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John Carpenter
Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun
Writing Credits:
Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein

A rough-and-tumble trucker helps rescue his friend's fiancée from an ancient sorcerer in a supernatural battle beneath Chinatown.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$2,723,211 on 1053 screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated PG-13

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 100 min.
Price: $27.99
Release Date: 12/3/2019

Disc One:
• Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Actor Kurt Russell
• Audio Commentary with Producer Larry Franco
• Audio Commentary with Special Effects Artist Steve Johnson
• Isolated Score Track
• Deleted Scenes
• Extended Ending
• Vintage Audio Interview
• Gag Reel
• Music Video
• Trailers
• TV Spots
• Galleries
Disc Two:
• Interview with Actor Dennis Dun
• Interview with Actor James Hong
• Interview with Actor Donald Li
• Interview with Actor Carter Wong
• Interview with Actor Peter Kwong
• Interview with Actor Al Leong
• Interview with Actor Kurt Russell
• Interview with Director John Carpenter
• Interview with Producer Larry Franco
• Interview with Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund
• Interview with Screenwriter
• Interview with Screenwriter
• Interview with Martial Arts Choreographer James Lew
• Interview with Bandmember Tommy Lee Wallace
• Interview with Bandmember Nick Castle
• Interview with Director of Photography Dean Cundey
• Interview with Stuntman Jeff Imada
• Interview with Poster Artist Drew Struzan
• Vintage Featurette


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
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-Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Big Trouble In Little China: Collector's Edition [Blu-Ray] (1986)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 17, 2019)

For their fourth collaboration, director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell gave us 1986’s Big Trouble in Little China. In this one, Russell plays truck driver Jack Burton. Chinatown hoodlums kidnap his pal Wang Chi’s (Dennis Dun) girlfriend Miao Yin (Suzee Pai), so Jack gets involved in the quest to rescue her.

This also involves a local attorney named Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), as she helps them work to get back Miao Yin, and Jack goes to buy her out of slavery. However, before he can do his thing, supernatural beings called the Three Storms abduct her.

This leads Jack and his pals down an ever weirder path as they get involved in a crazy world of Chinese magic and spirits, all of which leads toward an evil leader named Lo Pan (James Hong).

I know China boasts a pretty substantial cult audience, and I feel like I should be one of them. I was 19 when the movie hit screens, so I was firmly within its target audience.

However, I saw it back in 1986 and was left unmoved. I don’t think I disliked it, but it left little impression on me.

Including my screening of this Blu-ray Disc, I’ve seen China at least four or five times since 1986, and each viewing ended about the same way: decidedly underwhelmed. Earlier I stated that I was within the flick’s target audience, but maybe that’s not true. Maybe you had to be 9 to 12 years old when you first saw China to embrace it.

I don’t mean to imply that China is a kid’s movie, but it does seem like the kind of fantasy that works best for a younger audience. If you took in the film at an older age, it various flights of fancy may make less of a positive impression.

That’s certainly the case for me, as I just can’t find much here to entertain me. I love action movies, and I definitely have an affection for flicks from the 1980s. Most of us love films from our formative years, so I probably enjoy 1980s pictures more than if I had been born at a different time.

With the exception of China, that is, though to be frank, I’ve never been able to develop much fondness for Carpenter’s works. His best – such as Halloween and The Thing - are very good, but I don’t think he’s ever made a legitimately great movie, and the majority of Carpenter’s works are mediocre at best.

Compared to the crap Carpenter made in the 1990s, China looks pretty decent, but I think it’s too anonymous to succeed. As our hero, Russell has surprisingly little to do through much of the film. Carpenter bogs us down in tons of Chinese backstory, so the characters and action tend to get lost along the way.

Carpenter has never been much of a storyteller anyway, as his films often ramble and lack solid pacing. This tendency becomes more pronounced here simply because the basic plot is so simple.

China really offers nothing more than a rescue tale. All of the supernatural claptrap is just window-dressing to make things more exotic.

It doesn’t work, partially because the characters are so forgettable. Russell is a likable personality, but for some reason, he tends to emulate other actors in his Carpenter collaborations.

