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4 reviews, 60 user ratings

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Big Trouble in Little China
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by Duke of Fluke

"The best kung-fu action comedy ghost story romance ever made..."
4 stars

If you look at the names "John Carpenter" and "Kurt Russell" from a certain angle and in the right light, you'll be able to see a mysterious warping of the letters so that they read "Cult Classic". And with the exception of "The Thing", their movies have the added side-effect of confusing the staff in your local video store - they don't know which shelf to put them on.

It's not that they're stupid down at "Big Choice Video", it's just that the Kurt n' Carpenter collaborations are kinda tricky to pigeon-hole. Take the other two, "Escape From New York/LA". Show me a video store with a cult futuristic action horror comedy B-movie section, and I'll ask you to show me the nearest available house - because I'm gonna want to move as close to this mythical store as I can. I imagine it will be called "Valhalla Video".

"Big Trouble In Little China" causes the same problem. From the start, it appears to deliver your standard range of cut-out-and-keep characters. It's the story of Jack Burton (played by Russell)... sorry, make that the story of stereotypical truck-drivin, hard-talkin, love-em-and-leave-em asshole Jack Burton (played by Russell), standard rogue and typical wandering hero who, as we join him, is dispensing un-needed advice down his CB radio as if he were the bastard son of the Rubber Duck hisself. Burton is on his way to meet old friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), who is everything a good sidekick should be - honorable, honest, brave and trustworthy. After a night of cards, they set off to pick up Dun's fiancee at the airport and land themselves in the Big Trouble that we're promised by the title, after the girl is kidnapped by a cheesy-looking gang, the "Lords of Evil" (Bob will know who I mean). Also waiting at the airport is arch busybody Gracie Law (Kin Cattrall) who's initial interest is in a slavery sub-plot that never really goes anywhere, and who becomes Burton's by-the-numbers love interest pretty swiftly. Picking up various enemies and friends along the way, Burton's truck gets added to the list of items thieved by the baddies, and they set to get even (and their stuff/women back). So far, so predictable.

What keeps the movie going are a combination of new angles on what is essentially an old, old tale. For one, the baddies come in more different guises than you can shake a shitty stick at. Eclectic to say the least, our heroes come up against guns (a lot), gangs (2), demi-gods (3) and monsters (at least 3). Led by Lo Pan (featuring the frightening vocal range of James Hong) is a centuries-old Chinese Sorceror - and you can bet Stallone and Arhnoldt haven't come up against many of them. Lo Pan is excellent in both incarnations - that of crotchety old relic in a wheelchair and 7 foot floating evil wizard - as he attempts to marry a girl with green eyes (the fiancee) to appease the god that revoked his Evil Wizard's licence and imprisoned him in his frail body. Attending the villain are 3 chinese warriors, the incarnations of Wind, Thunder and Lightning (presumably Rain was cut from the script for certification reasons) who go around doing their master's bidding by frying them in nasty ways.

The character of Burton is also a breath of fresh air, and not unlike Indiana Jones, in that neither of them are perfect. In fact Burton goes through most of the movie being completely rubbish, either missing out on key fights by being in the wrong place, knocking himself out by shooting out a vital part of the ceiling above him or trying to out-menace the villains whilst wearing a delightful shade of lipstick. But he never changes his tune, there are no deep revelations or switches of direction here - by the end of the movie he's still the opinionated prick he was when we met him. And what's more, he manages to fulfill the most important part of being a hero - if you're gonna win - WIN.

Too many times have I seen the hero triumph with a last gasp bullet, a final twist out of the path of danger as the clock stops on the last few seconds. The movies that are the most satisfying are the ones where victory is undisputed (see for example, The Sting, Rounders or, if you're feeling really brave, Quigley Down Under). At the end of this movie, there can be no doubt that Burton was the man who came out on top, lipstick or no lipstick.

It's like this. You take a good movie, and then you pick four or five more. Discarding the boring bits, you mix up the scenes, characters and ideas that you want, until you come out with something resembling a storyline, and then you get to work on it. It doesn't have to star Kurt Russell, it doesn't even need to have the long-haired Kung Fu guy in it (you know the guy I mean, he's in Die Hard eating Mars bars, Lethal Weapon electricuting Mel and this movie wielding butcher's knives). It is an easy and obvious method, that much is true, but it's got to be a better way of making movies than simply remaking movies that you don't think people have seen, hmmm?

