I think if I had watched this from start to finish prior to the age of, I don’t know, about thirteen my opinion on it would be totally different. As it stands, I watched it as I slowly moved over the hump towards thirty. It’s probably one of the best bad movies I’ve ever watched, but that doesn’t mean it’s actually very good.
Nothing about it makes any sort of sense. I watched it but still struggle to explain what exactly Kim Cattrall is doing in the middle of all of this. I guess the plot required a second green-eyed woman, and they figured why not throw in a white leading lady for Kurt Russell to romance? Seems as flimsy and good enough a reason as anything else that happens in this overheated pulp-fest.
The best thing going for it is an insouciant sense of humor about it all. This is perfectly encapsulated in Kurt Russell’s blissfully unaware and braggadocio leading performance. Well, he’s billed and displayed as the lead, but he’s really the goofy sidekick in a pleasing bit of bait-and-switch of our expectations. Russell’s self-winking knowledge of this fact gives his blowhard a deeply likable streak, and it’s brilliantly showcased in a scene where he delivers a monologue to the villain while his mouth and teeth are covered in lipstick after having lip locked with Cattrall. He never entirely displays that his character knows he looks ridiculous, but Russell’s glint in his eye lets the audience know just how absurd all of this play-acting is.
Big Trouble in Little China could have used more of this satirical bent and less of the non-stop parade of special effects work that renders many of the actors are mere foreground adornments. And yes, there’s also the stereotypical portrayal of Asian culture as some of the exotic, mystical netherworld where everyone knows martial arts. It’s a cult film through-and-through in every sense of the term, so you gotta take the good with the bad and the ugly.