His Clint Eastwood impression in Escape from New York was acceptably satisfying, but that movie had more to offer from its characters, story and peripherals. Left to his own devices here, Russell’s John Wayne impersonation goes nowhere. Jack gets buried beneath the other elements and never develops into someone compelling.

Cattrall’s Gracie comes across like a slightly less whiny version of Willie from Temple of Doom, while the others make even less of an impression. Dun’s Wang is an especially blah character.

Wang fills in the “best friend” role in a wholly unsatisfying way, as he’s just a generic buddy without any passion or personality, even when he’s supposed to be more dynamic.

Granted, some of the character issues were intentional, as Carpenter and Russell wanted to make Jack the opposite of the usual movie protagonist. Rather than give us someone competent and heroic, Jack is more of a bumbling boob. They wanted to turn the archetype on its head and make the traditional “buddy” the one who does all the heavy lifting.

It doesn’t work, largely because the movie never establishes a solid tone. Wang is such a bland character that he doesn’t fill the hero role well, and Russell has too much natural charisma to take a backseat to him. Sure, the movie’s events make Wang look like the stronger character, but the performances from the respective actors ensure that this theme doesn’t work.

China just never finds a groove. Its creators want it to be a comedy, but it’s not funny enough to work in that way. It’s not smart enough to qualify as a solid parody, and it’s not exciting enough to become a good action film.

As I watch China, I always wait for the fun part to come along, but it never does. Every time I see the film, I hope I’ll finally “get it” and enjoy it. With its exotic situations and many action sequences, it seems like something that should offer delightful entertainment.

Never underestimate John Carpenter’s ability to take a good story and make it ordinary. If you want to see how much difference a director can make, compare his Starman to ET the Extra-terrestrial.

The latter offers one of the greatest films ever made, while the former provides a pretty inconsistent, often flat drama. I have no doubt that if Carpenter had made ET and Spielberg directed Starman, the latter would’ve been great and the former would’ve been blah.

At no point does Big Trouble in Little China turn into a bad film, but it also never threatens to become anything special. It provides moderate entertainment at best and lacks much in the way of compelling action, story or characters. If you’re not already among its cult fanbase, I doubt you’ll get much from it.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus A+

Big Trouble in Little China appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This turned into a satisfying presentation.

Sharpness was usually positive, as most of the movie came across as distinctive and concise. Wide shots occasionally looked a bit indistinct, but the flick was well defined for the majority of its running time.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement remained absent. Source flaws weren’t a concern. Grain remained within acceptable levels and no print flaws appeared.

Colors were good, as they looked pretty dynamic and lively. The palette gave us broad tones with nice impact. <:> Blacks seemed dark and tight, while shadows showed good clarity. Only the minor softness kept this fine transfer from “A”-level consideration.

Though a product of its era, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Big Trouble in Little China proved successful, as the flick provided a broad soundfield, especially in the front channels. In fact, the information might’ve been a little too wide, as the elements could seem a bit too “speaker-specific”.

Nonetheless, the track opened up well and usually blended in a positive way. The elements appeared in the appropriate spots and created a good sense of environment.

As for surround usage, the back speakers added some zing to the proceedings. We didn’t get a ton of information from the rear channels, but they were active enough to help the track. The action scenes boasted the most noticeable material, so quieter sequences didn’t have a lot to do.

While not stellar, audio quality was good. Speech demonstrated nice clarity, and I noticed no edginess or other issues.

Music seemed distinctive and fared best. Carpenter’s score showed real vivacity and range, so it was the strongest aspect of the mix.

Effects appeared accurate and fairly dynamic, though a little distortion occasionally affected elements like gunfire. This was a satisfying soundtrack for its age.

How did the 2019 “Collector’s Edition” compare to the original 2009 Blu-ray? Audio seemed identical, as both discs appeared to come with the same DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix.

Visuals showed upgrades, though, as the 2019 Blu-ray looked better defined and showed a cleaner image with stronger colors. While the old BD offered more than acceptable picture quality, the 2019 release easily topped it.

The 2019 CE includes a mix of old and new extras, and we get three separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell.

