Diego's Review of Big Trouble in Little China
If you make a bad movie deliberately, is it still a bad movie? This is the question asked by Big Trouble in Little China, a gleefully campy film that either pays homage to or makes fun of bad kung-fu B-movies. Featuring the wooden dialogue, bad performances, and ludicrous plotting that plagues the genre, this is one enormous inside joke for already initiated people who want nothing more than to see Kurt Russell kick the living shit out of various nasty-looking villains in Chinatown. And for that, I suppose the movie is worth something. This is definitely a triumph of form over content. Like The Fifth Element, it focuses so much on being silly and creative that it short-changes the audience when it comes to everything else that matters in a movie-- and then some.
Big Trouble in Little China is about a trucker (Russell) and his Chinese-American friend Wang-Chi, who are swept into a centuries-old equivalent of an Asian turf war when Wangh-Chi's girlfriend is kidnapped. It turns out that she's a rare Asian with green eyes (speaking truthfully here, people, no racism to be found) and can therefore lift a 3,000-year-old curse on a creepy Chinese emperor guy with long fingernails. DUH-DUH-DUUUUH! This is a premise on-par with Stargate when it comes to ridiculousness. Seriously, if you don't think that this is the stupidest shit you've ever read, get the fuck out of my face. And sure-- you can say that the movie is campy, corny, and silly on purpose-- but to answer my question at the beginning of the first paragraph, NO. If you make a shit movie deliberately, that does NOT change the fact that it is a shit movie. The end.
This movie does not try to be particularly creative, other than the fact that it is apparently ironically campy. It just sets up crazy stunt after crazy stunt with no hope for a coherent story, logic, or intelligence to the proceedings. It gets mind-numbing after a while, and frankly, that's a disappointment. Russell and John Carpenter have had so many good collaborations, and now they pump out this piece of shit? How lame. But save for a few impressive stunts and good set design, Big Trouble in Little China doesn't have much to offer audiences. It's very retro, very 80s, and INCREDIBLY cheesy-- none of which are compliments.
The dialogue in this movie is incredibly contrived, but yet again, it is done so on purpose. WHY? Carpenter has already proven himself capable of writing legitimately good dialogue and creating lovable characters. So what would be the point in writing dialogue so deliberately corny? It escapes me. Russell is given nothing to work with, and his delivery is so bland and cocky that it almost made me want to punch him in the nose. Meanwhile, Kim Cattrall as the shoehorned-in love interest for him ranks as one of the most annoying screen characters of all time. She is used as the ultimate vessel for wordy exposition. Seriously, I cannot emphasize enough how poorly written this movie is. It tries to pass off its glaring flaws as lovable quirks, but all it succeeds in doing is pissing off audiences who expected some fucking substance. "Ol' Jack always says... what the hell?" Really? Was that seriously the best they could do?
The fight sequences are, of course, just as corny and lame as the rest of the movie. The special effects are all over the place, and some of the fight sequences would feel more at home in a Mortal Kombat movie than a John Carpenter one. Every aspect of the special effects are famously over-the-top, from the ludicrous lightning battle sequence to the loyal guard who, upon seeing the death of his master, gets so angry his head inflates and explodes. Why in the good holy world would ridiculous shit like this ever be put to film? Sure, you can say "It's a send-up" or "It's ironic," but that does not forgive the astronomical number of sins this movie commits. It's ugly, campy, and a thoroughly unenjoyable experience.
Final Score for Big Trouble in Little China: 4/10 stars. Its sole saving grace is the fact that, somehow, it seems to know how stupid it really is. Maybe it's one some higher plane of understanding than I am. Maybe it was just so deep and meaningful, I couldn't quite grasp it. But I'm sorry-- I stopped paying attention to the proceedings when, in the words of Kurt Russell, "This Lo Pan character comes out of thin air in the middle of a goddamn alley while his buddies are flying around on wires cutting everybody to shreds, and he just stands there waiting for me to drive my truck straight through him with *light* coming out of his mouth!" So watch it if you want; maybe you'll see something in it I didn't. 83% of critics seem like they have.