John Carpenter eschews horror and sci-fi for jokey action-comedy in Big Trouble with Little China, which benefits from a rollicking wise-ass performance from Kurt Russell but otherwise falls limp courtesy of too many corny gags. Mashing up Eastern kung-fu and Western westerns, the film involves big rig driver Jack Burton (Russell, playing a tongue-in-cheek parody of his Snake Plissken-ish on-screen persona) being roped into a centuries-old battle against 2,000-year-old demon Lo Pan (James Hong), who in an attempt to become flesh and blood has kidnapped the green-eyed girlfriend of Jack’s gambling buddy Wang (Dennis Dun). When Lo Pan also winds up nabbing plucky lawyer Gracie (Kim Cattrall), who also has green eyes and for whom Jack clearly has the hots, the tank-topped hero ventures beneath L.A.’s Chinatown streets to rescue his damsel in distress, a battle that involves Lo Pan’s three elemental henchmen Thunder, Lightning and Rain, as well as a beastly monster and hordes of disposable thugs. Carpenter’s gift for widescreen framing is only sporadically spied amidst the many lethargic chop-socky fights, and his insistent genre-melding – though at times endearingly cheesy – rarely hits upon a set piece that’s truly invigorated. Given that its ridiculousness is often strained, Big Trouble should be an even bigger drag than it is, yet Russell repeatedly elevates the material with a plethora of cocky smirks, laughable come-ons to Cattrall, and self-deprecating quips and eye rolls, his cartoonish superhero antics so inspired they deserve a project that’s more pleasing than simply pleased with itself.