Both sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. They discuss cast, characters and performances, stunts and effects, sets and locations, story and script areas, reshoots and alterations, influences, reactions to the film and its reception.

Prior Carpenter/Russell commentaries have been very good, and this one follows suit. They prove pretty chatty, as only a few minor lulls appear. They get into the movie well and also discuss related subjects from their career.

Make no mistake: they can go off-topic at times. However, they don’t go onto useless tangents, as instead, they give us details close enough to the subject at hand to make sure we remain interested. Okay, I could live without the discussion of what their kids were up to at the time, but otherwise, this is a very enjoyable piece.

For the second commentary, we hear from producer Larry Franco. Along with moderator Justin Beahm, Franco discusses aspects of his career and his collaborations with Carpenter as well as aspects of the Big Trouble production.

The commentary probably spends a little too much time with Franco's pre-1986 work in films, as it starts to feel like they'll never actually discuss the movie in question. Still, those stories prove fairly interesting and Franco brings some good notes about Big Trouble.

Footnote: Franco thinks Big Trouble was Kim Cattrall's first movie and she was only 18 at the time. As all horny teen boys from the early 80s know, Cattrall was “Lassie” in 1982's Porky’s - and she was almost 30 when Big Trouble debuted! She did make her first movie as a teen, but that was back in 1975.

Second correction: Franco thinks Mars Attacks! flopped because it faced direct competition from Independence Day. The former didn't hit screens until more than five months after the latter, so that claim doesn't work.

The third commentary involvesspecial effects artist Steve Johnson. Along with moderated Anthony C. Ferrante, Johnson digs into his career and his work on Big Trouble.

At no point does Johnson truly dish dirt, but he proves much more frank than most participants in chats like this. He talks about conflicts he had with Carpenter and even reveals the illicit ways he funded his youthful entry into the world of movie makeup! Johnson gives us a lively view of the subject matter.

Another audio track provides an isolated score. This presents Carpenter’s music in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 rendition. I’m not a big fan of movie scores, but this is a nice treat for those who enjoy them, especially given the lossless treatment.

Eight Deleted Scenes come from a mix of sources. Most show snippets from a workprint, while a few stem from a long video version of the film. “Lava” shows storyboards.

We find “Airport/Chinatown” (5:58 workprint, 7:07 video), “The Dragon of the Black Pool” (2:47, 4:29), “The White Tiger” (2:22, 7:15), “Gracie’s Office” (3:46), “Thunder’s Tour” (1:41), “Beneath Chinatown” (2:27), “Lava Sequence” (3:56) and “Six Demon Bag” (11:56).

That sounds like a ton of cut footage, but in fact, most of the clips show the same sequences from the final film with minor additions. “Bag” consists of a mix of short trims, so it offers the highest percentage of cut footage; the others really just show the final scenes with small alterations. Fans will enjoy the variations, though.

We also locate an Extended Ending. It runs three minutes, 17 seconds and depicts Jack’s revenge on the punks from the airport.

It’s reasonably interesting and might’ve been a good addition to the final film. We also get a short, superfluous coda for Jack that wouldn’t have been as positive.

A Music Video for the title song lasts three minutes, 28 seconds. Written by Carpenter and performed by the Coupe de Villes, the video mixes movie clips with some awkward performance footage.

Carpenter is the main member of the Coupes, so he plays a prominent role in the video. It’s kind of interesting to see him get his McCartney on with his Hofner bass, but overall it’s a bad tune and a cheesy video.

The Still Galleries cover three domains: “Movie Stills” (78 images), “Posters and Lobby Cards” (81) and “Behind the Scenes” (182). All add good material.

We get a Gag Reel that spans two minutes, 56 seconds. It shows a fairly standard array of shots, though some better than usual stuff appears at times.

Next comes a Vintage John Carpenter Audio Interview. In this five-minute, 49-second clip, the director brings some general notes about the film and production. Nothing substantial emerges, but it’s good to get for archival reasons.

In the same vein, we find a 27-minute, 26-second Electronic Press Kit. The EPK offers general profiles for Russell and Carpenter as well as a look at the film’s Chinese influences and some story/character notes. Like the audio interview, it’s good to get the EPK for historical purposes, but we don’t learn much.

