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Big Trouble in Little China(1986)
A fantasy-action film that is brilliantly imaginative, funny, and absorbing. Hard-boiled truck driver Jack Burton, who gets caught in a bizarre conflict within, and underneath, San Francisco's Chinatown. An ancient Chinese prince and Chinatown crimelord has kidnapped a beautiful green-eyed woman, who is the fiancee to Jack's best friend. Jack must help his friend rescue the girl before the evil Lo Pan uses her to break the ancient curse that keeps him a fleshless and immortal spirit.
For more about Big Trouble in Little China and the Big Trouble in Little China Blu-ray release, see Big Trouble in Little China Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 6, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Kate Burton
Director: John Carpenter
» See full cast & crew
Big Trouble in Little China Blu-ray Review
'Big Trouble' is a big hit on Blu-ray.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 6, 2009
I never drive faster than I can see.
The John Carpenter-Kurt Russell tandem proved one of the most successful of the 1980s, the pair coming together for a trio of films that have become bona-fide cult classics within both their respective genres and in filmdom as a whole. Both the thrilling Escape From New York and the chilling The Thing set the stage for the hybrid Big Trouble in Little China, a quirky special effects film that mixes hard-hitting action with pitch-perfect verbal and physical humor. Though Big Trouble is the least of the aforementioned Carpenter-Russell conglomeration, it's still a wonderful movie that simply earns an "A-" rather than the "A+" awarded the other two. Withstanding the test of time, particularly in a world now dominated by story-less and effects-heavy Action pieces and gross-out Comedies that lack both charm and appeal, Big Trouble in Little China is like an old friend, a favorite pair of pants, or that tasty and ice-cold beverage on a hot summer day that's always welcome, comfortable, and refreshing.
Trucker Jack Burton (Russell) is a gambling man, laying down his hard-earned cash during layovers in San Francisco's Chinatown where he has no qualms about taking other people's money, even that of his friend Wang (Dennis Dun). One thing Jack never bet on, however, was his involvement in combating the mystical powers of Chinatown's underground. When Wang's green-eyed fiance Miao (Suzee Pai) is kidnapped by thugs, Jack, Wang, and Jack's newfound love interest Gracie (Kim Cattrall, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country) attempt to infiltrate the dangerous world of Lo Pan (James Hong), an ancient wizard that needs a green-eyed girl to break a curse and allow him to become human once again. Things get more personal when Gracie, also a green-eyed girl, finds herself in Lo Pan's clutches, too, one of the girls set to break the spell and the other to become the wizard's bride. Jack, Wang, and several others must battle their way through an army of foes both mortal and seemingly otherwise if they are to rescue the women and save the day before Lo Pan can carry out his diabolical plan.
Big Trouble in Little China delivers a straightforward story if there ever was one: bad guys kidnap girls, good guys come to the rescue. With that wholly unoriginal premise, the film must bank on what's between the lines to differentiate it from any other dime-a-dozen pictures available for consumption. Big Trouble in Little China, as perhaps even the comically-oriented name would suggest, plays out through its entire 100 minute runtime with tongue cemented in cheek. There's nothing here to suggest that the film is meant to be taken as anything other than an old-fashioned good time at the movies, escapist entertainment at its absolute finest. Big Trouble in Little China puts on a dazzling and sometimes dizzying array of antiquated yet charming special effects, a heaping helping of laughs, some death-defying action, and a mystical element that adds to both the excitement and the laughs that permeate most every frame. Whether enchanted wizardry, high-flying martial arts, dangerous gunplay, and even some classic fisticuffs, Big Trouble in Little China always remains on an even keel that manages to satisfy the appetite for hardcore action but does so with a wink and a nod as big laughs ooze through the frame and lighten up the film -- and its action and magical overtones in particular -- considerably.
Sealing the deal and tying everything together is the ever-reliable leading man Kurt Russell, whose performance in Big Trouble in Little China defines his career with an effort that borders on slapstick Comedy. Underneath his character's truck-drivin' macho-man exterior is a frightened little boy thrust into a situation with no means of escape save for victory at the end of the day. The dichotomy of his dual persona makes for the film's funniest moments as the tough guy veneer consistently falls victim to his own hopelessness as a wannabe action hero and ladies man. Despite bumbling his way through the many obstacles Lo Pan and gang throw his way, and even if his fellow good guys see past his routine, Jack's heart always leads the charge, an asset that's often tougher than muscle and more important than mind. The remainder of the cast also excels in Big Trouble in Little China, with Jack's sidekicks played by Dennis Dunn and Victor Wong delivering pitch-perfect performances. The film also features not only the expectedly steady direction from the legendary Carpenter, but another of his synth-scores that have become a trademark of his films, including the aforementioned The Thing and, of course, Halloween.
