Sunday, November 15, 2009

#430: Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall, Carter Wong & James Hong

A gamble held in San Francisco's Chinatown doesn't end well for Wang, who owes trucker Jack Burton over $2000. He doesn't have the money on him, but a girl he met and is in love with does. The girl is coming to California today from China - she's the only Chinese girl with green eyes he's ever met. Jack drives Wang to meet her at the airport. At the terminal, a woman catches his eye. Before you know it, some ninja-style gangsters are attacking Jack, kidnapping Wang's love. On the chase, Jack and Wang are caught in a street fight between two Chinese gangs -- whose fight gets interrupted by sorcerers using "Chinese Black Magic". The adventure that ensues just gets crazier and crazier, involving ninjas, myths and monsters, never failing to surprise you.

This movie is AWESOME. From what I gather, people in our generation are pretty much oblivious to this film aside from its title. And there's absolutely no reason why this should be so. It's The Goonies for adults! I kept thinking to myself, I usually go for Kung Fu movies when I'm home sick - but this would be the absolute perfect flick for a day in. It has everything, from kung fu to comedy to everything else in between.

John Carpenter has directed two films that are still widely known, those being this and Halloween. What I've already written about Halloween that made the film so remarkable is that he created an entirely new style of thriller. What makes Big Trouble so genius is how ahead of its time it was - despite how dated it looks. The blend of genres is a very early example of its kind, later evolving into the likes of the Rush Hour films. Also, the decision to have Jack as the "hero" is a jab at stereotypical casting, having the strong and brash male taking the center stage. However, Jack is completely out of his element, while his "sidekick" Wang has everything needed for an action film hero, though he constantly gets shoved to the side.

Despite its sheer awesomeness, the movie didn't hit it big when it reached theaters. It only grossed $11.1m, less than half of the film's budget of $25m. The critics also didn't seem to quite understand the satire in the film, complaining that there was no character development. The negative feedback ended up turning Carpenter off of the Hollywood scene, continuing his career exclusively in independent films. However, since its sad start, the film has become a cult classic, reaching up to 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The plot is absolutely absurd, but it really just doesn't matter when you're having as much fun as you certainly will when you're watching this. If this post doesn't convince you to go see this, keep in mind that this is the first film I bought online after watching it for the blog. It was just that good. If you want to make a movie party of it with me, just let me know - I will certainly be willing!

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):
  • The Chinese characters in the main title translate to "Evil Spirits Make a Big Scene in Little Spiritual State".
  • According to John Carpenter and Kurt Russell in the DVD Commentary, the story was originally written as a western but Carpenter decided to set it during modern times. They even mention that instead of Jack Burton's truck being stolen, it was originally his horse.
  • The Mortal Kombat characters Shang Tsung and Raiden were inspired by the characters of David Lo Pan and the 'Storm' called Lightning, respectively.
  • The rivalry between the Chang Sing and Wing Kong Tongs is analogous to the famous rivalry between the Hip Sing and On Leong Tongs (even the names rhyme) in early 20th century New York.

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