Archive for Dennis Dun

Big Trouble in Little China

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) and his friend, restaurant owner Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), go to the airport to pick up Wang’s fiancee Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), who is arriving from China. A Chinese street gang, the Lords of Death, tries to kidnap another Chinese girl at the airport who is being met by her friend Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), intending to sell her as a sex slave. After Jack intervenes, they take Miao Yin instead. In Jack’s big-rig truck, he and Wang track the Lords of Death to the back alleys of Chinatown, where they find a funeral procession that quickly erupts into a street fight between the Chang Sing and Wing Kong, two ancient Chinese societies. When “The Three Storms” (Thunder, Rain, and Lightning) appear, slaughtering the Chang Sing, Jack tries to escape but runs over Lo Pan (James Hong), a powerful and legendary sorcerer, as well as the leader of the Wing Kong. Horrified, Jack exits his truck, only to find Lo Pan, who is merely annoyed. Wang hurriedly guides Jack through the alleys, escaping the carnage and mayhem, but Jack’s truck is stolen.

Wang takes Jack to his restaurant, where they meet up with Gracie, Wang’s friend Eddie Lee (Donald Li), and magician Egg Shen (Victor Wong), a local authority on Lo Pan. They try to explain to an incredulous Jack some of the ancient knowledge and sorcery the Chinese brought with them to America, eventually devising a plan to infiltrate a brothel, where they think Miao Yin is being held. However, the Storms make off with Miao Yin, bringing her to a front owned by Lo Pan. Trying to rescue her, Jack and Wang are quickly subdued by Rain and taken to see Lo Pan, now in the form of a crippled, old man. Wang tells Jack that Lo Pan needs a special green-eyed girl to break an ancient curse, and he intends to sacrifice Miao Yin. When Jack and Wang’s friends attempt to save them, they are also captured, and Lo Pan notes that Gracie has green eyes, too. Lo Pan decides to sacrifice Gracie, while making Miao Yin his unwilling wife.

After getting the drop on Thunder, Jack and Wang escape, also freeing many women kept in holding cells. Wang and Jack go to see Egg Shen, and, with the help of the Chang Sing, they enter an underground cavern to return to Lo Pan’s headquarters. Egg pours each of the group a potent potion that Jack says makes him feel “kind of invincible.” During the wedding ceremony, a huge fight ensues, which Jack misses, due to accidentally knocking himself out. Wang kills Rain in a sword duel, while Jack and Gracie try to catch Lo Pan. Wang joins them, and, just when all seems lost, Jack kills Lo Pan, with a skillful knife throw. Thunder, enraged and dishonored at his failure to protect his master, starts to inflate to an enormous size, exploding and killing himself. Jack, Wang, Gracie, and Miao Yin are cornered by Lightning in a corridor, which he makes collapse. Egg rescues them with a rope and kills Lightning, when he tries to follow. After finding Jack’s truck, they escape back to Wang’s restaurant.

Lo Pan having been defeated, the group celebrates in a warm and family-like way: Wang and Miao are obviously about to marry; Margo, Gracie’s journalist friend, seems to be about to pair-up with Eddie; and Egg decides to go on a prolonged vacation, saying China is in the heart. Jack, instead of starting up a new life with Gracie, (as everyone was expecting up to that point), bids farewell to the group and hits the open road, with an unknown-to-him stowaway – one of the remaining monsters from Lo Pan’s labyrinth

REVIEW:

A couple of movie review podcasts that I frequently listen to are constantly referring to Big Trouble in Little China as one of the greatest cult 80s action films out there. I remember seeing this in the video store as a kid and always passing it up, but being curious. The same has held true when I see it on Netflix. Sure, it has an interesting cover, but sometimes the artwork can be deceiving. Still, I wonder if this is worth all the hype.

What is this about?

When an ancient magician kidnaps his friend’s fiancée, a two-fisted trucker and a sexy attorney must navigate a shadowy realm to capture the culprit.

What did I like?

Supernatural. I woke up this morning with an urge to watch something supernatural. Don’t ask me why because I really can’t give you an answer. Having said that, though, I wonder if it is because my best friend has recently started watching Supernatural on Netflix and makes sure I know that is what she’s doing. All that aside, perhaps it is because I was in the mood for it, but the supernatural element of this film really struck a chord with me and made me wish for more. Chinese deities, creatures in a labyrinth, etc. keep the audience’s attention.

Wong fu. A somewhat smaller role, or so we are led to believe, is Victor Wong’s Egg Shen. Introduced as some guy driving a tour bus, we learn that he is quite the capable sorcerer in his own right. Much wiser than he looks, Wong’s character is also powerful enough to go toe to toe with the villainous Lo Pan. While Kurt Russell is the big star of this film, it is Wong that can be truly considered the hero.

Rapid fire. As someone who has spent quite some time watching old films, I notice the rhythm of how people talk. In this film, I happened to notice in some spots that the dialogue, not counting the cheesy one-liners, is as rapid fire as a 30s film noir. I was digging the retro vibe to the way these lines were delivered. It gave me the mindset of those old serials from that era, which I kind of feel this film would have worked better as, but I may touch on that a little later.

What didn’t I like?

Getting ready for her next role. Some people think Kim Cattrall is a fine actress. I am not one of those people. To me, she is nothing more than the token hot chick in the 80s who disappeared in the 90s and resurfaced as a deformed version of herself when Sex and the City started. Watching her “act” in the few scenes she has was painful. I think it would be more fun to watch mushrooms grow out in the yard. Cattrall is so wooden, it made me wonder if she was just getting ready for her next role, Mannequin. Maybe I should rephrase that as Cattrall is so plastic. Ha!

Weak storms. There are these three powerful warriors that appear out of nowhere and start wiping out the warring gangs. When it comes to the final showdown, they are taken out quite easily. Why is it such powerful henchmen, for lack of a better term, go down so easily? Shouldn’t these storms have shown the true power they have and merge together as one giant, all-powerful storm? Or would that have been too over the top for a film that is already there. While I’m thinking about it, is it me, or did anyone else think of Raiden from Mortal Kombat when the lightning storm guy showed up. Also, was he really using lightning as a fireman’s pole, of sorts?!?

Genre bending. The original concept for this film was for it to be a western, but some bigwig at the studio decided it needed to be a modern-day tale. Don’t you just love it when they do that? I’m a little biased, being a fan of westerns and all, but I think this would have been more interesting as a western, perhaps even better. Mixing the American West with Oriental mysticism was sure to make for some intriguing situations.

Upon its initial release, Big Trouble in Little China did not fare so well. Director John Carpenter took its failure so hard that he left Hollywood and went into independent filmmaking. However, it has gained a cult following over the years and is listed on many “Best of…” lists. Perhaps it was just ahead of its time or audiences at that time didn’t fully appreciate what they were seeing. Make no mistake, this is not a great film, but it falls into that category where you can overlook its flaws and just enjoy the film for what it is. As such, I say this worth a viewing whenever you’re in the mood for some 80s action. Give it a shot sometime, why don’t you?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars