Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

When making a delivery to Chinatown San Francisco, Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) helps a friend rescue his captured fiancé.

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence and language.

Fun Fact: Kurt Russell has said that he wasn’t sure about starring in this film since he had been in a string of bombs beforehand. John Carpenter told him it didn’t matter because he just wanted to make the movie with him in it.

John Carpenter is one talented individual as he is a film maker and a musician. He is known for his sci-fi and horror films, so this was a different creative direction. The film’s script was originally written to be a western based in the 1880’s, but the studio commissioned a re-write to modernize the story. After that was done filming was rushed to make a certain release date that left Carpenter unsatisfied with how things were ran that he went back to independent filmmaking. The film was a box office bomb but has gained a cult following since its release.

There is one word to describe Big Trouble In Little China and that word is fun. It’s over the top in a good way. It’s a different creative direction from Carpenter and it’s lighthearted. Carpenter had wanted to make a martial arts film and I think it paid off with the final product. Long time Carpenter collaborator Kurt Russell stars as Jack Burton. Burton is a wise cracking truck driver that meets up with a friend when he is making a delivery. Burton’s friend played by Dennis Dun is set to meet up with his fiancé. His fiancé however is kidnapped being forced to marry an ancient sorcerer who requires a woman with green eyes so he can be released from a centuries old curse. Sounds ridiculous right? The thing here is that it works because the film doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s one of those movies that you can get a group of friends and have a great time watching it. It has a nice blend of action and comedy to balance it out. The unfortunate thing is that this film didn’t do too well at the box office, so we didn’t get to see more of Jack Burton. It’s sad because Kurt Russell is great as this character and it’s one of the rare times that I wanted to see a sequel to a movie. The thing is that Russell’s character isn’t even the main character, it’s Dennis Dun’s which was fine with me.

The technical aspects of the film have some good to them and some mixed reactions from me. The best parts of the technical aspect are the production design. You can tell that quite a bit of money was spent to create Chinatown. The scenes in the underground areas are unique and stylish. You feel like you’re in Chinatown and I loved seeing all the statues in place. The costume and makeup departments did a great job as well. The makeup on James Hong as the sorcerer is fantastic. The costumes on some of the characters were inspiring. Now I can see where Mortal Kombat got the inspiration for the Raiden character. There is a creature in this film and while I give credit to the work on the costume, the creature looks laughable. I know it’s the direction of the film to be lighthearted, but I felt like it was Harry from Harry And The Henderson’s making a cameo in this film. One minute he looks like a frail old man and the next he looks like a menacing villain. The special effects on the other hand are a mixed bag. Some of theme for an 80’s film looks decent and hold up. On the hand some of them do not as Carpenter had gone on to say that he felt the studio that handled the effects had too much going on to really focus on this film. There is a floating creature that appears, and it just didn’t look that great. Cinematography wise we get some clean shots and the action is focused. The cameras are at the right angles to make the action scenes look clear.

As of all Carpenter films, the music is awesome. I have a guilty pleasure for synth music so I’m always going to get into his music. In fact, I’ve been listening to songs from the film while writing this review. The thing is, as a musician, Carpenter is underrated. He has made some terrific themes and other music to his films. I just followed him on Spotify, so I suggest that you do the same.

Overall, Big Trouble In Little China is a fun film. Kurt Russell leads the cast as Jack Burton and it’s a shame that we didn’t get to see more of this character in more films. The sets look fantastic and you can tell the money mostly went to the technical aspects of the film. The effects are a mixed bag, but most of them hold up well today. The action scenes are shot well, and it isn’t a mess to look at. This is a nice blend of comedy and action that makes the film fun to watch. If you ever have the chance check it out with a few friends and have a great time.

Verdict: Hit


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