Big Trouble in Little China


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Current Rating 8.43/10 | 7 Votes

Starring Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall, James Hong, and Victor Wong

To quote Ruthless Reviews in their explanation of a cinematic guilty pleasure: “It’s just competent enough to like, and just incompetent enough to love.” Yes, “Big Trouble in Little China” is one of the best bad movies ever, and it works more than all the “Anacondas” in the world because it has such a heedless, thoughtless, brainless momentum. It keeps moving forward, deliriously in love with being a movie despite the obstacles of a convoluted plot and a generally convoluted everything. There are at least two unnecessary characters who could have been written out. We can tell they’re unnecessary because they don’t take part in the delightful third act showdown in which the good guys drink a potion that allows them to “see things no else can see, and do things that no one else can do.”

So we charge ahead through villains who are “Mortal Kombat” before there was a “Mortal Kombat,” through flying eyeballs, underground temples, flying swordfights (trampolines, not wires), undead emperors, secret elevators, broken furniture, monkey sacrifices, getting caught and escaping, charging through a delirious mess of exposition, violence, and special effects. The gag around which all the other gags are built is the beautifully B performance of Kurt Russell’s unstoppable, mullet-haired truck driver Jack Burton. Russell and Carpenter freely admit on the DVD commentary that they wanted to invert the dashing-white-hero-and-ethnic-sidekick by making an Asian hero (Dennis Dunn) and a bumbling white sidekick (Russell)—but the joke is that the white sidekick thinks he’s the hero and doesn’t realize what a bumbling nincompoop he is.

Russell is great, doing a loud and obnoxious, slack-jawed John Wayne impersonation, on a quest not to save the world or the girl but just recover his beloved truck. He boldly immortalizes some of the best and most idiotic lines in the history of the movies: “Son-of-a-bitch must pay!” “If we’re not back in half-an-hour, call the president.” “Are you ready?” Dunn asks. “I was born ready!” Jack booms.

Also worth mentioning is that I’ve seen this movie a dozen times and James Hong’s undead emperor Lo-Pan is such a blast (on the DVD commentary, Russell praises him as the person who most “got” the movie, barring the director himself). Glowering, evil, ass-stomping, yet elegant, effete, genuinely spooky, and kind of sympathetic in his desire to live again. And then, as a crowning achievement, the song over the end credits is terrible. I’m giving the movie 8 / 10 because I have to give it something. See it with friends and you’ll have a 10 / 10 evening.

Finished Sunday, August 6th, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Friday & Saturday Night

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