Big Trouble in Little China
Big Trouble in Little China
1986. Directed by John Carpenter.
A modern western martial arts fairy tale, Big Trouble in Little China is one of Carpenter's best efforts and a film that creates one of the most unique and hilarious mythologies ever brought to the big screen.
Jack Burton is a red blooded American fish out of water who is thrown into the middle of a cosmic showdown between the forces of good and evil on the streets of Chinatown. When his best friend's fiance Mao Yin is kidnapped, it triggers the beginning of a kung fu apocalypse and it's up to good old Jack and his allies to save the day.
This film is just flat out amazing. W.D. Richter's script treatment is full of instantly quotable lines that stand the test of time and elicit smile inducing exchanges throughout. Carpenter's steady direction and moving of the pieces on the board manages to harness all of the volatile and unpredictable elements of the plot into a coherent film that still retains many mysteries upon it's conclusion.
Dean Cundley's cinematography is undisciplined and it only helps the vibe. This is a powder keg of action. The fight scenes are clumsy, brutal, and overly flashy, harmonizing with the larger than life tempest that Carpenter purposely lets out of the bottle. Steve Mirkovich's editing compliments this, capturing the frenzy of swords and spells along with the hilarious blunders of Burton en media res.
Ken Chases makeup is superb, bringing the immortal Lo Pan to life in various incarnations and simultaneously mimicking the Geisha and other oriental lynch pins to weave together the film's surreal atmosphere. George Nelson's sets are to die for, creating a flimsy dichotomy between the world above and the neon nightmare below.
Carpenter's score is on point as always, creating instantly addictive tunes that you find yourself rewinding constantly in your head afterwards.
This is a small film with huge, mythic ideas. Gods walk the streets of Little China, playing their shadow games while the everyman goes about his business. The magic is anytime Kurt Russell is on screen. As he tumbles into the realm of the fantastic, the larger than life story falls to the background and the saga of Jack Burton is the main event. Filled with amazing performances by Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, and Victor Wong, this film never let's up and you honestly don't want it to ever stop.
Big Trouble in Little China has gained a cult following and upon revisit is now one of the most cherished films of the 80's and one of Carpenter's most respected works. Upon my recent rewatch, none of this mattered. I was too busy laughing and cheering to care about the depth or ramifications. I can't think of a higher compliment to give.