Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

(On DVD, June 2003) Despite the rather good cult reputation of this film, I was surprised at how… ordinary it ended up being. Even though Kurt Russell shines as all-American Jack Burton (his charming ineptness is one of the film’s highlight), the film isn’t as endearing nor as memorable as I was led to believed, or half-remembered from TV memories. It’s certainly not a dull film, mind you: The pacing is steady and the action rarely stops. (Plus, there’s a neat hero/sidekick reverse dynamic at play here.) But the dialogues fall flat (always an important factor when dealing with a protagonist with such an attitude) and the effect simply isn’t as electrifying as similar fare such as, say, Evil Dead 2. Part of this tepid reaction, I suspect, is that kung-fu fighting has been done elsewhere since then, with a greater degree of sophistication: The tongue-in-cheek parody of classic Chinese martial arts film may have been loads of fun in 1986, but years after America’s newfound fascination for Jet Li, Jackie Chan and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, there isn’t anything startlingly new left in the movie. Structurally, the film covers the same ground again and again in a succession of underground lairs that end up featuring the same few villains. I do realize that this film wasn’t aiming for high art, but the truth is that it doesn’t completely succeed as a fun camp classic. Fun, sure, but also a disappointment. On the other hand, the film is well-worth seeing again if only for the audio commentary starring Russell and director John Carpenter; maybe half of it directly relates to the film, but all of it is fascinating. A few unmemorable supplemental features round the special edition DVD set.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *