Big Trouble in Little China

Big Trouble in Little China ★★★★½

John Carpenter's wholly original plot feels like an ode to the Shaw Brothers, with Kurt Russell adding quite a bit of John Wayne western bravado and swagger.

Russell represents white American males, throwing himself headlong into a situation that he is totally clueless about, just trying to be a hero and get his property back, while his Asian friend is the guy who does all the grunt work. Just watch the scene at the end, when everyone is escaping through the hole in the underground ceiling. Wang is the last one to go up, not Jack. Jack spends the movie asking questions like the clueless friend who goes to the movies with you: "Who is that guy? What just happened? What did he say?". Kurt Russell's performance is given with a wink at the camera. He knows who he is supposed to be, and it's amazing to watch. Dennis Dun, however, is the revelation of the movie.

This world crafted by Carpenter is something else and could have used more exploration. But much like Jack Burton, we were thrust into it without much of an explanation of how things work. Ancient Chinese mysticism, marriage rituals, subterranean monsters. The Three Storms are the guys at the end of every level of that old Nintendo video game, Kung Fu. Bereft of personality, but the gimmicks are cool, each representing Thunder, Lightning and Rain. Wang's martial arts battle with Rain, held inside Lo Pan's neon-drenched temple, is a wonderful sight, hearkening back to the mid-air fight scenes of a Shaw Brothers flick from the 70s.

When watching Big Trouble in Little China, just do what Jack Burton would do. Say "what the hell" and just go with it.

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