What’s it about? Jack Burton is a simple truck driver who gets pulled into a battle with an ancient sorcerer Lo Pan when his friend’s girlfriend is kidnapped by Lo Pan’s cronies – her green eyes the key to the sorcerer’s desires. Jack must take on evil forces, both supernatural and otherwise, against the backdrop of Chinatown in order to rescue the girl, but it’s not easy when your opponent is immortal.
Verdict: From the moment early on when Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) rides into San Francisco’s Chinatown in his huge truck, the stage is set for a modern day John Carpenter take on the classic western. Burton wears a cap, sunglasses and the facial hair of Indiana Jones; with his friend/sidekick, Wang, he must navigate the dark and mysterious underworld of Chinatown. Carpenter as you’d expect wields his considerable talent in the special effects department and borrows from Kung Fu movie history, however things are nowhere near as straightforward as any Kung Fu movie you’ve seen before.
The pair’s troubles start when they go to meet Wang’s girlfriend who’s flying in from China. At the airport we also meet Gracie (Kim Cattrall) before Wang’s girlfriend is kidnapped by a gang from Chinatown and the chase begins. Past that there is little point in trying to explain what is going on, as the plot skates between fight scenes, chases and rescue missions, the good vs evil battle is waged and Burton and Wang try to save Wang’s girlfriend from the clutches of the ageless immortal wizard Lo Pan. You never really feel that our heroes are in any real danger though which would be problematic if this were a straight-up action movie, but it’s not. There is enough weirdness, light-heartedness and adventure to sustain it until the end.
What is often overlooked or misunderstood about Big Trouble in Little China is that the film is essentially a comedy. Despite the non-stop action, other worldliness and romance elements, it is supposed to make you laugh. And this is where it divides people, if you don’t like the first corny gag then you probably won’t like any of them and there flies out of the window one of its saving graces, because the movie certainly isn’t without its flaws. While being well acted by Kurt Russell, his character without the humour may come off as annoying and difficult to care about. Every Chinese cliché in the book is played out, and after the first half an hour or so the plot is a mess, albeit a beautiful mess.
Final Words: While Big Trouble in Little China is rife with problems, it’s a film which is very easy to love. The busy and messy plot manages to hold your attention and the bordering-on-camp comedy and one-liners provide the relief. This combined with a great cast on form and everything that John Carpenter brings to the table makes Big Trouble in Little China the most fun-filled movie the director ever made.
Extras: A wide range of extras are included on the Blu-ray: TV Spots, the soundtrack, interviews and an extended ending are all good additions. Director John Carpenter and star man Kurt Russell provide the audio commentary which plays out more like a pair of old fiends reminiscing.
Big Trouble in Little China is out on Blu-ray and limited edition Steelbook on 16 December 2013.