Big Trouble in Little China (1986)


I’m a Reasonable Guy, But I’ve Just Experienced Some Very Unreasonable Things

Today’s movie is one that I guess I’ve seen before.  I’m basing that mainly on the fact that I already reviewed it on Netflix.  But, if it’s true that I’ve seen this movie before, I could tell you nothing about it.  So when Jake was trying to get a handle on my movie tastes and suggested it, I was more than happy to oblige.  It took me a little bit of time to finally receive the movie from Netflix, but now I have and I can see what I actually think of Big Trouble in Little China, written by W.D. Richter, Gary Goldman, and David Z. Weinstein, directed by John Carpenter, and starring Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall, Suzee Pai, James Hong, Carter Wong, Peter Kwong, James Pax, Victor Wong, Donald Li, Kate Burton, Al Leong, Gerald Okamura, and Jerry Hardin.

Truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) arrives in San Francisco to gamble with his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun).  He then accompanies him to the airport to pick up his fiancée Miao Yin (Suzee Pai).  While at the airport, he also meets Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) who is there to pick up her friend.  Even though she shuts down his advances, he still jumps in to help when Gracie’s friend is attacked by a Chinese street gang called the Lords of Death.  Unable to take Gracie’s friend, they take Miao Yin instead, with the intention of selling her as a sex slave.  Jack and Wang go to find her and get caught in the middle of a turf war that is then interrupted by 4 Mortal Kombat characters: three Raiden lookalikes named Thunder (Carter Wong), Rain (Peter Kwong), and Lightning (James Pax), and a Shang Tsung lookalike named Lo Pan (James Hong).  They take Miao Yin because her green eyes mean that she can be sacrificed to break Lo Pan’s curse and give him physical form again.

I’m charmed by this movie.  It’s aged, to be sure, but it’s aged fairly well.  The story of the movie is equal parts goofy and fun, but at least it’s intentional on both counts.  It includes many familiar parts, but it’s really hard to call this movie very typical.  We’ve seen the damsel in distress movies before, we’ve seen the hapless hero triumphing over the ancient evil, and we’ve seen martial arts movies.  Put them all together and they can become extremely silly and campy, but make themselves an entertaining little cult hit.  Most of the moments that were intended to be funny were kind of slapsticky in action scenes, but they never felt like they were trying too hard.  I thought a couple of the lines in the movie were pretty clever too.  There was one part in the movie when Gracie said that she couldn’t go into a location because her face was too recognizable to the bad people and later, when she was saying she couldn’t come into another location, Jack said, “I know.  There’s something wrong with your face.”  Some of the dialogue didn’t work for me, just because a lot of them seemed to throw exposition in rather bluntly.  Some of the characters actually decided it would save time to throw their personality profile from eHarmony in with their introduction, like when Gracie said, “You know I’m always sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong,” just to get it out of the way.  It’s nice to be able to figure out the characters quickly, but it makes the dialogue clunky.  It didn’t happen that often though, and the rest of the dialogue was fine.  And the look of the movie actually holds up pretty well.  The visual effects would be lackluster by today’s standards, but this movie was made in 1986, and they’re pretty interesting by those standards.  There was a lot of magic going on in the movie from lightning that characters would ride into a scene to light coming out of people’s eyes to two wizards battling by shooting light at each other that clashes and then turns into a scene of avatars doing battle for them.  All of it worked pretty well.  The supernatural creatures they created were pretty interesting as well.  There was a floating ball of eyes that seemed right out of Dungeons and Dragons, and some troll creature that looked like Rahzar from the Ninja Turtles movie.  I don’t know how they allowed the close ups on Gracie’s eyes through.  She was supposed to have green eyes for the role and Kim Cattrall has brown eyes.  Being no particular Kim Cattrall fan, there’s only one way that I would have that information: the really obvious contacts.  Computer graphics probably weren’t good enough or cheap enough at the time to fix that in post, but there’s another option: not showing a close up on her eyes!  I wasn’t paying that close of attention until you forced me to.  The action was kind of hit and miss with me.  There were plenty of action scenes in the movie, but the actual fist fight parts weren’t that convincing or interesting.

None of the performances in the movie really seemed to require too much out of the actors, but they were performed well.  Kurt Russell did an acceptable job as the cocky but none too bright hero.  Dennis Dun did a fine enough job delivering some humor and a good deal of the martial arts for the movie.  James Hong did a good job as the bad guy in the movie, but I just can’t hear his voice anymore and not think of Po’s father from Kung Fu Panda.  And it’s hard to be scary when you’re saying, “Noodle, don’t noodle.”

Big Trouble in Little China isn’t what I’d call a good movie.  Its story is a combination of basic ideas, it features aging graphics, and some of the dialogue is a little blunt.  But the movie still manages to be fun with a good amount of action, some clever dialogue, and overall silly fun mood.  I’m comfortable saying this movie is worth a watch.  It’s a classic cult movie and it holds up fairly well.  Big Trouble in Little China gets “May the wings of liberty never lose a feather” out of “Ol’ Jack always says … what the hell?”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

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