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Showdown In Little Tokyo

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- "Just in case we get killed, I wanted to tell you - You have the biggest dick I have ever seen on a man." In Short

This was Brandon Lee's American debut. Legions of Bruce Lee fans, martial arts movie junkies, and action fanatics gathered to watch this movie at the theater that fateful night in 1991. All walked out disappointed, me included. Poorly made and dim-witted, Showdown in Little Tokyo is especially disappointing considering the combined talents of Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee.

Synopsis

Brandon Lee (The Crow) plays Johnny Murata, a Eurasian cop who is also a martial arts expert. He teams up with Dolph Lundgren (The Punisher) as Detective Kenner (no relation), a white cop who has all the respect in the world for his "ancestors". They both team up to wipeout the Yakuza, who are led by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat), who is also responsible for killing Dolph's parents, as well as kidnapping and raping Dolph's girlfriend, played by Tia Carrere (Rising Sun). Lundgren and Lee now must hang tough and kill all of the Yakuza thugs or die trying. In Detail

At first glance, Showdown in Little Tokyo looks like it should be a first rate martial arts action movie. It has Brandon Lee (son of Bruce Lee) and Dolph Lundgren (The Punisher and Universal Soldier, and who was considered one of the biggest action stars of the time), and yet this movie is a little too lackluster, cheesy, and dumb to be fun. The cast has a lot of decent actors in the mix, including Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Tia Carrere, and it was done by Mark L. Lester (Commando, Class Of 1984, and Class Of 1999). How can a production like this stink? Who knows… but it does.

Dolph Lundgren, who really is one of the more credible action stars out there, simply plays it numb and very detached; he knows it’s ridiculous that he's supposed to be an American samurai, and he simply looks tired and seems as if he's about to say, "I should be in Brandon Lee's role and vice versa, dammit!" He knows he's miscast, so he just wings it. He's hardly the worst in the cast, but this is not the highlight of his career.

On the other hand, you have Brandon Lee, who plays the part as sort of a comic relief, but he just comes off as annoying and stupid. His stupidity peaks when he pulls out his badge when the Yakuza have guns on him and says "Cop, policeman - it's bad to shoot me. He's a policeman, too; it's bad to shoot him." Not even Jalal Merhi would put that in one of his movies, because although it's meant for comic relief, it's a very knuckleheaded scene. Brandon Lee's charismatic, and he isn't cannon bait (a term I will borrow from Ziggy); once the movie progresses, he stops with the quips and his character becomes slightly more likable. It's probably the second best performance of the movie, but really, Brandon Lee can do better, and has (Legacy Of Rage and The Crow). Then we have Tia Carrere, who is hands down the worst performer of this movie. All her character is allowed to do is scream, run like hell, and be taken hostage. And she seems as if her only reason for appearing here is to be the love interest (i.e. have sex with Dolph Lundgren), get taken hostage in the climax, and hug are hero at the end. It's a thankless role, but Carrere plays it with such an over the top damsel in distress attitude that it almost ranges on self parody. Carrere is simply awful, and you will be rooting for the fire when she is tied to a gasoline tank, rather than for Dolph. The best performance in this movie comes from Tagawa. He is a seasoned villain for cheap action movies of this sort. Tagawa is always a decent villain, but here he's at his best; he plays it with conviction, humor, and a sadistic edge. When he chops of a blonde woman's head, off the look on his face right before he delivers the fatal blow is dramatic and scary; it makes that scene memorable. Tagawa is such a good villain that you only wish he could be more then just the cardboard cutout the script forces him to be. However he manages to be good and memorable never the less. Obata, on the other hand, doesn't speak English, so it's hard to judge his performance; although I wasn't greatly impressed with his acting skills, I thought he was okay (though once again the brainless script doesn't help much).

The action scenes themselves are decent, yet leave hardly any impression. There's a great difference between the intense action scenes of The Punisher and I Come In Peace than what we get here. Brandon Lee and Dolph Lundgren know how to kick ass, but this isn't their best work. You may be better off renting Rapid Fire and The Punisher for a glimpse of how good Lundgren and Lee can be at kicking ass. But as it is, these scenes are passable; certainly better than the fights in a bad Jalal Merhi action flick. These scenes are slightly above average but hardly redeem a movie this bad.

And in the end there really isn't much to say about an action flick like Showdown In Little Tokyo, except that despite some good moments of ass kicking and Tagawa's good performance, there isn't much here. A movie like this is a lot of pyrite (fool's man gold): it looks like an excellent action flick with the casting of two talented action stars, but once you actually see it, it's a much different story.

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Review: WTF??? star3/10 SillyconJester

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