Director John Carpenter made some excellent films during the 80's (The Thing, Halloween, Assault on Precinct 13, Prince of Darkness) but none more enjoyable than this hilarious over the top action-adventure.
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.
Wonderful entertainment.
Super Reviewer
½ April 16, 2010
Truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) gets sucked into a plot involving eastern sorcery in and under San Francisco's Chinatown district. A brilliant mix of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and a kung-fu movie with a blistering pace and eye-popping sets, costumes and effects.
Super Reviewer
November 16, 2009
Another one of those unbeatable match ups between Kurt Russell and John Carpenter. It's just such a goofy story, you can't help but fall in love with it. Kurt Russell knows how to be witty and an action star all at once. The thing that's great about his character is that he's able to screw up and still bounce back. The music and tone of the movie are so 80's, but so perfectly fitting for the movie. The action sequences are fun and really well done at the same time. This is easily the big inspiration for games like Mortal Combat, there's a character who is almost inseparable to Raiden. It's just a great movie that doesn't take itself to seriously and allows you to have fun with the amazing landscape and characters.
Super Reviewer
½ October 22, 2009
"They told Jack Burton to go to hell...and that's exactly where he's going!"

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.
Super Reviewer
June 1, 2007
"You know what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like this?" John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China is really something. Talk about an entertaining comedic action adventure.The story for this hour 40 minute picture may sound stupid, but it is pretty darn unique. Whether it is the comedy or the action, there is never a dull moment in this film. The dialogue for the characters are nicely written, which in turn makes them highly memorable.The martial arts choreography isn't of Jackie Chan or Jet Li caliber, but that doesn't make it any less fun to watch. The same can be said about the effects, although they aren't half bad.Kurt Russell was born to play Jack Burton and this is why he owns this film. Sure, there are some good villains in Lo Pan and the 3 storms: Thunder, Rain, and Raiden ... I mean Lightning. However it all comes back to the comedic Jack Burton. Victor Wong, Kim Catrall, Dennis Dun, and James Hong also put on good performances.What more is there to say? Big Trouble in Little China. Go see it.Jack Burton: What's in the flask, Egg? Magic potion?Egg Shen: Yeah.Jack Burton: Thought so, good. What do we do, drink it?Egg Shen: Yeah!Jack Burton: Good! Thought so.
Super Reviewer
½ September 10, 2009
In "Big Trouble in Little China," Jack (Kurt Russell) and Wang (Dennis Dun) go on a search for Wang's fiance. A sorcerer named Lo Pan (James Hong) wants to marry Wang's fiance because she has green eyes, even though she's Chinese. But finding Lo Pan and getting Wang's fiance back will be no easy task because they will have to go through other sorcerers, fight a lot of people, and survive many traps in order to do so. To give them some much needed help, Egg Shen (Victor Wong) teams up with them.
"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.
Super Reviewer
September 8, 2009
A fun, if not a little silly, action comedy with lots of Chinese mythology.
Super Reviewer
August 1, 2009
one of the greatest asian-influenced action films, big trouble in little china manages to catch on to the elusive thread which separates serious from seriously crap. the fact that a lot of the time the actors seem to be trying to keep themselves from laughing at each other helps the film from falling into the trap of taking itself too seriously
Super Reviewer
August 8, 2007
Best Carpenter flick by miles haha so cool, love Russell in it and love the look..LOVE IT. This film has everything you could want, its totally awesome in everyway and hits all the targets, faultless, inspired.
'have you payed your dues Jack?'....'yes sir the cheque is in the mail'
'everybody relax..Im here'
Super Reviewer
May 30, 2006
Jack Burton: You know what ol' Jack Burton says at a time like this?
Thunder: Who?
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?
Super Reviewer
½ September 27, 2008
chinese black magic topped with 80's cheese. it's alot of fun if u like kurt russell. thx for talkin me into this, doctor :P i still prefer escape from new york
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