Monday, 2 December 2013


I have to get this out of my system. Cigarette Burns (2005) is the only decent thing from John Carpenter since In The Mouth Of Madness way back in 1994. It’s very hard to understand why. Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York, The Thing and They Live are all wondrous. The master of cheap scares, but a whole lot more besides, Carpenter was undeniably brilliant during the late seventies and eighties, yet the Prince of Darkness had a lighter side too. Following Escape from New York and The Thing, Carpenter and Kurt Russell re-united for Big Trouble In Little China - a mystical-action-adventure-comedy-kung-fu-monster-type ghost story thing.

Russell plays Jack Burton, one of the greatest characters to grace our screens. Ever. A reasonable guy in an unreasonable world, he experiences San Francisco’s Chinatown at its weirdest. When his friend’s fiancée is kidnapped, Jack becomes embroiled in a centuries-old battle between good and evil. At the root of it all is Lo Pan, a 2000-year-old magician who rules an empire of evil spirits. He also owns an extensive range of cheap monster costumes. Demon dodging, goblin grappling, the Lords of Death, two warring gangs, and three unstoppable Storm warriors with baskets on their heads are the least of Jack’s worries. The big man has lost his truck.

Big Trouble In Little China is The Goonies with grownups.  The script is razor-sharp, but Russell steals the show with some of the finest one-liners you are ever likely to hear. I can’t stress this enough – you will definitely, absolutely and without doubt laugh your tits off. One scene in particular has the funniest line ever. In the history of film. Of all time. Did I say ever? I swear. As Jack heads off into battle, Gracie Law, played by a spunky Kim Cattrall, says to him, “I’d go too, but…” She’s interrupted by Jack, who produces a handkerchief and states firmly, “I know. There’s a problem with your face.” It really shouldn't be that funny. It really is though.

The slick visuals, ridiculous monster suits and giddy sense of fun rarely lets up, and Carpenter pulls out all of the stops, with his camera soaking up all of the wonderfully opulent décor as Burton bumbles his way to heroic heights. He’s not your typical hero. With an eye for the ladies, ol’ Jack hankers more for gambling, liquor, and the Pork chop Express. But then, Cattrall has never really caught my eye either, despite appearing in one of my many guilty pleasures, Mannequin, a year later.  Give me Elisabeth Shue any day of the week. That said, with crackerjack timing, Carpenter delivers a touching farewell that will surprise you. A deleted scene - available for the first time - adds to the palatableness.

There are too many moments that stand out. So many nice touches that register. With more positive energy than the potion our troop down to boost confidence, Big Trouble In Little China hasn’t aged and never tires. Okay, so the monsters are a bit rubbish. And Thunder, Lightning and Rain all wear ridiculous outfits. But the score is typically Carpenter, the fight choreography is still impressive, and he even manages to throw in some of his trademark body horror just for good measure. In a nutshell, Big Trouble In Little China has it all. And then some. It also looks fantastic on Blu-ray.

The limited Edition SteelBook version contains a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw, as well as a booklet featuring new writing on the film by John Kenneth Muir, brand new interviews with John Carpenter and Kurt Russell, a vintage Making-of feature, a short but sweeter extended ending, deleted Scenes, and a bizarre but brilliant music video. You need this in your life.

When the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake, just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does. In fact, make sure you own this first-rate movie and watch what ol’ Jack Burton does. Immense. Awesome. A classic. Now, would you stop rubbing your body up against mine, because I can't concentrate when you do that. DW 

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