The story follows Jack Burton (Russell), a trucker who drives a big rig with "The Pork-Chop Express" written in colorful, almost comic book-esque writing on the cargo area, and "Jack Burton Trucking" on the doors in the same (or very similar font). Kurt Russell actually had to learn to drive the truck to play this part, which I found quite interesting since he doesn't spend too much time actually in the truck. I appreciate Russell's work ethic, because for one of the scenes he actually had 104 degree fever, and still showed up to work and got the scene shot. Anyway, he beats his friend and restaurant owner, Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) in a high stakes card game. But before Wang can pay up, he has to pick up his soon-to-be wife, Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) from the airport. However, Wang's woman gets kidnapped by a Chinese street gang who call themselves "The Lords of Death". Long story short, Jack and Wang head down to Chinatown, (which is actually a set in downtown L.A.) with intents of bringing Suzee Pai back, and encounter a whole hell of a lot of KungFu action that Jack isn't prepared for. As it turns out, Jack and Wang got themselves involved in a war between two ancient Chinese societies full of deadly and powerful warriors. When "The Three Storms" show up, you can really see what kind of film it's going to be. "The Three Storms" are three ninjas, Thunder (Carter Wong), Rain (Peter Kwong), and Lightening (James Pax) who can control their weather element and use it against their enemies. Meanwhile, as I mentioned before, Jack is as clumsy as possible, and only seems to get by on mere luck and confidence. There's a few times when I was certain he was going to screw things up, but somehow he comes out on top. Jack teams up with a powerful sorcerer, and the leader of the Wong Kong, Lo Pan (James Hong). Together, along with reporter and Jacks love interest, Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), they must stop the film's main villain and sorcerer, Egg Shen (Victor Wong), who intends to sacrifice a green eyed Chinese girl (Miao Yin) in order to free himself from a ancient curse that's doomed him to being an old man in a wheelchair. Once the curse is lifted, he will be young and powerful again, but one girl isn't enough. He is able to get his hands on Gracie thanks to a hairy creature dubbed "Sewer Monster" in the script, which is basically the Chinese version of Bigfoot. And Egg Shen wants to sacrifice her as a means to break his curse instead (because she also has green eyes), and marry Miao Yin to keep as his own. When talking about the character of Egg Shen, Russell said, "Just as an actor, I think probably more people have talked to me about Victor Wong as Egg Shen, out of Big Trouble in Little China than any other actor in it. And I think he was pretty special." Anyhow, Shen's evil plans lead to a final showdown of magic and violence including guns, KungFu fighting, and things like heads exploding. Jack even gets some knife throwing action in and gets to save the day. It ends on a happy note, and what I love about it is that it never goes cliche and gets too mushy. This isn't a love story, it's unconventional and funny as hell. I really liked the fact that Jack doesn't kiss Gracie at the end. It keeps the film from treading those romantic waters that I try to avoid in my movies, while also keeping it fresh. What really helped the concept of the movie go down a bit easier for me is how strong the cast and characters are. Even the villains are likable and amusing, and it's pretty well acted too. Someone once said that what there isn't any "real threat", so it's hard to buy into all of the action and story. Even Carpenter and Russell agreed with this point, as I do as well, but regardless, the film still works just fine. The very last shot shows that the "Sewer Monster" that we only saw briefly while kidnapping Gracie for Egg Shen has survived the battle, and is in back of Jack's truck and ready to attack. I'm glad that the film ended where it did and left it up to the viewers imagination. It begs the question of did Jack beat the monster and survive on dumb luck again, or did he go down without the help of Lo Pan and Wang? If I were to answer with my opinion, I think Jack's wit would allow him to persevere.
The action is visually stunning. Due to Jack being stubborn, he constantly finds himself in a situation that it seems he can't get out of. Luckily, he has Wang and Lo Pan to constantly have his back. I found the action scenes to be very old school and shot in a classic, traditional way that both had fun with the KungFu genre, and played around with it. If I had to pick a favorite scene of action or violence, I would have to say it's when Egg Shen and Lo Pan have a showdown using their sorcery against one another. It's photographed very well, and the vibrant colors kept me interested in watching. The crazy flips and choreographed fancy moves really put Big Trouble in Little China in the KungFu genre. I mean if Kung Pow: Enter the Fist can be considered KungFu, then I'd definitely put this in that pile too. If you watch closely in the scene where Egg Shen sticks the (retractable) needle in Miao's arm, you can see how he accidentally hurts actress Suzee Pai as she winces from his getting carried away in character and actually stabbing her a bit. On top of the accidents and injuries that happened to the cast on set, Kurt Russel also almost got injured towards the end when a squib goes off too early right above his head. If you watch the scene where Jack and the survivors are running to get into Jack's truck to leave, notice the last gunshot that hits the wall as Jack's running to his drivers-side door. That's the premature squib that almost caused the man more pain (not to mention that he almost went blind from getting paint in his eyes during the sewer scene later in the film, and still continued to show up for work) Luckily, the only repercussion was Carpenter giving the special FX guy responsible, an ear full.
