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Review Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991): All kinds of bad!

genre: action, martial arts, crime







Back when this came out I loved this film. Especially since it was advertised as the first film with Brandon Lee. son of Bruce Lee. Naturally this wasn't his first. Still I do think this was the one that gave him a lot of notoriety. But it was also a film that featured many of the elements that I loved in an action film. However, now after having viewed it again after many years, I think Showdown in Little Tokyo is quite bad.

Actually to be honest, I never truly thought it was super good. But it had it's charm. And a lot of that charm was due to Brandon Lee's charisma and chemistry with Dolph Lundgren. While I didn't have problems with Dolph Lundgren himself I did have trouble with his role compared to how Brandon Lee's character was portrayed. Johnny (Brandon Lee) is supposed to be an American of Japanese decent who knows nothing of his own culture except martial arts. Kenner (Lundgren) on the other hand knows everything. Sure he was born and raised in Japan but that doesn't automatically mean you get exposed to everything. Johnny's mother is briefly discussed. She was the one who gave him the option to do either flower arranging or martial arts so that he would soak in some of his culture.  Like that would have been the only thing a mother would teach her son. I am sure the mother would have exposed him to all kinds of traditions and rituals he would have picked up on. He might not have always understood them or perhaps not even agree with them. But to blatantly not know or deny their existence? Come on. That is beyond preposterous.  

Not to mention the fact that most of the Asians in this film aren't even Japanese. While on some level I understand that perhaps they just looked for people who could portray them. It's an aspect of Hollywood that remains to be puzzling and infuriating. On the one hand they are trying their hardest to appear progressive and politically correct. But on the other hand don't really give a damn. That being said it is something I can overlook. Next to the racial element there is also a very sexist attitude. Women are being regarded as objects. One could argue that this is only the case when it's the Yakuza concerned. However Lundgren's character is guilty of it also. I am not even referring to the scene where he flirts with an older Japanese woman. Because the woman was very able and quick to shoot him down. It's the scene with Tia Carrere's character who is about to commit suicide. It's something she chose to do but was denied since Kenner intervened. The same Kenner who implied to Johnny that he had to be respectful of these kinds of rituals and traditions. Sure I get it. It's the typical damsel in distress thing that was heavily featured in most of the films back then. Still they at least could have tried to have Tia Carrere portray a real character and not some glorified piece of meat. 

You know what all of the above could have been forgiven if the action still holds up. Unfortunately this is not the case. It's the type of action that entertains while it lasts but is not something that remains enjoyable at multiple viewings. Especially then you will notice a lot of quick cuts and editing choices that stand in the way of showing martial arts goodness. Even the shoot em up moments are terrible. There isn't a single action scene that is memorable. Not one. So that should tell you something. 

Overall this is a film that was good back in the day but hasn't aged well one bit. I mean I went on from loving it do almost disliking it with a passion. I said almost. Because Brandon Lee's charm still is winning. Not one I can recommend! If you want a real good action flick with Brandon Lee in it then watch Rapid Fire. It's far superior on so many fronts and very underrated!






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