Kate Burton

Big Trouble in Little China (1986, John Carpenter)

Although Big Trouble in Little China takes place in modern day San Francisco and has a whole bunch of awesome special effects, it’s really just John Carpenter doing another Western. This time he’s doing a light comedy Western and he’s got the perfect script for it. W.D. Richter (credited with an adaptation no less) has some great rapid fire expository dialogue. Practically everything Kim Cattrall says in the film until halfway through is exposition, but Cattrall and Carpenter sell it.

It works because Carpenter’s already established Big Trouble’s tone with star Kurt Russell. Russell’s doing a John Wayne impression, but John Wayne as a goofball who can’t figure anything out. He ends up playing sidekick to Dennis Dun. Carpenter, Russell and Richter take every opportunity to use the character for laughs. But Russell’s able to play the obnoxiousness as likability. It makes for a constantly entertaining film.

There’s also the James Hong situation. Hong plays the villain, both as a seven-foot tall sorcerer and as a wizened old man. Even though the villain’s obviously dangerous–something the film establishes right off–most of his scenes are played for outlandish humor. Carpenter’s big on getting physical humor out of his cast. Cattrall’s especially good in those scenes.

The film’s got excellent production values–particularly the editing. Dean Cundey’s photography is nice, but the fight scene editing is just phenomenal. Also essential is the frantic and playful score from Carpenter, in association with Alan Howarth.

Trouble’s a lot of fun.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by John Carpenter; screenplay by W.D. Richter, based on a story by Gary Goldman and David Z. Weinstein; director of photography, Dean Cundey; edited by Steve Mirkovich, Mark Warner and Edward A. Warschilka; music by Carpenter in association with Alan Howarth; production designer, John J. Lloyd; produced by Larry J. Franco; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Kurt Russell (Jack Burton), Kim Cattrall (Gracie Law), Dennis Dun (Wang Chi), James Hong (David Lo Pan), Victor Wong (Egg Shen), Kate Burton (Margo), Donald Li (Eddie Lee), Carter Wong (Thunder), Peter Kwong (Rain), James Pax (Lightning), Suzee Pai (Miao Yin), Chao Li Chi (Uncle Chu), Jeff Imada (Needles), Rummel Mor (Joe Lucky) and Craig Ng (One Ear).


Puncture (2011, Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen)

Puncture is a crusading attorney picture with a couple twists. First, there’s no trial and, specifically, no eureka moment in the trial. Second, the crusading attorney in question–played by Chris Evans–is haunted by more than demons or the bottle, he’s a rabid drug fiend. Oddly, Puncture never condemns the character’s drug use. In fact, he seems more with it high than not.

The film features technically wonderful performance, but no engaging character relationships. Co-director Mark Kassen plays Evans’s law partner–the responsible one–but their relationship never resonates. The film shows its most personality when it’s Evans, Kassen and Jesse L. Martin (as a mutual friend) hanging out. But Martin only shows up for two little scenes.

Brett Cullen is great as the bad guy attorney and he and Evans have a mildly interesting rapport. Puncture‘s problem is how the Kassen Brothers present Evans. They don’t really know what to do with the character; it might be a case where being accurate to history (it’s a true story) hobbles a film.

The only weak performance is probably Marshall Bell as Evans and Kassen’s client. He’s supposed to be fed up, vulgar and endearing. While Bell looks the part, he’s never believably earnest. On the other hand, Michael Biehn looks slicker than a used car salesman in Pomade but he still comes off as earnest.

The direction’s okay, though the wide frame is a mistake. The digital transitions are lame.

Puncture‘s plodding, but worth it for the acting.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Adam Kassen and Mark Kassen; screenplay by Chris Lopata, based on a story by Paul Danizger and Ela Thier; director of photography, Helge Gerull; edited by Chip Smith; music by Ryan Ross Smith; production designer, Christopher Stull; released by Millennium Entertainment.

Starring Chris Evans (Mike Weiss), Mark Kassen (Paul Danziger), Michael Biehn (Red), Brett Cullen (Nathaniel Price), Marshall Bell (Jeffrey Dancort), Jesse L. Martin (Daryl King), Roxanna Hope (Sylvia), Jennifer Blanc (Stephany), Tess Parker (Jaime Weiss), Kate Burton (Senator O’Reilly) and Vinessa Shaw (Vicky Rogers).


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