After watching Big Trouble in Little China, I came to the conclusion that Carpenter and Russell do great comedy together. I could tell by the cover art that it was going to be a bit goofy. The opening scene of Lo Pan explaining the incidents that occur throughout the film, as well as praise Jack Burton is actually an additional scene that wasn't intended to start the film. However, I'm glad that it starts the way it does, because it builds up how epic it all seems, and then makes you laugh when you see how silly it all really is. I laughed out loud several times! I honestly never knew Kurt Russell could be so funny, and after hearing the commentary with him and Carpenter, I've come to realize that the sense of humor is genuine, and he's a very bright and comedic guy. Jack's the "class clown" of the film, but the whole cast does a wonderful job of keeping the laughs and story progression steady. Something that I found funny is that Carpenter said the studio couldn't differentiate between the good guys and bad guys in the Chinese battle. The confusion is actually intentional, for all means of the story to unfold later on. One of the funniest scenes to me is where Jack goes backwards downhill in the wheelchair. However, I was amazed to hear that it was shot on a straight floor and that the set was actually just built at an angle to give the illusion of Jack going downhill. Movie trickery man, I'm tellin' you...
Being honest, I've already watched the film twice and I can see myself digging it off of my DVD racks many more times in the future to come. Now I'm the guy who's telling people about it and turning them on to it. Who knows, I may even watch it a third time this weekend, and get my sister and fiance to give it a chance. I honestly, and wholeheartedly think that if you know what to expect going into Big Trouble in Little China, you'll absolutely like it. Sit back, relax and have a good laugh; that's what this movie is all about. And, the fun the cast and crew had making it shows in the final product, because the overall energy of the film is very high. If you're like me and haven't seen this one yet, I recommend you wait until you have a nice quiet evening to yourself and give it a watch, like I did. I liked it more than I anticipated. There's no hurtful criticism that I can personally slam this movie for. Just know that it doesn't take itself too seriously, and is meant for entertainment value only.
Nice one, I love this movie! I remember seeing this as a kid in the '80's. It really was the golden era for the action comedy. I just bought the blu ray a few months ago and have watched it numerous times.ReplyDelete
Keep up the good work!
Thanks Mike! I appreciate the kind words. I loved it, man. I'm going to rewatch it again the next time I load up on pizza and beer (laugh).Delete
This movie is classic. I saw it in the theater and like you, had no idea what to expect. Carpenter made a film that crossed so many genres. My second favorite after The Thing.ReplyDelete
Visiting from Cinemarvellous - new follower.
Welcome Alex, and thank you! It's an absolute classic! I'm ashamed that I'm just now seeing it! I definitely agree that The Thing is their best work as a team. That's one of the greatest horror films of all time.Delete
One of my favorite films. Me and my wife watch it all the time. It's a pity Carpenter and Russell didn't do another film together, something non horror. Both obviously had a blast making this. Agreed with you too on the opening scene, I love it and it's the perfect way to start the film.ReplyDelete
Man, I had a feeling you're a fan! The opening is totally perfect! It leads you into thinking 'oh shit, I this might be epic' (laugh). I'm really glad I finally got caught up on watching this one. Since I've seen it, I've been able to partake in several unique and genuinely awesome conversations about it.Delete
Great review! Yeah I remember watching this movie as a kid, and again when it came on Netflix. Such a surreal experience and a hilarious one! I don't see studios making movies like this one again.ReplyDelete
Makes sense the wheelchair scene was shot on flat surface, It looks like Russell is on the chair and not a stunt double, plus, he's not wearing a helmet and on a wheelchair going backwards on a hill- there's too much risk of tipping over and busting his head. Great camera trickery, I wouldn't have guessed it.