ASIAN FILM - Article
10:00 - 17th November 2013, by NEO Staff

Big Trouble In Little China

When John Carpenter's Big Trouble In Little China was released in 1986, it was condemned by some critics for perpetuating Hollywood stereotypes about Chinese culture. Roger Ebert said the film came straight from the era of Fu Manchu and Charlie Chan, but Big Trouble.. plays with and subverts the stereotypical presentation of Chinese culture in Western films.

An ancient demon called Lo Pan (James Hong) lives in the catacombs underneath San Francisco's Chinatown. Cursed to remain immaterial unless he can marry a Chinese girl with green eyes, Lo Pan orders his men to kidnap Miao Yin, the green-eyed fiancée of Wang Chi (Dennis Dun). Alongside his buddy Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), the wizard Egg Shen (Victor Wong) and attorney Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), Wang Chi ventures into Lo Pan's lair to save his betrothed from Lo Pan's clutches.

The film sets up Jack Burton as the ostensible hero, but Carpenter constantly robs Burton of his dignity while allowing Wang Chi to handle the bulk of the heroics. Russell is superb, giving Burton a swaggering self-confidence and bravado that is completely undeserved. In one scene, he passionately kisses Gracie Law and then spends the rest of the sequence with lipstick all over his face. Meanwhile, Wang Chi flies through the air skillfully dueling with another swordsman. Burton is constantly out of his depth, surrounded by people who are more competent, knowledgeable and capable than he is - and they are all Chinese. Rather than offering the patronizing caricatures of Charlie Chan, the Chinese characters in Big Trouble are smart, funny and passionate. They are not inscrutable or mysterious even if they are surrounded by Chinese magic and mythology. While it failed to score at the box office when first released, Big Trouble In Little China founds its audience on home video and is now rightfully hailed as a cult classic.

The action scenes in Big Trouble were choreographed by prolific stunt coordinator James Lew and blended martial arts and special effects in a manner that brings to mind the best of Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-Tung. Lo Pan has three super-powered martial artists at his command called the Three Storms. Thunder was played by Carter Wong, a martial artist from Macau who started his film career in Hong Kong productions in the early 1970s with appearances in Huang Feng's Hapkido and When Taekwondo Strikes. Wong later moved to the US where he opened several martial arts schools around New York.

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