Big Trouble in Little China
U.S.A. / 1986
Directed by John Carpenter
Starring
Kurt Russell
Kim Cattrall
James Hong
Color / 98 Minutes / PG-13
Format: DVD (R1 - NTSC / 2-disc set)
20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment
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Review by
Brian Lindsey
 
7
    10   10 = Highest Rating  
John Carpenter's mid-'80s homage to kung fu flicks and old-fashioned adventure serials was a good 10 years ahead of its time naturally, it bombed at the box office. But Big Trouble in Little China would go on to become a cult favorite on home video and cable. And deservedly so, for a very simple reason. It's fun.
Kurt Russell stars as mullet-haired, truck drivin' good ol' boy Jack Burton a well-meaning, likable clod whose opinion of himself greatly exceeds his abilities. This provides the source for much of the film's humor, as this 'everyman' Joe Six-pack (with a mullet) finds himself hurled into a fantasy world of supernatural forces and magical kung fu combat. Fortunately Jack isn't alone as he squares off against an evil 5,000-year-old sorcerer (James Hong) who rules a subterranean netherworld beneath the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown. Joining him in an increasingly outrageous series of adventures is an eclectic, unlikely group of heroes, played by a winning supporting cast: Dennis Dun, as Jack's restaurant-owning buddy Wang; Kim Cattrall (HBO's Sex in the City) as plucky community activist Gracie Law; Kate Burton as in-over-her-head reporter Margo; Donald Lee's smarmy but game maitre d', Eddie; and Victor Wong as Egg Shen, tour bus driver and part-time wizard.
Director Carpenter and the screenwriters aren't too concerned with logic here... Neither should the viewer be. (A pitched automatic weapons/kung fu battle in Chinatown, leaving scores dead, doesn't draw a single police car.) The accent is on adventure, fantasy and humor all delivered with a wink, tongue planted firmly in cheek. The pace is furious, the action plentiful and well-staged. Carpenter clearly enjoys Asian martial arts cinema; he has fun with the genre conventions without mocking them. The special effects, while not up to the standards of today's Pentium-powered visuals, nevertheless hold up quite well. Russell, Cattrall and company provide an engaging, likable crew of heroes to root for against a coterie of hissable baddies, both mortal and supernatural.
Big Trouble in Little China is a great big sloppy cheeseburger of a movie that tastes great, preferably served with a cold brewski or three. Enjoy.

Fox's 2-disc DVD set is a terrific value, as it's priced about the same as many single-disc releases. The 2.35 widescreen transfer and pumped-up Dolby audio are first class... You haven't really seen this movie if you've only watched pan & scanned videotapes or cable broadcasts. Extras are plentiful, most of which are contained on Disc 2. The first disc features the film itself along with an entertaining audio commentary with Carpenter and Russell. (It's readily apparent that these guys enjoyed working with each other on the four films they collaborated on, box-office success be damned.)
Disc 2 showcases some deleted scenes (none of which are truly consequential), a fluff-piece featurette from 1986, a still gallery, production notes, reproductions of relevant magazine articles, a music video (for the movie's closing credits song, with Carpenter himself in the "band"), and the requisite trailers and TV spots. There's also an interview with Richard Edlund, the film's visual effects supervisor. 7/18/01
UPDATE In the interval since this review was published, the 2-disc Collector's Edition of Big Trouble has gone out of print (and is now going for $30 and up). The film is still available in a single disc package, however, which includes both widescreen and fullscreen versions of the movie. A Blu-ray edition streets in August 2009.
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