Big Trouble in Little China

Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 1 Hour and 39 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: B+

How can one resist a movie with a title like "Big Trouble in Little China"? I don't really know. But I know that I can't. From the moment that the title appears onscreen, a goofy grin alights on my face. It can't be helped.

Plus, it's the sort of movie that just trips my trigger. It's got a swaggering, smart-ass, one-liner-spewing hero (Kurt Russell). It's got plenty of mysticism and a couple of demons. It has the end of the world at stake if a demon marries a woman with green eyes. I am hooked. I gotta tell ya, I love this stuff. They don't make enough movies like this, for my taste. It's the reason I liked "Army of Darkness" and "The Mummy" (1999) so much. I love this kind of plot. I love it when a man or a group of men have to pit their powers against an otherworldly foe and the fate of the world is at stake. Witness my favorite movie (if you don't know it by now, I'm not saying it again), for further proof.

Is this film really up to the caliber of those other films I mentioned? No. I suppose not. Some of the special effects are rather iffy. Some of the dialogue is immeasurably cheesy. Some of the situations are sorta lame. But it has charm. It has its own sense of style. It's got a wonderful B-movie with attitude tone going for it that I simply must surrender myself to. And, most important of all, it has Kurt Russell.

Kurt Russell may not be the best actor in history, but there's just something about the guy that I find appealing. It's as though he knows that he isn't that awesome of an actor, so he just has fun with it. I respect that. He makes whatever he does seem truly effortless. And there is no better man to star in a John Carpenter film. I can tell you that right now. He is a swaggering, macho, one-liner-tossing John Wayne wannabe. He comes across as one of those guys you know who is always trying a little too hard to be tough. And you know what? It works magnificently. His performance here serves the tone immeasurably. It is the bedrock on which the entire film is based, in fact. It is the gel which holds it all together. When a Chinese mystic begins to explain the reasons behind a Chinese ghost and starts going a little long, Kurt rolls his eyes and counters by saying "Get to the goddamn point, Egg!" and you laugh so hard because, in all these movies, that's what you really want to say to the mystical know-it-all anyway. It's a perfect moment, in its own bizarro way.

John Carpenter has always disappointed me a little. Yes, even with this movie. It could have been another "Ghostbusters" or "Army of Darkness" in the right hands. But it never quite gets there. I love the idea of the film and the I love humor and I love the tone. I love the lead actor and I love it when a two-thousand-year-old Chinese demon (played deliciously by James Hong) says "Now this really pisses me off to no end", but it could have been something even better. I just have never been entirely satisfied with this movie, and I don't know exactly how to say why. But I have grown to love it, nonetheless. I am charmed by it. I suppose I just like it when a movie has its own distinctive personality. So many of them, after all, just seem like cookie cutter, paint-by-numbers movies. Seen one and you've seen 'em all.

Well, you've never seen anything like "Big Trouble in Little China". No matter what else you say about it, you have to give it that