Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Cinema Monolith (and my brother Scott): 7/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: *½ out of 4
Released on July 2, 1986
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein, and W.D. Richter
Cast: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Kate Burton, Donald Li, Carter Wong, Peter Kwong, James Pax, Suzee Pai, Chao Li Chi, Jerry Hardin, Al Leong, and Noble Craig as the Sewer Monster
My brother and I loved this movie when it first played in theaters, back when I lived just a stone’s throw from a tiny two-screen discount cinema, and where he and I had ventured one evening to catch this comedy/kung fu/horror film from director John Carpenter, a film we were very enthusiastic about after we’d seen his recent sci-fi adventures Escape from New York and The Thing, and had read a captivating preview article in our friend’s sci-fi movie magazine.
As it turned out, we were both elated and entertained by the off-the-wall escapades involving a brash truck driver—played admirably and with a keen sense of understated humor by Kurt Russell—who was in over his head when he became inexplicably involved with kidnapping, mysticism, martial arts, supernatural monsters, ancient sorcerers, and the charms of Kim Cattrall. Now, looking at the film from a critical standpoint, it doesn’t quite stand up to that lofty comedic height I held it to nearly thirty years ago, but it’s still a barrel of whacked-out fun, and worth watching alone for the antics of Russell, and his priceless exchanges with all-around cutie Cattrall.
Like the more comedic and equally out-there The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, this tale featured the fingerprints of W.D. Richter, who’d directed Banzai two years earlier and, for this film, had been called in by the studio to rewrite the script, which he did extensively. The resulting adaptation followed the same demented attitude as Banzai, which was great, but occasionally missed the mark elsewhere: the narrative wasn’t as smart as it should’ve been, moments and scenes seemed oddly constructed at times, and the story was somewhat limited by its Chinatown setting and atmosphere.
Also, it took this recent viewing for me to realize that the supporting characters weren’t quite as interesting or heroic as any of the dozen or so found in Banzai; however, prolific character actor James Hong was a hoot as Lo Pan, the two-thousand-year-old, wheelchair-bound Chinese warlock who served as the film’s antagonist and Russell’s comic foil, and who supplied his fair share of quotable one-liners and goofball exclamations. Yes, the film had its faults, but these were outnumbered by its good points, and since none of it was to be taken seriously, I say just relax and enjoy it for what it is. And remember, it’s all in the reflexes. (7/10)
I’ve been patiently awaiting since that night in 1986 the day when you would admit that this movie wasn’t very good. Now that the Square Pan Pizza burns on my mouth have finally healed, you’ve finally come to your senses . . . and I feel redeemed.
I totally remember that night at the Vineyard Twin, and downing that pizza in a matter of minutes while we waited in line outside the theater. And has my attitude towards the movie changed since then? Yes, somewhat…but does my 7 out of 10 rating signify that it ‘wasn’t very good’? Hmmm. I would say redemption is not yet at hand, my scar-lipped friend!