Big Trouble in Little China

Big Trouble in Little China ★★★★★

BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA was the first VHS I ever bought (along with RESERVOIR DOGS in a 2 for $15 deal) and I loved it with all my heart. Over the years, I cooled a little to its charm because I thought the action was sloppy (and I had overdosed on watching it), but now, I love it wholeheartedly for the impossible object that it is: A Chinese-centric high fantasy story centred around an American loser who talks big but fails at every turn. And the action may not have the same smoothness as Hong Kong, but what does? It's still dynamic, filled with gags, and imaginative in a way that no other studio filmmaker dared to attempt at the time.

John Carpenter has gone on record saying his biggest influence was Tsui Hark's ZU: WARRIOR FROM THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN* and it's clearly evident in every frame. There's no compromise to the film, and there are so many ways it could have gotten overwhelmed, but all the plates keep spinning at impossible angles as they slowly rise higher, and higher, and higher. Of course, like most Carpenter films, it was a huge bomb at the time of its release and it took a good decade before people realized it was a masterpiece.

There was a rumour Carpenter wanted Jackie Chan for the sidekick/real protagonist role, but I don't think it would have worked, because he would have overwhelmed the film, while Dennis Dun has the right kind of goofy energy to bounce off of Russell.

*I'd be curious to know where Carpenter saw ZU: WARRIORS because I don't think it ever got a theatrical release, so someone must have taken him to a Chinese theatre or gotten him a VHS.

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