‘Big Trouble in Little China’ enters fully into this special about guilty pleasures that in our case will culminate with one more delivery. And the reasons are more than obvious when this movie is reviewed over and over again. We are faced with one of the worst jobs of John Carpenter as director, and probably with the most ambitious. After the relative failure of 'Starman' (1984) in which he fell comparisons with his contemporary Steven Spielberg, he went back to work for a large studio - the Fox - that gave him the largest budget he has worked with Carpenter to date. The results are far from the best achievements of one of the most consistent filmmakers that cinema has given today, despite the fact that the director does not now produce everything we want.
'Big Trouble in Little China' is part of Carpenter's most commercial group of films, composed of the lazy 'Christine' (1983) and the magnificent story of the man of the stars —for which he subscribes to one of the best films of its director—, the first one of the greatest successes of its author, and the second not so much despite a well deserved Oscar nomination for Jeff Bridges. With the film starring his fetish actor, Kurt Russell, it was expected to break box office, especially for his approach to the cinema of King Midas, but a bad promotion and a mixture of genres perhaps not too expected, did not motivate the public of the time. With the passage of time, and even seeing that the film is not without failures, it has become a piece of worship.
Neither so much nor so little. We do not know what this movie has, but it is the only one of Carpenter's filmography that, being rather bad, one has a great time with the adventures, or misadventures, of Jack Burton, a hero who under Russell's profile acquires a unique dimension because we talk about the non-hero par excellence. Solitary, fun and brave, which protagonist of the Euro-western that is preferred, Burton adds another element to his personality that makes him make a difference: he is an idiot. He has an overwhelming charisma but is a duck that saves himself from the dangers to which he is exposed to pure luck. His only motivation is the money owed by his friend Wang (Dennis Dun), with whom he will get into a whole hidden world that seems crazy.
Madness is precisely the word that best saw a movie like this. From the moment in which Wang's fiancee is kidnapped by an ominous organization, and together with her friend Jack decides to go rescue her, the film presents right and left elements and elements of the huge catalog of adventure and fantasy cinema. Chinese black magic is the axis on which curses, invincible warriors, expert martial arts fighters turn - capable of maintaining a sword fight while flying, advancing in years and years to Ang Lee and his presentation of these elements to the mainstream -, monsters of the most diverse nature, millennial villains who want to dominate the world, and women with green eyes ready for sacrifice. All this in less than an hour and three quarters, fast and running, but with a certain tone of comic very well marked, which certainly helps the spectacular artistic direction of John L. Lloyd, probably the best of the film.
The film is full of inconsistencies, especially of a plot type, in which the action must continue in a forced way and the suspension of disbelief is practically law, without it we do not go anywhere. To the sound of a soundtrack composed by the director himself with the help of Alan Howarth, we accompany Burton and his friends on an adventure that has echoes of the western - in fact, the script was written thinking about that genre - full of characters from the most varied, all of them falling devilishly well despite some painful interpretations and the ridiculousness of many of their situations. But the almost irreverent humor of the proposal, the disguised nothing messing with which most characters are presented and a rhythm that barely gives time to breathe make a session very enjoyable in which all those involved should have had a good time cross the screen.
Carpenter would rather be disappointed by the critical reception of his work, making him never again want to work for a great studio —although in 1992 he would fall back into temptation—confirming once and for all his image as an independent and individualist director.