Plot: What’s it about?
Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is a truck drivin’ dude, but he isn’t the usual tough guy, as he’s better with his mouth than his fists. In fact, his mouth is often writing checks his body can’t cash, though he continues to talk trash nonetheless. But when a friend needs him to take on some unkind odds, Jack is forced to lay it all on the line and hope for the best. His friend Wang (Dennis Dun) has asked for Jack’s assistance, as his girlfriend has been kidnapped, but not by some common criminal or the like. Because she had emerald green eyes, she was taken at the request of Lo Pan (James Hong), an immortal magician with impure intentions. Lo Pan has plans to make her his wife and with an army of spirits at his command, it seems like nothing can thwart him. But Jack is on the case and with a little help from some new friends, perhaps he can manage to recover the girl and put an end to Lo Pan’s nefarious plans.
This film is one of the few true cult classics, hammered upon its release and doomed to be passed over, but it finally found the audience it deserved. I’ve heard a lot of films called “ahead of their time,” but Big Trouble in Little China deserves that label, to be sure. I’ve seen more recent films use elements from this picture and find success, but in truth, few can come close to the level reached here, at least in my opinion. This is such a fun and memorable movie, it is easy to see why other pictures have lifted certain elements, to be sure. As with all good cult level movies, this one has infinite memorable moments, both in visual and audio based respects. I can quote this film from dusk to dawn for sure, as well as recant countless details from certain sequences, that’s how cool and unique Big Trouble in Little China is. This is not your typical action flick to be sure, with all sorts of comedic touches and of course, a ton of Asian influence thrown in. The fight sequences are well executed, the production design is excellent, and in the end, this is one my personal all time favorite motion pictures. I am giving this film my highest recommendation and with a solid two disc edition, there’s no reason not to check this one out.
It is no surprise to see Kurt Russell in an action movie like this, but this is not the usual action hero role, to say the least. He gets to show off his muscles and work some cool action sequences, but Russell plays the reluctant hero here, which is one reason the movie works so well. We’ve seen Russell in the tough guy position a lot in his career, but his turn here really stands out in his resume. I do like Russell’s approach to his other, more traditional performances, but in this case, he puts a few twists on and it works out to sheer perfection indeed. I suppose his barrage of cool lines doesn’t hurt his likability here, now does it? You can also see Russell in such films as Escape From New York, Captain Ron, Stargate, 3000 Miles to Graceland, Executive Decision, Used Cars, Backdraft, Overboard, and Breakdown. The cast also includes James Hong (The Golden Child, Revenge of the Nerds II), Dennis Dun (Prince of Darkness, Warriors of Virtue), Victor Wong (Tremors, Bloodsport), Kate Burton (The Ice Storm, The First Wives Club), and Kim Cattrall (Live Nude Girls, Modern Vampires).
Video: How does it look?
Big Trouble in Little China is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I had hoped for a great image here, but this transfer was a real eye opener, one of the finest catalog transfers I’ve seen. It has a few small flaws, but I was almost shocked at how good this picture is, it is that impressive. The source print has been cleaned up a lot, with only a few minor specks here and there to report on. The image is very sharp and refined in all respects, especially in terms of contrast, where this transfer shines. I’ve hated the faded, washed out black levels on previous editions, but that is all solved here, with well balanced contrast from start to finish. I mean, I was taken back by the sharpness in the black levels, while detail was far more evident, very impressive indeed. The colors also come through well, with vibrant hues and no oversaturation, while flesh tones look natural and consistent also. This is not a reference level transfer, but it is very close to a perfect presentation for this film, so I am scoring it very high, just as it deserves.
Audio: How does it sound?
This release includes dual surround options in Dolby Digital and DTS formats, but in the end, the two pull up even in most respects. The case lists the Dolby Digital as 4.1 surround and the DTS option as 5.1, but both feature the same audio layout, with the same information in the surrounds on the DTS choice. This is a remastered flick from the ’80s and as such, the surrounds don’t get used all the time, but I think the experience is a solid one. I wouldn’t expect a surround loaded blowout here, but this sounds better than ever, so no real complaints. The music sounds very good, while the sound effects surface in fine form, though again not as powerful as more recent mixes. The vocals shine through here, very sharp and clean, with no volume issues to report in the least. This disc also includes 2.0 surround tracks in English and French, as well as subtitles in English and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This title was given the two disc treatment from Fox, which means a wealth of supplements have been tacked on here. I was thrilled to give the included audio commentary a listen, as director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell chat about their experiences. As usual, these two offer an excellent session, filled with informative and entertaining comments. This is not a technical commentary by any means, but I think it has a nice blend of humor and information, to be sure. This one has been a long time in the journey to us fans, but I am overjoyed to finally be able to listen to the track, very cool indeed. The next in line is a selection of deleted scenes and again, these have been a real wait to get to see them at last. I think they were best left out of the final cut, but it was nice to see them, especially the alternate ending. A set of two magazine articles are also found here, but these aren’t just text, they also include interactive buttons, that take you to various bonus elements. This release also includes a brief behind the scenes featurette, a selection of still photos, an interactive interview with Richard Edlund, production notes, a hilarious music video, talent files, two theatrical trailers, and some television spots.