Thursday, August 8, 2013

Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) Review:

After proving his ability to be an action star from Red Scorpion (1988), The Punisher (1989) and Dark Angel (1990), someone got the bright idea to pair up Dolph Lundgren with famous martial arts star Bruce Lee's son, Brandon Lee. I'm going to assume this was director Mark L. Lester's idea because he's worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger before from Commando (1985). He must have enjoyed working with Schwarzenegger so much he needed to make another action film starring another foreign born 6 foot giant with big muscles. But adding to this special film was the casting of Brandon Lee who was added for good measure.

Brandon Lee & Dolph Lundgren
Both Lee and Lundgren follow the typical character arcs that most action films contain - the leads work by their own standards and consider themselves above the law, they also don't get along with others. But here's what's different, the two cops don't stay at odds for a lengthy amount of time so that particular element doesn't last very long to begin with. Doing this allows the companionship between them to grow better and stronger and this shows. Lundgren and Lee give their characters a lot of energy (and use it I might add) throughout the film. Plus, to make things even more backwards was having the characters' backgrounds switched. Having Lundgren's character born and raised in Japan and Lee's character raised like an immigrant in America was clever.

This enforced the funny tongue and cheek dialog between them which makes it enjoyable to watch. That particular element, the writing, I found to be written well. Together, these two "officers" of the law are trying to rid L.A. of the vicious Yakuza of Japan led by Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Tagawa was a great choice as the leader, he has a truly menacing presence when he's on screen. It's also appropriate that he plays that role because Tagawa is Japanese. Though it is funny how this isn't the first time Lundgren has fought the Yakuza either. He also did it in The Punisher (1989), they have something against him?

Like any Dolph Lundgren movie though, there's bound to be plenty of fist and gunfights. And Brandon Lee? Yeah, no bad guy is going to live in this movie. What may surprise people even more is how heavy some of the action scenes are. Apparently the 79 minutes of running time was the cut version, meaning the uncut version was much heavier (lengthier too). It actually stunned me a little to see such a lighthearted duo face off against such a  brutal enemy. Tango & Cash (1989) was rated R but even the violence there was light compared to this. That's not to say it wasn't entertaining - far from it. I also liked David Michael Frank's score to the film. It's definitely no orchestra but he creates a main theme for the film and even it gives it a Japanese like feel to it, which was much appreciated.

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Yoshida
Going back to the running time though, this movie should've been left uncut for release. The movie plays out very well yet the story feels so rushed like there were parts that were supposed to be included in the story (which their were, but were cut). This film could have had that and its frustrating when a good film is lowered in quality when the important parts are cut. Perhaps audiences could have seen even more development between Lee and Lundgren, that way this duo would be just as memorable as any other buddy cop duo. It's not to say they acted badly but there's always room to grow.

The leads are charismatic, the action is heavy and the writing is clever. Unfortunately, viewers may feel short-handed when it comes to running time due to all the cuts the MPAA wanted.

Points Earned --> 9:10


  1. Good review!

    Love this movie! One of Dolph's best...non-stop silly action.

    Would love to see an uncut version one day.

    1. I fully agree with you there, the editing doesn't even allow for much of glimpse of the heavy action scenes either which is also frustrating.