Friday, November 02, 2012
Big Trouble in Little China
Directed by John Carpenter and screenplay by W.D. Richter from an original story by Gary Goldman and David Z. Weinstein, Big Trouble in Little China is about a trucker who helps his friend save his friend’s fiancee from a gang of mysterious Chinese bandits led by an ancient sorcerer. The film is a blend of fantasy and horror with a mix of comedy as it revels in mysticism, martial arts, and the absurd. Starring Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, Victor Wong, and James Hong. Big Trouble in Little China is a funny yet extremely-exciting film from John Carpenter.
Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) decides to help out his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) to help pick up Chi’s fiancee Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) at the airport so he can collect money he just won at a bet. An encounter with a Chinese street gang leads to Yin’s capture as Burton and Chi try to save her where they drive towards the San Franciscan area of Chinatown as they find themselves in a middle of a gang war that would later include three magicians and a sorcerer named Lo Pan (James Hong). Burton and Chi escape with the surviving members of the Chang Sing group as they hide out at a restaurant owned by Chi’s uncle as an American lawyer named Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall) wants to help out along with Chi’s friend Eddie Lee (Donald Li) and the magician Egg Shen (Victor Wong) to see why Lo Pan is here.
Burton infiltrates a brothel to find Yin only to see her be captured by the three magicians under Lo Pan’s service Shen and Chi believes it’s all part of Lo Pan’s plan to regain his strength as a man of flesh as he continues to roam the Earth as a ghost only to stop the curse by marrying a woman with green eyes. Burton decides to join the plot to stop Lo Pan as he and Chi try to retrieve the captured Gracie and her journalist friend Margo (Kate Burton) as they infiltrate one of Lo Pan’s work shops where they meet Lo Pan as an aging, crippled man. Finally able to escape, things seem fine with Shen’s help until they realized that Gracie was captured by one of Lo Pan’s monster where Lo Pan notices that Gracie also sport green eyes. Shen, Chi, Burton, and the remaining members of the Chang Sing gang decide to battle Lo Pan and his army to save Gracie and Yin in an all-out war during Lo Pan’s wedding ceremony.
The film is essentially a story about a guy helping his friend to save his fiancee only to encounter all sorts of trouble in a violent street gang, three evil magicians, and a sorcerer who is trying to gain immortality by marrying a woman with green eyes and later sacrifice her. While the plot maybe simple, the screenplay makes it more than what the plot suggests since it is an adventure film mixed in with fantasy, martial arts, comedy, and bits of the western. Leading all of this is the film’s protagonist Jack Burton who is this street-tough kind of guy who may not have a lot of brains but does have enough guts to take on anything as all he wants is to get his truck back. Helping him is Wang Chi as he is essentially much smarter and far more skilled than Burton in terms of kicking ass and such where he also knows about the world that Burton is about to enter. The script also creates some intriguing ideas into the world of Chinese mysticism where it is essentially about good vs. evil.
John Carpenter’s direction is definitely a marvel to watch in the way he creates a film that essentially blends all sorts of genres though it largely takes place in San Francisco and its Chinatown area. Carpenter creates some amazing imagery in the film such as the scenes in the underground of Chinatown that is filled with strange monsters, eerie surroundings, and all of this mysticism that adds an element of horror to the story. Still, Carpenter manages to make the film be about a battle between good and evil where he creates these dazzling action sequences filled with sword fights and martial arts battle that is energetic while adding bits of humor to these moments. Overall, Carpenter creates a truly witty and fun film that refuses to take itself seriously and just let the audience have a good time.
Cinematographer Dean Cundey does amazing work with the film‘s photography from the more straightforward look of the locations in San Francisco to the more colorful look of Lo Pan‘s underground lair. Editors Steve Mirkovich, Mark Warner, and Edward A. Warschilka do fantastic work with the editing to utilize stylistic, rhythmic cuts for the film‘s action scenes while slowing things down in some of the film‘s suspenseful moments. Production designer John J. Lloyd, along with set decorator George R. Nelson and art director Les Gobruegge, does superb work with the set pieces from the places in Chinatown to the lair of Lo Pan that is filled with ancient Chinese artifacts and other dark places.
Costume designer April Ferry does nice work with the costumes from the more rugged look of Jack Burton to the more stylish clothes of Lo Pan and the bridal gowns that Gracie and Lin have to wear. Special effects makeup designer Steve Johnson and special effects supervisor Greg C. Jensen do terrific work with the film‘s special effects from the look of the monsters to some of the stranger moments involving those monsters. Sound recorder Robert Renga does wonderful work with the sound to capture atmosphere of the battle scenes as well as the more intimate moments involving the characters. The music by John Carpenter and Alan Howarth is brilliant for its electronic-driven score to play up the dark mood of the film as well as more playful pieces to convey its humor.
The casting by Joanna Merlin is great for the ensemble that is created where it features some noteworthy small roles from Chao-Li Chi as Wang Chi’s uncle, Suzee Pai as Wang Chi’s fiancee Miao Yin, Kate Burton as the journalist Margo, Donald Li as Wang Chi’s friend Eddie Lee, Al Leong as one of Lo Pan’s man with a hatchet, and as the trio of the evil magicians, Carter Wong as Thunder, Peter Kwong as Rain, and James Pax as Lightning. James Hong is excellent as the villainous Lo Pan with his eerie makeup work and chilling presence while Victor Wong is wonderful as the more eccentric magician Egg Shen who adds a bit of humor the role. Dennis Dun is superb as Wang Chi as the guy who is more in control of everything he does as he’s determined to get his fiancee back. Kim Cattrall is wonderful as Gracie Law as Cattrall provides a woman who isn’t a pushover as she tries to help out Burton and Wang into defeating Lo Pan.
Finally, there’s Kurt Russell in a magnificent performance as Jack Burton. Russell displays a great sense of wit to the role where he adds a bit of a John Wayne drawl to the role while isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself. It’s a role that has Russell being very funny as well as being badass as it’s definitely one of his great performances.
Big Trouble in Little China is a marvelous film from John Carpenter that features an incredible performance from Kurt Russell. It’s a film that doesn’t take itself so seriously while giving audiences something to cheer for and have fun. It’s filled with lots of actions, comedy, and terror that provides enough entertainment for its audience. In the end, Big Trouble in Little China is a remarkable film from John Carpenter.
John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Starman - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned (1995 film) - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward
The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
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