Big Trouble in Little China (USA, 1986)

big-trouble-in-little-china-posterDirected by: John Carpenter. That poster image says it all, doesn’t it? I wish there were more movies like this being made. It’s completely crazy, it intersects with all sorts of genres and settles at none, it’s tons of fun, completely slapstick, and it’s actually, genuinely really cool. The performances from Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall are totally spot-on in the way they tip the scales towards goofball comedy but not too far. The plot is a write-off, but who cares when you’re having this much fun? There are enough crazy spectacles onscreen and funny little laughs along the way that you really don’t need to cling onto the plot too tightly. The modern, culturally sensitive viewer may cringe at the cartoonishly generalized depiction of Chinatown and the hilariously exaggerated emphasis on Asian mysticism. I’ve read my Ann Anlin Cheng like everyone else. But I really don’t sense anything malicious here in intent, and I really don’t see any lasting cultural damage as a result. I think those arguments would hold more weight if the film wasn’t so fucking cool, if this wacky, exaggerated, way-out-of-proportion view of Asian mysticism wasn’t so damn spectacular. But, at the end of the day, how many films in Hollywood history had this many Asian actors on its payroll, with this much emphasis on the culture of Asian Americans? It’s a complete cartoon of a film, in no way based in the reality of Asian Americans, but it chooses their culture in which to base its cartoon reality. In this film, that culture isn’t a marginal aspect, it is the focal point. All that aside, this is just one of the most enjoyable films I’ve ever seen. Watch it with many people, and watch it often.


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