Saturday, 16 January 2010

Stupid Films That I Love - Big Trouble In Little China

Big Trouble in Little China (or BTiLC) is a comedy rollercoaster action movie where the hero, Jack Burton, is an incompetent, swaggering, truck driver. If you’ve never seen BTiLC then I’ll try and explain what the film is about without sending myself mad. Jack Burton (trucker extraordinaire) visits an old friend in San Francisco China Town and becomes embroiled in a mystical adventure when his friend’s bride-to-be is kidnapped by a street gang. Shit gets unreal when Jack hits a sorcerer called Dave with his truck. There’s a lot of running around, guys on wires, guys shouting into camera, facekicks, a journey into the Underworld, and guns and explosions in that special 80s way where people get catapulted into the air by explosions and automatic weaponry always misses its target at less than 10 feet. The story is also told in flashback but the flashback doesn’t actually frame the story from beginning to end, and it doesn’t really make sense as a framing device as the character telling the story wasn’t present for most of it. The faults don’t matter though as the film is infused with so much energy and enthusiasm that you just feel yourself going along for the ride and forgiving the plot holes.

Jack Burton is played by Kurt Russell, who, after his hard bitten heroics in other Jack Carpenter movies (The Thing and Escape From New York), clearly relishes playing an action man that isn’t quite as capable as he believes. Jack Burton is a trucker, drifting from town to town whilst broadcasting his philosophical pearls of wisdom over a CB radio. Jack likes to think he can handle anything and sees himself as very capable; the great thing is that he isn’t and a lot of the fun in the movie is seeing Jack overcome obstacles through dumb luck and pluck. Jack's bumbling makes his act of genuine skill at the climax of the film all the more enjoyable.

BTiLC is full of great quotes and one liners, almost all of them given to Kurt Russell. The quotes from the movie are so popular, certain blogs have featured them as the sole content in a post. BTiLC quotes entered my teenage nerd lexicon as my friends and I would often quote movies during games and BTiLC was a source of quite a few of them. God, we were annoying.

The special effects are a little creaky in comparison to today’s modern CGI creations but that’s part of the charm. The slightly dodgy effects and costumes give the movie an almost theatre-like feel and add to the action-movie-as-pantomime atmosphere. I especially like the temple draped in neon (complete with giant neon skull) which is something I haven’t seen in an evil cult’s lair since. The flying eyeball monster is still cool though.

BTiLC is a unique film; there’s never been anything quite like it since (probably due to its failure at the box office.) What’s interesting is that the story was initially conceived as a Western with Jack Burton as a wandering Clint Eastwood type. Now that’s a movie I would love to see.

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