Big Trouble In Little China — Movie Review #JPMN

Released on Fourth Of July weekend in 1986,
this martial arts action fantasy film was a commercial disappointment, earning back
only half of its $20-million dollar budget. Directed by the inconsistently successful,
but nonetheless influential John Carpenter – this is a unique and ambitious bit of filmmaking.
Originally envisioned as a western, the story follows an American trucker who gets dragged
into a centuries-old mystical and magical battle in the underworld of San Francisco’s
China Town, in search of a kidnapped girl, and of course, his semi truck. In the lead
role, Russell is perfectly charming, but given the circumstances of his surroundings, his
incredulity is often too subtle for the over-the-top script, even remarking, “I’m a reasonable
guy. But, I’ve just experienced some very unreasonable things.” As a result, there’s
no one to really relate to in this picture, no one for the audience to truly sympathize
with or even understand. The 99 minute story starts off normal enough… but when three
Asian dudes wearing lampshades fly down on lightning bolts and start murdering people,
things take a turn for the completely bizarre. Indeed, this now cult-classic plays out almost
like a live action cartoon, and remains difficult to take seriously. The R-rated narrative also
moves faster than its own exposition, which is delivered in nearly every other line of
dialogue… leaving the audience left to figure out what’s going on after it happened. One
60-second sequence has our heroes escaping a mysterious flooding elevator, only to find
themselves in a room of dead bodies where one of the lampshade guys is beating up Russell
with his magic, all before the impossibly old wheelchair bound villain lectures him
on the truth. To say this movie is strange and unpredictable would be an understatement.
A young and beautiful Kim Catrall is feisty and fun to watch… but there’s nothing behind
her performance, she just rattles off ridiculous plot points without any emotional connection
to them. The rest of the lesser known, but still talented cast includes character actors
like Dennis Dun, James Hong, and Victor Wong. As with all his films, Carpenter provides
the score himself, a sort of ominous drone that pulses throughout the quickly paced picture.
The wide anamorphic shots are filmed with vibrant colors, dark shadows, and plenty of
cool VFX work – all aided by wonderfully ostentatious costumes and art design. Although this is
a well-made adventure with lots of neat ideas and concepts… it just isn’t for me. The
stranger things got, the less I understood, or cared about the story. I certainly can
understand its tongue-in-cheek appeal with others though – but seeing it twice was enough
for me. “Big Trouble In Little China”, “So completely weird, it’s unappealing.” Now,
here are your thoughts from the YouTube comments. Well, I was definitely out-voted on this one,
a NINE and a FOUR for “Big Trouble In Little China”… you praised this film’s inventiveness,
and cite it as an 80’s classic, scoring it an AWESOME. While the movie delivers on its
name, there’s really no way else to say it, I just don’t really get this movie… I’m
scoring it a MEH.

16 Replies to “Big Trouble In Little China — Movie Review #JPMN

  1. Spent my teenage years watching Shaw Brother's over the top martial arts films late at night.  So many times I wondered, what if East met West (and better lip synchs)?  Big Trouble in Little China solved it.  Perfectly fun movie, a "Martial Arts Goonies" if you will.  I guess you just have to get into groove of the times.  This movie actually pairs well with Enter the Dragon, one serious, the other flippant.  But they really do work well together for a fun MA night.

  2. Yeah, I would have to rate it quite high as well. I've seen it many, many times and love it to death. I'd give it a 7.

  3. It's a shame that you didn't like this film because I really enjoyed it, but hey it is a cult classic and not everyone is going to like cult films.

  4. I really enjoy this film. I love films like this and Army of Darkness, terribly goofy but fantastically fun to watch. I'd give it an 8. Great review!

  5. Haha believability factor should have been a -10. I enjoyed this film a lot yet completely understand all of your criticisms, the film is ANYTHING but flawless. My main problem was the plot, which I still don't understand even after seeing the film countless times.

  6. "I just didn't get this one." Anytime that phrase is uttered, people are unimpressed with the result. Completely understandable, but still doesn't quite calm the fanatic fanboi in us all 😀 "Y U NO LIKE IT!!!!!"

  7. I just watched this movie recently and can't help but notice how the movie draws you in thinking there would be a white-brawny protagonist that heroically saves the day but actually, his asian friend/sidekick…. actually becomes the hero, and gets his beautiful dame. This movie is great in that it defies stereotypical troupes in a fun atmosphere, that i believe, celebrates chinese culture in a magical, action-packed mythological dooms-day journey. Its wacky, its cheesy, its funny, and honestly, its amazing 80s film making. I originally cringed at the idea of this movie, but instead left with faith in humanity for it's inclusivity of asian culture and breaking molds. thumbs up

  8. "I just didn't get it".
    I would also bet that you were fooled into thinking that Kurt Russel was the leading hero of the movie right?
    Well, newsflash… He's not, Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) is.
    And heck, Raiden from mortal kombat was born because of this movie.

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