Title: Big Trouble in Little China
Language: English, Cantonese
Genre: Action, Adventure
Director: John Carpenter
David Z. Weinstein
Music: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Cinematography: Dean Cundey
Chao Li Chi
A Hollywood pastiche of Hong Kong kung-fu sensation in the 1980s, which seems to be out of topicality now, directed by John Carpenter (seriously, who could predict my first entry of Carpenter’s canon comes overdue thus far). But as a Chinese, soused in the over-familiar genre throughout my childhood, this Chinatown chopsocky ragbag is no place near a deferential triumph (a B movie cult status maybe) even under the pristine BluRay caliber, a fair blurb is that it is pretty fun to watch for a first-timer only.
Carpenter’s regular Kurt Russell is the sinewy truck-driver, a gormless Good Samaritan, being embroiled into an eye-opening underworld teeming with Chinese necromancy, hideous critters and preternatural kung-fu masters (incidentally, no Chinese knows anything about Lo Pan and Ding Dai, completely a concoction without any references), and what he gets? A machine gun whose only use is to eliminate two-bits minions and a crush on the blonde lawyer (Cattrall in her prime year). The western-oriental clash doesn’t work out successfully (white man has the blonde and his Chinese sidekick has his own oriental beauty, that kind of drivel etc.) one could replace its Chinese elements with any gangster clan with a grisly ghost’s resurrection into flesh (why trouble being a mortal if you are an immortal?) through marrying girls with green eyes (or contact lens).
The modus operandi of manufacturing an ancient Chinese looking is a big plus, all tawdry but resplendent, and destines to be destroyed by our hero and his troupe, also the makeup technique is cutting-edge (James Hong’s double identities both require a makeover shift).
While the story-line is evasive about any query details, we never get a hold of what is the undead’s probable explanation of his existence except that he is an oriental mythology, so don’t ask, just watch the little mysterious thing called “magic”. The cast is basically a throwaway to make the story workable, James Hong’s Lo Pan and his three guardians are deadpan comical and undeservedly expendable, by a preening introduction near the beginning, their payoff is too hasty to respect or digest for the sake of the potboiler heroism, such a top-heavy fecklessness.
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA certainly disqualifies itself as a Carpenter’s must-see, and its family-friendly appeal also curtains Carpenter’s novelty and creativity (save the surviving beast in the coda), the adventure is far from satisfactory and the mocking action sequences justly jibe with its own time, the horrible 1980s.