So next up in my Blind Spot series is a bit of a departure from the first film in this run. When I made my list, I wanted to include a film that I would have a good, fun time watching, a film with good comedy, entertaining action and a really fun central premise. Going through the films on my watchlist, the obvious candidate for me was John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China. Now I’m only really familiar with Carpenter’s work by reputation, out of the string of horror directors at the time I’m more familiar with David Cronenberg, and I’ve only seen one of Carpenter’s films before, that being They Live, but the strong reputation Carpenter has made me confident I would enjoy this film, and it was right. I had a lot of fun with this film, but there were some reservations I had about the film as a whole.
The plot concerns trucker Jack Burton and his friend, restaurant owner Wang Chi. After Jack does one of his runs he agrees to take Wang to the airport to pick up his fiancee Miao Yin. Whilst there, Miao gets kidnapped by the forces of sorcerer Lo Pan, who wants to marry Miao Yin as she has green eyes and a curse was placed on him which can only be broken by marrying a woman with green eyes. Whilst trying to rescue Miao Yin, Jack’s truck gets stolen, giving him some motivation to get involved. What I like about the plot is how it doesn’t take itself seriously at all, it knows that it’s ridiculous and goes along with it, introducing more and more absurd elements as the film goes on, making it a lot of fun to watch. I also really like how the film has a certain degree of respect for Chinese culture, mainly through the character of Egg Shen and when the film focuses on this aspect, the film works really well. I also really like the ending of the film and how subversive it felt, although I won’t give away much here. I will say though that some elements of the plot could have been cut out and the film wouldn’t have lost anything. One of the characters is a journalist who adds nothing to the plot, even though the performance is entertaining, the stuff related to the gang war could have used with a bit more explanation and the presence of Gracie Law could have been explained a bit better to make the film work better as a whole.
The performances are great in the film, especially from Kurt Russell. In any other film, the character of Jack Burton would be the hero but here he’s the comedy sidekick and Russell does a great job with the performance, effectively showing the out of his depth nature of the character, along with providing some of the funniest moments in the film, particularly when he’s infiltrating a brothel and during the ending. It also helps that he has great chemistry with Dennis Dun who plays Wang, who also does a great job, he’s really proficient in the action scenes, there is a strong sense of love he has for Miao Lin and he’s great fun to watch. Victor Wong makes a strong impression as Egg Shen, effectively showing the more mystical aspect of the film, along with adding to the philosophical elements regarding his relationship to China, although I wish he was in the film more. James Hong meanwhile is a brilliant villain as Lo Pan, having this great, intimidating presence, you really get the feeling he’s a centuries old sorcerer and that makes him a really effective villain. Kim Cattrall meanwhile is fun as Gracie Law, the chemistry she has with Russell is effective and you can see her clear devotion to the case, but the way her character acts at the end of the film doesn’t quite work. Kate Burton and Donald Li meanwhile are fun but their characters felt quite pointless.
On a technical level, the film is a lot of fun. The production design, particularly for Lo Pan’s fortress, is really impressive and brings across this great mystical feel. This is aided by the costume design, in particular for the Three Storms, and the make-up effects, mainly for Lo Pan. The creature effects too are particularly impressive, although I’m not surprised considering what I’ve seen from The Thing. The action scenes are really well directed, being really entertaining throughout, all of them fitting the personalities of the characters. The thing I was impressed by the most though was the score. Carpenter and Alan Howarth do a great job with the music, creating this very exciting feel throughout the film, especially during the final action scene. I can’t really describe how the music work, it just worked.
Overall, Big Trouble in Little China is a lot of fun but there’s not much more to the film beyond that. The performances are great and the technical aspects of the film are top notch but there were a few niggling details I had with the plot that prevented me from enjoying the film as much as I wanted to. It feels like they wanted to stuff too much into the film but when the film focuses on the simple aspects, focuses on the big, silly, supernatural stuff, the film is a lot of fun, but in the brief periods when it doesn’t, the film doesn’t quite work.
My Rating: 3.5/5