Big Trouble in Little China - 1986
Thirty-Seven years after John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China was released, and despite the poor box office success at the time, it still has garnered a huge cult following. Boosting a great cast, lead by Kurt Russel and James Hong, a fast paced fight choreography, funny dialogue and a unique story, that can't be easily compared to any other movie. Let me sell it to you with a "simple" description of the plot... alright here we go:
Big Trouble in Little China, is about an American trucker, Jack Burton that gets mixed up in an ancient magical all out war on the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown. The war is triggered when his buddy's fiance is kidnapped, because she has... green eyes and that is what Lo Pan, a man turned ghost demon, needs to marry in order to regain his human form and break a 2,000 year old cursed.
I know same old story that has been put to screen time and time again. But the reason why this movie stands out from the rest is the acting, comedic timing and the fight choreography.
Kurt Russell, playing Jack Burton, is the ultimate audience surrogate as he stumbles along almost the entire movie not understanding a single thing that is happening around him, but never backing down. Kurt brings all the charisma in the world, delivering lines that would fall flat if they would have been delivered by any other actor, making Burton one of the most quotable movie characters of all time ("It's all in the reflexes"). Burton's pure confusion and anger (along with Russell's impeccable comedic timing) at the events happening around him, helps to ground the movie in reality and allows the audience to feel identified, as we are also (for the most part) confused by what is going on.
John Carpenter also provides a unique style to his movie, giving each of his characters a trademark look from Burton with his tank top and cowboy boots, the gangs with their trademark colors and weapons of choice and the Three Storms with their capes and huge straw hats. This helps the audience to easily identify them when the huge all out fights break out thought the movie. Carpenter is so confident in the actors and stunt men during the fight scenes that he rarely uses the quick cut edits to imply action, like they do in the Taken films. During the one of the final fight sequences, we get a great in air sword fight very reminiscent of what in later years Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon would make famous.
With our hero being so charismatic and brash, Carpenter needed a great villain and a great actor to portrait him. In comes Lo Pan, played by the great James Hong, an cursed man turned demon, who is just looking for love, you really can't blame him for all the deaths happening around his quest. He is imposing, mysterious and right out funny, specially during all the interactions between him and Burton. His explanation as to why it has taken him 2,000 years to find a woman to "fit the bill" is by far one of my favorite moments of this movie and Hong delivers it with a great dead pan tone.
Carpenter also utilize great practical effects thought this movie, from the make up on old Lo Pan, to the explosions during the fights and the guardian of Lo Pan uses to see everything. Allowing the movie to age well and hold up trough the years. But the most memorable use of practical effect in this movie, is the self destruction of one of the Three Storms, enjoy below:
Big Trouble in Little China is one of the most unique movies I have ever seen, providing a great escape from the stale Hollywood blockbusters we are getting now a days. Every time I watch this movie I go from laughing to confused to what the hell is happening on screen... and that's why I love movies.
Big Trouble in Little China is currently playing on Netflix, watch it.