It is a tricky ask for director John Carpenter (Escape From L.A., Escape From New York) to keep under control a film that involves ghost, action-adventure, comedy, and kung-fu elements. But somehow he does it marvellously. Don’t get me wrong this is total camp and that is why it is so much fun.
When a friend asks you for a simple favour it is part and parcel of the friend code to do it. Wang Chi (Dennis Dun – The Last Emperor, Prince of Darkness) asks Jack (Kurt Russell – The Hateful Eight, Stargate) to go to the San Francisco airport and pick up his fiancée Miao Yin (Suzee Pai – Sharky’s Machine, First Blood), who is just arriving from China. Just as Jack, a truck driver, is about to collect her she is kidnapped by members of a Chinatown gang. A wild chase ensues.
Jack uncovers that the kidnappers are working for the ghost of a 3000-year-old warlord, David Lo Pan (James Hong – Blade Runner, Mulan). Lo Pan is a sorcerer making besting him rather tricky. Lo Pan needs to marry Miao, a green eyed woman, in order to break a curse that was cast upon him 2000 years ago.
Straight shooter Jack is aided in this quest by Wang and the plucky lawyer Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall – from television’s Sex in the City). He has his hands full and is going to need all the help he can get.
Busy, busy, busy. What with sorcerers, ghosts, magic, monsters, and martial artists there is never a dull or non fight of chase scene going on during the 99 minutes of the film. A rather simple story (that is really all that is needed in this case) of good vs. evil. Story is not what is emphasized here. It is all about the way it looks and the action sequences. The film is basically one long chase scene that has become a campy cult favourite. Dark comedic moments abound. So bad it is good.
It takes all the typical elements of kung fu and martial arts films and just stuffs them in there. Fast in pace and always moving. The first 30 minutes or so move at break neck speed. It also looks great with visuals making up a large part of the film’s appeal. Director Carpenter is an expert at special effects, so all his films are better because of this element. John Carpenter at his best.
For parents of younger people who want to see this film rest assured that though there is plenty of action and fight scenes there is no blood or gore. Though there are some close up of snapping limbs. There are also some monsters that are a little scary.