After a busy week in the lab, I decided to treat myself to some Biru and Game Center CX. Watching Shinya Arino go through Enix’s Actraiser was amazing, and it somehow sold me on the game, assuming I can find it on the cheap on eBay. However, the highlight of Friday night was neither, but, thanks to Netflix, a stream of one of my faves from John Carpenter (next to “The Thing” of course), and that is “Big Trouble in Little China.” There’s sooooo much to love about this film that I’d have to assume that you’re an asshat if you couldn’t find ANYTHING that was worthy of being memorable here.
The movie obviously didn’t do so well in the box-office back in the 80s, but the fact that it has emerged as a cult-classic is truly the stuff of legends. Littered with that tough, gritty, urban feel of San Fran Chinatown, great dialogue, fun action and some awesome production design (namely in Lo Pan’s den in the Wing Kong Exchange), Carpenter really hit the nail on the head here. Jack Burton and Wang Chi are easily THE most memorable characters in the film (played by Kurt Russell & Dennis Dun respectively), especially with the amount of cool and funny banter the two share throughout the movie. Next to those two would have to be Gracie Law (played by a young and foxy Kim Cattrall), where her whole gutsy, green-eyed, career-minded schtick should’ve been enough to materialize a boner from Lo Pan regardless of any sacrifices being made. And let’s not forget the Three Storms, the badassery of Egg Shen (played by the late Victor Wong), and the unforgettable David Lo Pan (courtesy of the veteran James Hong). Lo Pan deserves so much credit for being not only a creepy, menacing, and witty villain, but also a dartboard for Jack Burton’s knife!! Cinematic genius I tell ya!!
Phillip over at You Offend Me, You Offend My Family made a great point as to how awesome the film was for portraying an Asian-american male character in a positive light, and let me be another one to tell you how true it is. Wang Chi isn’t Mr. Yunioshi from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, he’s not studying math and he’s not a soulless grunt who doesn’t say a damn thing. Wang was just as badass as Jack and that made a HUGE impression on me when I was young. Furthermore, this film introduced me to a lot of familiar faces within the Asian American Stunt community, including the menacing Al Leong, Gerald Okamura, Bourne Supremacy fight chroeographer Jeff Imada, and the ever-cool James Lew. Because of all this, “Big Trouble in Little China” might have been one of the first films I had seen where Asian folks and Asian cultures were acknowledged in such a unique and respectful way, making it truly ahead of its time.
Watching “Big Trouble in Little China” was like standing in the shallow end of the beach by Lake Michigan and allowing the big waves to hit you with a fresh burst of nostalgia. I couldn’t believe that I remembered so much of this movie, yet still found myself captivated at how modern but outer-worldly it was. If Chinese black magic exists, then this film makes the perfect case for it.
All in all, Carpenter’s work on this film is a sight to behold. “Big Trouble” not only gave us another great vehicle for Kurt Russell to swagger in, it opened a door into another side of America (and Americans in general) that still has to deal with its own demons from the old world. With its unique blend of modern-day action, comedy, and all things supernatural, one could say that it can stand on its own as an early attempt to both smash together AND break away from the early conventions of said genres. For this blogger however, “Big Trouble in Little China” stands as a centerpiece of entertaining nostalgia, reminding us that in the midst of Hollywood’s inability to make unique box-office hits, all you really need is two guys hopped-up on the “Six-demon bag” to shake the pillars of heaven.