23 February 2009

DVD: "Big Trouble in Little China"

Big Trouble in Little China
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Gary Goldman & David Z. Weinstein
Adaptation by W.D. Richter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall
DVD Release Date: 27 August 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
List Price: $9.98
Cinescopes Personality Type: Destined Hunter

The Film
Jack Burton (Russell) is a trucker whose only interest is collecting on a gambling debt from his pal, whose fiancee is kidnapped upon arrival from China.  She is taken, it is learned, by Lo Pan, an ancient Chinese villain with supernatural powers--and a wicked curse that can only be cured by marrying a specific girl with green eyes.  To appease another faction, though, he must sacrifice said girl after the first curse has been lifted.  Jack is in entirely over his head, but determined to help his friend save the girl, and stop a 2,000 year old villain from returning to power in the process.

The DVD
You get a choice when you first insert the disc of viewing in either the original widescreen aspect ratio, or the pan & scan format.  As far as actual features, there are only two: the obligatory, original theatrical trailer and a commentary track by director Carpenter and star Russell.  There is always a difference in commentary tracks recorded long after a film was shot and released, and Big Trouble is no exception.  You should be warned up front, for instance, that these two clearly enjoy one another's company, and this film, enough that Russell spends about one minute in two just laughing throughout.  They periodically get sidetracked discussing their kids, but by and large they have a genuinely interesting discussion on the work ethic of actors, the merits of having the writer on set and memories of specific days of shooting.  There is a two-disc special edition (in widescreen only) that has more features, though it is long out of print and will cost some extra coin if you can find a seller.

The Recommendation
In his commentary remarks, Russell notes that he's only met two types of fans--those who love this movie, and those who've never seen it.  He and Carpenter lament the mis-marketing of the film by Fox back in the day, though ultimately they concede that the audience for this is so specific they don't think it would have helped the box office performance had more people known about it anyway.  This is the very definition of a cult film.  Everything is played for laughs, and while Jack Burton isn't an anti-hero, per se, he's also far from being a standard hero.  In short, it's a role that fit Kurt Russell's on-screen charm perfectly.  If you enjoy kung fu movies or Kurt Russell, you'll dig this.  Bonus: If you're trying to get your ladyfriend to watch it with you and she has no interest in the premise, tell her it stars a young Kim Cattrall (from Sex and the City); that should do the trick.

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