Big Trouble in Little China

Big Trouble in Little China ★★★½

"China is here, Mr Burton."

A raucous fever dream, Big Trouble in Little China combines a lot of 80s charm and charisma with John Carpenter's slightly off kilter perspective, to great effect.

Kurt Russell shines as Jack Burton, a typical American Joe thrust into an underworld forged out of Chinese mythology. Street gangs, kung fu masters, good and evil sorcerers, and the cursed undead are all at play and Burton spends most of the movie as confused as the audience is. Russell is one of only two significant white characters in the film and essentially acts as the western audience's conduit - we see everything through his eyes and are just as bewildered as he is. I really cannot overstate how insane the plot of this film is, it must be seen to be believed.

Russell is joined by Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, and Victor Wong and while some of their performances are on the cheesy side it does help with the surreal aura that Carpenter is shooting for. He makes extensive use of practical effects - with a couple of monsters that look straight out of The Thing - and embraces impossible geography and a heavy dose of irony to remind you that the focus is on having a good time. Chuck in a few ridiculously Hollywood lines like, "If we're not back by dawn, call the president," and you've got some tremendous entertainment.

Carpenter's synth heavy score is excellent as expected, and he intentionally combines tropes of the kung fu movie with Westerns and other Hollywood genres, a nice fusion of American and Chinese culture set in a location that represents this collision as well. I definitely got some Gremlins vibes from this too, with the mysticism of Chinese traditions seeping into normal American life and causing chaos, a reflection perhaps of late Cold War tensions and sinophobia as well as a more general fear of the other and the unknown.

A wild ride, non stop action, with a brilliant central performance. They don't make them like this anymore. No complaints!

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