John Carpenter ‘s Big Trouble In Little China is a unique beast filled with action, comedy, martial arts, special effects and Oriental mysticism. They all collide to form a wonderfully unique film which shows a director at the top of his game, with a firm understanding on how to handle the material.
Kurt Russell is Jack Burton, the loud-mouthed all-American trucker who along with his friend Wang (Dennis Dun), becomes entangled in a mystical battle for good and evil in San Francisco’s ‘Little China’. The duo face-off against the ancient evil that is David Lo Pan (James Hong), a sorcerer who intends to sacrifice Wang’s green-eyed fiancée (Suzee Pai) in order to overcome a centuries old curse so that he can ‘become flesh’ again. Also along for the ride is Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), a clueless investigative reporter, who smells a story in Jack and Wang’s adventure.
I can’t recommend Big Trouble In Little China enough. The film is one hell of a cinematic ride that turns the conventions of the action genre on its head. Russell’s Jack Burton sees himself as the alpha-male, the hero who can handle every situation. He’s all swagger and one-liners, a modern day John Wayne. There’s just one problem – Burton is an idiot, and everyone knows it but him. The real hero is Dennis Dun’s sidekick Wang, who is at the centre of every action set piece, while Burton is usually indisposed.
The heads at 20th Century Fox flipped when they saw what Carpenter and Russell did with the movie. It wasn’t the Indiana Jones and Rambo crossbreed that they had expected. They didn’t know what to do with the movie and buried it on its release with a low-fi marketing effort. Like the previous Carpenter/Russell collaborations Big Trouble In Little China become a hit on home video, becoming a cult classic. The movie was ahead of its time (the Asian cinema boon was another 15 years away), and it’s Carpenter’s assured grasp on the material by W.D Richter, Gary Goldman and David Z. Weinstein that makes it work. Carpenter was so disillusioned with how he was treated by the studio that he retreated back to the world of low budget independent cinema.
Carpenter’s struggle was worth it though, as the film still holds-up today, when so many action movies from the era have dated. There was never a movie like Big Trouble In Little China before it was made and there has never been once since its release in 1986 – and that makes it something special.
This Arrow Blu-ray of Big Trouble In Little China comes with all the wonderful special features on the previous DVD release. That includes the wonderful commentary with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. It’s probably one of the best talk tracks ever recorded and it’s as entertaining as the movie. The disc also comes with deleted scenes, an extended ending and vintage making of material. However, this disc comes with new interviews with Carpenter, Russell, producer Larry Franco and cinematographer Dean Cundey and they all touch on how the studio turned its back on the movie before they released it.
This Blu-ray of Big Trouble In Little China is a must-own disc.