Logline: A wise-cracking truck driver becomes ensnared in a centuries-old battle in Chinatown involving black magic and a 2000-year-old magician named Lo Pan.
John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China was a critical and commercial failure when it was released in the summer of 1986 but has gained a huge cult following in the years since its release. After the film bombed at the box office, Carpenter decided he had had enough of Hollywood and returned to his independent filmmaking roots. While I respect Big Trouble in Little China for what it is, I do not particularly like the film.
A fantasy action film in which anything goes, the film takes all the conventions and cliches of martial arts movies and turns them on their head. The result is something of an oddity. The film starts off promising but quickly becomes repetitive and all over the place. Kim Cattrall is pretty wooden and Dennis Dun’s one-liners become annoying rather quickly. Kurt Russell, on the other hand, is pretty enjoyable as the non-traditional hero Jack Burton who is endlessly quotable. “This is gonna take crackerjack timing.” As a whole though, the characters are poorly developed and uninteresting. Despite my ambivalent feelings toward the film, I admire the production design. The fight scenes are quite impressive and have the movement and fluidity that the fights in Escape from New York (1981) lacked.
Hollywood never turns down a chance to remake older films and a remake of Big Trouble in Little China is looming on the horizon with Dwayne Johnson set to star as Jack Burton. Despite its now very positive reputation, Big Trouble in Little China does little for me. Overall, it is a disappointing spectacle that favors style over substance.
Rating (out of ****): **1/2