Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Showdown Re-evaluation

Showdown In Little Tokyo (1991) * * *

Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee, Tia Carrere, Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa, Toshiro Obata

Directed by Mark L. Lester

Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee join forces as two martial arts expert cops who battle the yakuza, bent on making a power play on the streets of Los Angeles. However for Dolph the fight is personal as the head yakuza boss killed his parents. The big twist here is that Dolph is like all big into samurai tradition, knows Japanese customs while Brandon Lee is an MTV junkie who is 100% American- Surprisingly Lester doesn’t take much advantage of this set up, opting instead to focus on Lundgren and Lee wasting numerous bad guys without breaking a sweat. I must admit Showdown In Little Tokyo is one of those films that you feel really sort of embarrassed to like. I for one should say that with the combined talents of Lundgren, Lee and Tagawa the fact this wasn’t a grandslam is a surprise. However then Showdown In Little Tokyo is so compulsively watchable and so hilariously un-politically correct that this shameless and gratutious action vehicle became a favorite among action fans and in my case I always secretly watched it as a guilty pleasure. There is much  unintentional humor to be found and I must admit this film is ridiculous and unbelievably corny and badly structured in terms of script (the tone goes back and forth between grisly violence and would be comic lines) but despite my attempts to say how bad this movie is, it has managed to be in my DVD collection and I just enjoy the film immensely. Mainly because the movie tries too hard and is often ridiculous because of it, also the film's plot is a total hodge podge, I mean for one the film seems truncated by some 14 minutes (plot angles such as the police investigation, as well as why Dolph's parents were murdered aren't even explained!). The acting is horrible (Lundgren and Lee can barely keep straight faces) and Showdown doesn’t even attempt to make Tagawa a credible villain, indeed this could’ve been made in the World War II era for how racist it is toward the Japanese villains and yet I find myself watching it, often in morbid fascination and often out of sheer pleasurable guilt. I don’t know how to really explain it but, this movie is pretty bad as far as everything you can name (excepting the action and crisp direction) however it is just so compuslively watchable that I have to give it marks for something. Indeed I would argue that Lee and Lundgren fans will love this movie (look at me) but if its quality you seek, avoid it. In the mean time here is one of my all time guilty pleasures.


  1. I imagine it goes without saying that this is one of my all time favorite films. I am in no way ashamed to admit I like it either, which is probably more a commentary on me than it is the movie. I'm glad you bumped it up a few stars though-- if anything deserves it, it's this miracle of modern cinema.