Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Kate Burton, Donald Li, Carter Wong, Peter Kwong, James Pax
The One Where I Love Big Trouble In Little China, And You Should Too
JMcG, my midweek cinema buddy, thinks Dawn Of The Dead is better than The Thing.
He also thinks Prince Of Darkness is underrated. He has his John Carpenter mixed up, as far as I’m concerned. One thing we agree on, and would die to uphold is that Big Trouble In Little China is one of the greatest films of all time. It’s all in the reflexes.
I could say Die Hard or Robocop, but to be fair to my Dad, he didn’t know I was watching those every time his back was turned. This one, though? This one he can take some credit for. And thank god (small “G”) he did. I can’t imagine my life with out it.
The film that cemented my love of film, and that made me want to write a film script more than ever, was Big Trouble.
John Carpenter was a legend in my house. We had laserdiscs (Remember them??) of Halloween, Escape From New York and The Thing. Dad would tell me how smart JC* was in that he would score his own films too. On a synthesizer. Now, you can squabble over whether Inception or Scott Pilgrim was film of the year… I’ll say two thin
1> Neither had a John Carpenter synthesizer score.
2> Neither of them was Big trouble In Little China.
You see, they don’t make films like this anymore. Truth be told, they never really made them before. The film is the epitome of cult. It bombed. No one knew how to market it. The audience it found was as devout as any, but not big enough to make a difference.
This was a departure for Carpenter. One of the few time he’s dabbled in anything other than Sci Fi or Horror. (His version of Elvis, with Kurt in the lead, is immense. It came out on DVD/Blu last week. Check it out!) I would argue you couldn’t put Big Trouble film into a genre. You wouldn’t want too. Or I wouldn’t want too.
I used to have my DVDs in genre order, until The Ledgers© (long story), made me do it in alphabetical. That at least solved Big Trouble having a genre of its own. What it is for me is a re-watchable film. I can watch it any day, any night, and get totally sucked in.
You’re either a Kurt Russell fan or not. If you’re not, you’re probably not reading. If you are, and you’ve stopped crying about him not being in Expendables (I feel your pain), you love him. And praise the Lord that’s done the money it’s done. Follow Stallone on twitter. I badger him every day to get Kurt Russell and Michael Biehn in Expendables 2. Help me!
I love the fact that here, Kurt plays a reasonable guy, that’s experiencing some very unreasonable things. Straight faced, born ready, and in the greatest vest of all time – he’s the opposite of what we’re told a hero should be. The comedy works because of him, and the action works around him.
Towards the end, when the pillars of heaven are shaking, and all hell is breaking lose, Jack Burton shoots the ceiling as he prepares to fight ancient forces, in an underground kingdom. The rubble falls, hits him on the head, and knocks him out cold for almost all of the fight. It’s brilliant. I swear, if more films took themselves less seriously, and poked this sort of fun at the lead character, they’d be more enjoyable.
To set up the film as a thriller, is part of its genius.
At an airport to pick up Burtons best friends girl, things go wrong. She’s kidnapped, so they go after her. Then, when they turn that badass lorry down the wrong alley way… well… it’s not a thriller anymore. It’s an action film. With sorcery. And comedy. And it works.
I can’t tell you about plot elements. If you’ve not seen it, I envy you. I wish I could watch it fresh again, with out quoting every line. There’s been too much water under the bridge though.
I wish I could speak in the third person about myself, too. (“Ol Jack Burton always says… What the hell!”)
I know, I know. I’ve got you all wanting to watch it. Well even better than that… John Carpenter is back! Check out the Interview on this fine site.
Now… Dawn Of The Dead better than The Thing… Are you crazy JMcG? Is that your problem?
Rolls up sleeves
*JC = John Carpenter, NOT Jesus Christ. Although I certainly won’t argue if you say they are one and the same.