“Ya know, it’s kinda like one of those video games… you just defeated the first wave.”
– Johnny Murata
Showdown in Little Tokyo is one of the stranger Warner Archive releases, that goes without saying. If it were not for the presence of Brandon Lee – whose career was tragically cut short due to accident while filming The Crow – I’m going to assume it’s highly doubtful this would be getting a hi-def makeover, costar Dolph Lundrgen not exactly a name that guarantees big sales (even for lesser known cult action flicks). Throw in the picture’s troubled production history – let’s just say a freakishly short 78 minute running time wasn’t what director Mark Lester (Firestarter) originally intended – brutal critical assessment (both at the time and now) and less than stellar reception at the box office and it’s pretty obvious this isn’t a film screaming for a Blu-ray release, making me wonder just a tiny little bit what Warner Archive was thinking when they dug this one out of the Warner Bros vault.
Not that I’m complaining. A buddy action-comedy that flips the racial components by having the hulk-like Caucasian Sgt. Chris Kenner (Lundgren) be the sword-wielding raised in Japan while his Japanese-American partner (never mind that Lee was Chinese-American) Detective Johnny Murata (Lee) be the one who was raised by a wealthy family in the California suburbs, the movie doesn’t really try to do a heck of a lot that’s new, unexpected or original. What it does do is make sure there is action, lots of it, both stars shooting, flipping, kicking and punching their way through a never-ended phalanx of yakuza bad guys in a quest to clean up the streets, save the girl and stop a powerful new drug from taking hold amongst the weak-willed populace.
What’s the movie Lester originally intended? Where did Stephen Glantz and Caliope Brattlestreet’s script go that we were not anticipating? What food was offered up for thought and discussion that would have been a surprise? Your guess is as good as mine, because whatever film Lester and company wanted to make didn’t end up being the one Warner Bros decided to release. The whole thing feels more like an elongated episode of a 1990s syndicated television action series than it does a feature film, only the four-letter words, nudity and gruesome, over-the-top bloodletting keeping it from being suitable as far as that goes.
Still, there was a reason Lee was on the path to stardom, his charisma, athleticism and charm readily apparent even in a misfire like this. Also, say what you will about Lundrgen and his acting abilities but his action prowess has never been in dispute, his chiseled physique as impressive here as it ever was at any point during his B-movie heyday. Finally, the great Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa is a solid villain, watching him menacingly chew the scenery as much fun as you think it is. Showdown in Little Tokyo might not be any good, but that doesn’t make it a disaster, and while I’m still scratching my head wondering why Warner Archive bothered with this one for fans of the stars giving the Blu-ray a look isn’t remotely a bad idea.
Showdown in Little Tokyo is presented on a single-layer 25GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 1.78:1/1080p transfer.
Showdown in Little Tokyo slices its way onto Blu-ray with an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track and includes optional English SDH subtitles.
The only extra included with this release is the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer (1:26)
Is Showdown in Little Tokyo a good movie? Heck no. Is it far more watchable, and in most respects even entertaining, than it has any right to be? Without question. Is there anything additional to say other than that? Not that I can think of, so I’m just going to stop now and hopefully quit while I’m a little bit ahead.