Finally, some ads finish Disc One. We get three trailers: two US, one Spanish. We also receive five TV Spots.

As we shift to Disc Two, we find a Vintage Featurette. In this seven-minute, 26-second piece, we hear from Carpenter, Russell, visual effects producer Richard Edlund, costume designer April Ferry and actors Dennis Dun, Kim Cattrall, and James Hong.

The program throws out a few basics about the production. It stays pretty superficial and promotional, but it includes a smattering of decent notes.

We get more from the visual effects producer with a Richard Edlund Interview. It fills 13 minutes, 25 seconds as Edlund discusses various effects used on the film.

Edlund covers the material well. He goes through the elements in a concise manner and turns this into an effective program.

Disc Two comes packed with new interviews, and the first six come from actors. We hear from Dennis Dun (14:14), James Hong (23:57), Donald Li (18:29), Carter Wong (25:47), Peter Kwong (28:34) and Al Leong (6:32).

These follow similar patterns, as the actors all look at their overall careers as well as aspects of their work on Big Trouble. Of course, since some run much longer than others, the level of detail varies, but the basic subject matter persists.

Overall, the interviews offer some good notes from the actors about their experiences. Kwong’s takes on the most unusual bent, as he offers an intriguing view of racism in Hollywood. All deserve a look, though.

An aside: how is it possible that Hong is now 90 years old? He looks 30 years younger!

We hear from the writers next, as we get interviews with WD Richter (20:31) and Gary Goldman (27:50). They discuss the origins and evolution of the story/script and various factors that impacted the film. Both writers give us lots of good information in these revealing chats.

Next we find an Interview with Martial Arts Choreographer James Lew. This reel spans 35 minutes, one second and covers aspects of his involvement in martial arts and his work on the film. His conversation provides a nice array of insights.

Seen in Disc One’s music video, we find interviews with Coupe De Villes members Nick Castle (12:35) and Tommy Lee Wallace (28:51). Also noted filmmakers, they cover their relationships with Carpenter and the work of the band.

Castle doesn’t give us much of interest, but Wallace proves more informative, largely because he also worked as 2nd AD on Big Trouble. He also goes back to his childhood with Carpenter, and his stories about his youth help make Wallace’s conversation easily the superior of the two. Wallace’s piece becomes one of the disc’s best.

After this we get an Interview with Movie Poster Artist Drew Struzan. In his 17-minute, four-second piece, he gets into how he became an artist and his work with album art and movie posters. The interview becomes a little rambling at times, but I like the overview of the artist’s career.

Carpenter reappears in the 12-minute, 14-second Return to Little China. He gives us more thoughts about the film’s production and related subjects in this generally interesting chat. Carpenter sticks to the movie in question more than others.

In addition, Russell comes back for Being Jack Burton, a 20-minute, 57-second clip in which the actor discusses his relationship with Carpenter and aspects of the production. Russell adds to the notes from the commentary and turns this into a likable reel, especially when he discusses his reactions to the movie’s release. Hint: he’s not a fan of Struzan’s art.

Up next, we find an Interview with Director of Photography Dean Cundey. During his 15-minute, 38-second chat, Cundey discusses his collaborations with Carpenter and his efforts for Big Trouble. Cundey delivers a mix of insights here.

We hear more from Larry Franco with Producing Big Trouble. This interview spans 15 minutes, 21 seconds and gets into his work with Carpenter and other aspects of his career. Some of this repeats from the commentary but Franco throws out a few new notes.

Finally, an Interview with Stuntman Jeff Imada lasts 12 minutes, 29 seconds. The show examines his career and actions for Big Trouble. Imada brings some nice thoughts about the movie’s stunt work.

If you want good fantasy-related action/adventure, stick with Indiana Jones. Big Trouble in Little China aspires to fill the same territory but it never becomes anything memorable. Oddly anonymous, its 100 minutes pass without pain but also without any real excitement or drama. The Blu-ray offers very good picture and audio as well as an extensive collection of supplements. The movie doesn’t do much for me, but fans should love this excellent release..

To rate this film, visit the original review of BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main