So, to sum up, this is what fun is. To mis-quote another Carpenter classic, Big Trouble has come to kick ass and chew gum. But unlike so many other movies, it doesn't run out of gum.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=2024&reviewer=190
originally posted: 11/25/99 00:15:22
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2015 Boston SciFi Film Festival For more in the 2015 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/21/19 Blobbo Jobbo Much fun for Blobbo. 5 stars
11/15/16 RayB Brilliantly entertaining! Lo Pan is dark and cool... 5 stars
8/24/16 Cliff Bst send u of Kung fu and Westerns. My personal DVD's keep disappearing. 5 stars
7/18/16 Bamer4127 One of the most wonderfully hokey, deceptively hilarious romps in cinematic history! 5 stars
5/19/16 Jason 80's Kurt Russell + martial arts 5 stars
5/04/16 David Hollingsworth A campy and fun cult classic that is still entertaining, 5 stars
3/02/12 R.W. Welch Off-the-wall actioner, moderately entertaining. 3 stars
10/01/10 bored mom The Greatest American Action-Adventure-Comedy-Drama-Fantasy-Mystery-Thriller Classic Ever. 5 stars
7/16/08 DJ AKO Saw this when I was a young girl and is still my favorite movie of all time!!!! 5 stars
2/02/08 MP Bartley I'd take this over Kill Bill every day of the week and twice on Tuesdays. 5 stars
3/13/07 Grizzle Best. Movie. Ever. 5 stars
3/04/07 Mel Howard's Floating Head Great flick. Makes me all nostalgic. Plus, no one can defeat Kurt's mullet. Not even Tango. 5 stars
11/02/06 AJ Muller if you don't agree that this is one of the best flicks EVER, it's okay - you're just stupid 5 stars
10/04/06 K.Sear How senseless can one movie be? Plus, Lo-Pan is easily the most anticlimactic villain ever 1 stars
9/12/06 Booksworm Has pretty much everything I like in an action movie 5 stars
7/25/06 Quigley what is wrong with you people? this movie was downright awful! scum galore! 1 stars
12/14/05 deadfishrman this movie is great you must watch! 4 stars
10/07/05 Klondo Thunder is my favorite Storm. He looks like Van Damme. 5 stars
8/24/05 ES the pinnacle of the so bad its cool action movie genre- Jack is the man 5 stars
1/15/05 Jeff Anderson THIS FILM RULES, RULES, RULES!!! Arguably J. Carpenter's and K. Russell's greatest film. 5 stars
11/13/04 Samuel Its all in the reflexes 5 stars
9/14/04 John Stuwert it was the BOMB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
7/18/04 Stevo "Have you paid you're dues yet?" Who is a better hero than Burton? 4 stars
7/07/04 Lord Durvok 2 Great fun - a world of entertainment. 4 stars
4/10/04 American Slasher Goddess Enjoyable and hugely fun. 5 stars
2/08/04 Whatevr I don't care what the critis say. This movie rules! 5 stars
8/11/03 Kyle No Andrew, special effects DON'T make the movie. But Kurt Russel kicking ass does. 4 stars
5/06/03 Eeon A highly enjoyable movie. 5 stars
4/17/03 Vimmy mardousch a campy classic. not one for humourless wankers, though. 5 stars
4/13/03 Monkey Boy LO PAN RULES! Great action flick! 5 stars
4/10/03 kurt matthews one of the best movies in the world, rent or buy it! pure cheeze, its all in the reflexes 5 stars
3/19/03 Jack Sommersby Russell's outstanding, but the film is way too broad and grating. 2 stars
7/11/02 KMG Pretty good, pretty cool 4 stars
6/18/02 Charles Tatum Not Carpenter's strongest 3 stars
2/26/02 Alan Smithee The DVD is fantastic. My 2nd favorite John C. film (1st being The Thing). 5 stars
2/15/02 Martin Yates The best fantasy comedy martial arts action adventure sci-fi horror buddy movie of all time 5 stars
11/22/01 Andrew Carden Special Effects Don't Always Make The Movie. 1 stars
11/11/01 Gracy Lionheart One of the funkiest movies I have seen. I have loved this movie since I was a kid. 4 stars
10/26/01 faididi Cheesy fast paced action adventure with Cantonese humour. 4 stars
9/02/01 Butterbean Kurt Russel's best work in this delightfully cheezy flick. 5 stars
8/26/01 Gumshoe A classic in its own style 5 stars
8/05/01 E-Funk This is the pork chop express saying: if you don't like this movie, fuck yourself! 5 stars
7/07/01 Lo Ren One Fantastic Hunk of Cheese 5 stars
6/13/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) A genre-blender, and I LOVE those... 4 stars
5/27/01 chickpea one of, if not the best, classic BAD movie. Beautifully stupid. 5 stars
5/15/01 Rungekutta13 Amazing movie. Hell of a good time. Watch it. Now. 5 stars
4/19/01 Corbin Dallas a 80's fantasy classic with The Dark Crystal, Last Unicorn and Labyrinth 5 stars
2/25/01 Destruction Worker Awesomely awesome awesomeness. 5 stars
11/17/00 Skeets A movie to view on a "dark and stormy night" just for the fun of watching a movie. 4 stars
9/29/00 Jed An alright movie it is no clasic but it is better than J.C's "Vampires". 3 stars
7/18/00 Naushad Khanji A fine piece of entertainment. 4 stars
6/04/00 Adrian Byrne Now it is wonderful "kitsch"; then it was an unpretentious action. Who didn't love Jack?!?! 4 stars
4/17/00 Jed Better than some of the other crud carpenter made. 3 stars
2/15/00 RoNiN one of my favorite films 5 stars
1/25/00 Chris Whitney yah baby 5 stars
12/04/99 Eric S. Solidly entertaining and pretty humorous, but the action scenes are too sluggish 3 stars
11/25/99 the Grinch Hail yeah! 'Bout time this movie got some respect! 4 stars
7/07/99 Ben Leostein Rating: ** (out of ****) Category: "Average" 3 stars
5/08/99 The Bomb 69 gets better with age, must like campy humor though 5 stars
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  17-Jan-1986 (PG-13)


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