Big Trouble in Little China Blu-ray, Video Quality
Big Trouble in Little China dishes up a nice-looking 1080p transfer of a film that's about a quarter-century old. This 2.35:1-framed transfer offers viewers the opportunity to see John Carpenter's film with unparalleled clarity that easily surpasses its previously-released home video counterparts. Though certainly not dazzling eye candy like The International, Big Trouble in Little China occasionally looks a bit rough around the edges but is otherwise presented on Blu-ray with an overall satisfactory appearance. Lo Pan's makeup and costumed attire make up the bulk of the flashy colors to be found throughout. The overall color palette is not one that's meant to pop off the screen with a dazzling array of hues, but what is here tends to look rather good. Detail appears as above average throughout; matching the theme of the transfer as a whole, there's nothing here that's truly worth noting, but the Blu-ray is consistent in its delivery of a stable, good-looking 100 minutes worth of high definition goodness. Some viewers may be put off by a layer of grain that spikes heavily at times but often remains fairly unobtrusive. Blacks aren't too problematic, and flesh tones appear as a fairly neutral shade throughout. Big Trouble in Little China won't win the award for best looking Blu-ray of 2009, but fans should be more than pleased with 20th Century Fox's presentation.
Big Trouble in Little China Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Big Trouble in Little China features the usual DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack from 20th Century Fox. Though not a demo-worthy soundtrack, this one impresses greatly in context and livens up considerably once the film's action gets underway. Music sounds rather full but is generally limited to the front; it plays clearly enough though it definitely doesn't match the lifelike clarity of the best lossless soundtracks available. Sound effects tend to fill up the front half of the soundstage and move nicely from side to side. The barrage of gunfire in chapter eight sounds loud and distinct, with shots seeming to emanate from each of the front three speakers. The back channels don't get in on the fun in every scene, but the occasional discrete effect and supportive ambience define their role in this track. Generally speaking, though, the front speakers carry the bulk of the material. Bass checks in on occasion to spruce things up; a rather powerful outburst in chapter 13 is representative of the lows scattered about the soundtrack. Much like the video presentation, Big Trouble in Little China's lossless soundtrack is not going to go down as one of the best of the year, but it's an above-average effort that should satisfy the discriminating listener and longtime fan of the film.
Big Trouble in Little China Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
This Blu-ray release of Big Trouble in Little China offers fans a small collection of extras, including a few "truisms" from the film that pop up from time to time in the form of a fortune cookie message while navigating the menu. First up is Commentary track with Director John Carpenter and Actor Kurt Russell. An affable track, the participants discuss, with an obvious lighthearted flair, the film's promotion and advertising budget, the characters and the performers that bring them to life, as well as a wide range of additional topics that should please fans. Also included is an isolated score presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless audio. Vintage Featurette (480p, 7:28) provides audiences a brief look into the making of the movie, comprised primarily of clips from the film and interview snippets with cast and crew. Richard Edlund Interview (480p, 13:25) is a multi-angle interview feature with the film's effects producer. Eight deleted scenes (480p), an extended ending (480p, 3:05), a Big Trouble in Little China music video (480p, 3:28), three trailers (480p, 2:47, 0:55, and 2:42), six TV spots (480p, 4:43), and a behind-the-scenes still gallery (1080p, 17:33) conclude this brief collection of extras. This disc is also D-Box enabled.
Big Trouble in Little China Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The fan favorite Big Trouble in Little China remains one of the quintessential Action-Comedy pictures to come out of the 1980s, the film made possible through the talented Carpenter-Russell twosome that almost always manages to churn out an upper-echelon picture. Though not as daring as Escape From New York or frighteningly intense as The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China works wonders through its precisely-measured doses of action, humor, and magic. Supported by a fine supporting cast and another solid Carpenter score, Big Trouble in Little China will continue to please audiences looking for lighthearted adventure for decades to come. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray impresses. Sporting a strong 1080p transfer and an equally good lossless soundtrack, the disc is only hindered by a rather uninspired collection of extras. Nevertheless, this Blu-ray release of Big Trouble in Little China comes recommended on the strength of the film and the technical presentation.
Big Trouble in Little China: Other Editions
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• Big Trouble in Little China Gets Extras, Extended Cut - May 13, 2009
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