Sunday, March 29, 2020
Brandon Lee Blogathon: Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)
Chris Kenner is a detective in the Los Angeles police department, in Little Tokyo. Ever since his parents were murdered as a child, Kenner was raised in Japan, and has adopted the way of life =. Now a fearsome opponent of any criminals, he also has trouble keeping partners, until Johnny Murata comes along. A bit of a rogue himself, he's been assigned to keep Kenner out of trouble, but trouble soon finds them when they discover a Yakuza drug operation, led by the sinister Yoshida, the man Kenner last saw over the body of his parents...
The 80s were a special time for action films, and they were truly unique in a [wacky and cheesy] way. They did whatever they wanted, and =. Not all were good of course, and some were just stupid, but every now and then you see a hidden classic that really makes you =!...Showdown in Little Tokyo was not from the 80s, actually, being instead from 1991, but it embodies the spirit and tone of those movies so well that it feels in a way like a last hurrah.
Showdown in Little Tokyo wastes no time getting straight to the point. It introduces the heroes and villains in quick succession, as well as the = of the story. The movie moves at a cheetah's pace, with only a 78 minute runtime! I don't know who decided this movie would be not 2 hours or even 90 minutes, but 78, but they should be given a medal! Not every film needs to be the same length, and there's nothing wrong with movies 70 or even 60 minutes long, so it's nice to see Showdown breaking the mould and showing how easily it can be done. This is such a breezy film,
This film is fun, no doubt, but it's very stupid! Like Lundgren taking a bullet damn-near right next to his heart, and not even being slowed down. Or when there's a table that's more invincible than Lundgren himself, as Kenner uses it as a shield against machine-gun fire, and isn't perforated! And there's the moment where, to avoid interrogation, a man snaps his own neck! Is it possible? Maybe, and I certainly believe the Japanese are that talented, but man is it crazy to see! Showdown in Little Tokyo is full of moments like these. It never gets too much, and each one has you wondering what on earth will happen next, and if it'll involve cheesy puns (the answer is yes).
The comedy here really works. It stops the film from taking itself too seriously. The dialogue is really something special too! I couldn't believe some of what the characters say! Some examples are =", "=", and the spectacular delivery from Brandon "Will you do this right? Clean? Like a cop in the 20th century, not some samurai warrior? We're gonna nail this guy. And when we get done... we're gonna go eat fish off those naked chicks!". The rest though you'll have to see for yourself!
Something I really appreciate about Showdown is how it manages to be = without being sleazy. It never comes across as grimy. Not that I mind a bit of sleaze every now and then, but it could've felt sour in a film like this. The only place where I felt the film It's not handled horribly or anything, but didn't feel necessary, and would be at danger of making the rest of the film less fun by inclusion, except for the fact that it seems to be forgotten by everyone soon after. One thing I do respect the film for though is its handling of a rape victim as a love interest. The event doesn't 'tarnish' her and make her 'unlovable' for the lead, but he instead sticks with her all the same. Rarely seen in movies!
The two heroes here are great fun, and their differences play off really well. Kenner is a hulking but serene man, raised in the = of Japan, whereas Murata is of Japanese descent, but very much raised in American culture.I also like that the movie treats both ways of life as perfectly valid. Kenner might wonder why Murata knows so little about his own culture, and Murata gets a bit of culture shock at some of the crazier things he sees, but they're both respectful.
One thing the movie doesn't deem important though is their names, which are barely mentioned in the film. Murata is said once, as is Johnny, and with the former, you'll be lucky to hear it.
The diabolical Yakuza leader Yoshida is a great antagonist! He really feels like a threat, and not someone you wanna mess with. He's downright creepy at times too. One scene I really like, and feel informs his characters is when a failed henchman chops off his own finger to appease his master, but Yoshida remains unsatisfied and just murders the guy. While showing a straight depiction of Yakuza 'honour' would be interesting (i.e. "You have failed me! I demand a finger!...Ok, thank you, you're pardoned. Back to work"), I feel this corruption does a good job at showing the kind of man Yoshida is.
The supporting cast are good. Minako is a likeable female lead, and love interest, getting a few good moments throughout. Other characters like the motherly shopkeeper or the = coroner are neat, though only appear for one scene each. Some of the villains make a great impression (like Hagata, master of pain), but the main sub-villain is just alright. Fine, but the script doesn't really give him a whole lot to do besides stand there and shoot.
There are numerous moments in the film that'd look fake with any other actor, like when Kenner leaps over a speeding car! On one hand, it looks [ridiculous], but on the other, this is Dolph Lundgren we're talking about! Have you seen some of the tricks gymnasts pull off?! And not only is the super agile Lundgren skilled in that regard, but also in martial arts, and in the military. So to summarise, yeah, he probably did jump over the car all by himself, no strings attached.
The action in display here is all very well executed. The leads are clearly in the shape of their lives, and one can't help but look on in awe at the stuff they do here, and the way they take guys down. Every man hopes to look as good as Lundgren and Lee do here!
The only problem I have with the film is this. The main duo say that they're going to take down Yoshida and his gang the right way, by the book...and they proceed to violently kill every one of the gangsters! I get this is an action movie, but it's really distracting for the characters to say one thing, then so thoroughly do the opposite! It flies in the face of the plot, really. Even when casually sneaking a girl out of an enemy stronghold Dolph can't help but kill 8 people then and there. This is at its worst in the final fight, where the heroes blow up the drug factory (presumably/hopefully not wiping away all traces of evidence!), and slaughter everyone in their path, with Murata setting the sub-villain on fire after dropping him an alcohol vat! It feels out-of-character, and more than a little psychotic! Not to mention stupid too, given the explosion it causes.
The acting here is great! Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee are awesome leads, with Lundgren being his typical softly spoken powerhouse, while Lee is lots of fun as the quick-talking jokester. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa can play villainous roles in his sleep and this is no exception (even if it is hard to take him seriously in a bathouse diaper). Tia Carrere is a nice love interest, and =. Her nude stunt double is also great!
The cast here is a who's who of Asian-American talent, from Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Gerald Okamura, Al Leong, and many many more. In fact most of the cast is Asian, with It really bugs me when professional critics just sweep movies like this aside as being 'mindless trash below anyone's attention'. It may be mindless, but it's giving a ton of =, so can it with the =, why don't ya!
The music in Showdown is an eclectic mix. We've got swanky 80s tunes, Oriental music, as well as typical action beats. It's a pretty good score, and keeps you entertained throughout.
Showdown in Little Tokyo is a badass film. It's everything that's great and cheesy about action films from the 80s and 90s, and it's well worth a watch, especially for the leads. They're really something special here, and Brandon is more than distinctive enough!...
badge, suspect? car, gang guns, fight, badge/gun, swordsman, don't get killed, overlook crusher, car shot