Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Chris' #85: Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986)

Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Suzee Pai
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein, Adaptation: W.D. Richter
Release Date: July 1, 1986

Quick Plot Synopsis: Uhhh....

First Time
Last year, around the same time as my first viewing of Pretty in Pink. Again, I was trying to catch up on 80s movies that I had missed. But I did see various scenes of Big Trouble in Little China before then. I remember catching some of it at Brandon's old place a few years back.

Why it's on the List
Big Trouble in Little China is a film that is very confident with its identity. It's intentionally trashy, action-packed, and hilarious--with the perfect balance of each. I'm not a big fan of action movies, but because BTiLC approaches the genre with a consistent level of humor and self-awareness, I find it very palatable.

I never truly appreciated Kurt Russell until I saw this from beginning to end. He's perfect, and I can't imagine that he gives a better performance in anything else (but feel free to let me know if you disagree). As Jack Burton, Russell pulls off one of the greatest John Wayne impressions ever, albeit a parody version.

Jack Burton is also the perfect embodiment of the United States. He's confident, even though he doesn't understand much of what is going on, and when the fighting starts, he's either unconscious or too busy trying to push a dead body off of himself. I love the fact that even though Jack Burton talks and acts like an action hero, he really isn't one.

Not only does Russell get to play a John Wayne-type in this, but he also gets to act like a square, in the form of Henry Swanson.

This scene is a lot of fun and it'll amuse me every time.

But Russell isn't the only one who shines in this; Dennis Dun also does a tremendous job. The two actors make a great team, but Dun's charisma and likability allow him to easily hold his own. And while I've never been much a Kim Cattrall fan (not that I've really seen her in anything anyway), I love her in this. Sure she's attractive, but she's also very cool in this. She's perfect for the role of Gracie Law. I love her tough and assured demeanor. 

The dialogue in this rules, with such great lines as, "You people sit tight, hold the fort and keep the home fires burning. And if we're not back by the president," and "May the wings of liberty never lose a feather." Moments of exposition are equally entertaining; for example, when Lo Pan is discussed for the first time: "You mean the Lo Pan that's chairman of the National Orient Bank and owns the Wing Kong Trading Company, but who's so reclusive that no one has laid eyes on him in years?" Exposition is best when it's this detailed and over the top.

I also shouldn't fail to mention the special effects, the set design, and the costumes in this. Great work all around, especially the effects, which is obviously Carpenter's specialty. There's a lot to highlight, but when old Lo Pan's head glows a bright red, it looks amazing.

Additional Notes/Stats
  • This is the only John Carpenter movie on my list. Halloween is great, but it's on my 200-101list for now. I am trying to catch up on more of Carpenter's work. I'm a newfound horror fan.
  • Kurt Russell won't be making another appearance on my list, I'm sorry to say. I really want to rewatch Death Proof.
  • Dennis Dun should be getting more work. I see that he was on the short-lived HBO series Luck, but I've never seen an episode of it.
  • Every time I watch this movie, I enjoy it a little bit this will probably move up my list.
  • There are talks of a Dwayne Johnson remake of this movie...ugh.

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