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Showdown in Little Tokyo

Warner Bros. // R // July 14, 2015
List Price: $21.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Ian Jane | posted July 16, 2015 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

"One's a warrior. One's a wise guy. They're two L.A. cops going after a gang of drug lords. Feet first."

Directed by Mark L. Lester, the man behind such gems as Class Of 1984, Commando and of courseRoller Boogie, 1991's Showdown In Little Tokyo is set in a Los Angeles that is as soaked in neon as it is ripe with crime at the hands of a Yakuza gang. That's right, these Japanese gangsters control the Little Tokyo neighborhood with an iron fist and were it not for one man, they'd likely be unstoppable. Enter LAPD Sargent Chris Kenner (Dolph Lundgren). He's a big, beefy blonde cop who was orphaned as a child when his father was killed in military action. This happened when the family was living abroad in Japan and it was there that he spent his formative years. As such, Chris has a deep connection with Japanese culture and is also skilled in many Japanese fighting styles.

When we meet up with Chris, he's trialing Yoshido (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), the bad ass leader of the Yakuza who runs a big time drug dealing operation out of what most everyday Joe's believe to be a simple brewery. When things get even more out of hand with the gang, Kenner is forced to team up with a new recruit named Johnny Murata (Brandon Lee), a man of mixed Japanese and American ancestry. Together they have to take down the Yakuza and simultaneously keep their key witness, Minako (Tia Carrere), out of harm's way. Of course, as the story progresses, Chris' past comes back to haunt him…

Fast paced, action packed and often times pretty funny, Showdown In Little Tokyo is very much a product of its time. The macho posturing is fairly constant in its (unintentional?) homoeroticism (at one point Lee tells Lundgren that he's got the biggest member he's ever seen and there are other references to Lundgren's size in the movie as well). Dolph is frequently shirtless and glistening, at one point he takes on some bad guys who attack him not with a gun or a knife or even their fists but instead a hose that sprays water all over him. This scene takes place in a bathhouse, which just adds to the tone in strange ways. Maybe the producers were just trying extra hard to bring in female audience members. And yet our heroes are as hetero as they get, or at least Dolph is, as he gets the chance to sleep with Carrere's character inside the distinctly Japanese style home he keeps in Los Angeles that he claims to have built himself. That's probably overthinking it though.

But yeah, this one is quick paced and fun. There's loads of fights and shoot outs and they're all reasonably violent in that cartoonish over the top way that a lot of action movies are. There's good fight choreography on display and Brandon Lee really gets to strut his stuff in that regard. Here he shows a lot of the same sort of self-assuredness and confidence on screen that was such a big part of what mad his father's movies so much fun and you can't help but think that, yeah, this guy would have gone on to be a bigger star than he was had he not passed away at such a young age. Lundgren also does well in the action scenes. He's a big dude to be sure but he's got moves and his skills are pretty legitimate. Tia Carrere doesn't have a whole lot to do here except stand around and look scared and/or pretty but she does that well. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa steals more than a few scenes as the heavily tattooed merciless leader of the Yakuza gang, taking things just far enough over the top to make for a memorable villain.

Shot with a decent amount of style and making nice use of some fun inner-city locations, it's got plenty of corny one liners and a gratuitous explosion or two. The finale duel, in which Dolph takes on the Tagawa in a duel to the death using, what else, samurai swords is kind of awesome and if this isn't deep or particularly thought provoking, who cares. It's a hell of a lot of fun.

The Blu-ray:


Showdown In Little Tokyo looks very good on this Blu-ray from the Warner Archive collection, presented in 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition. This is, for the most part, a pretty snazzy looking transfer. Colors look fantastic here, especially all those neon signs that are featured in most of the outdoor/night time scenes, while skin tones look nice and accurate, never too hot or too warm. Detail is nicely and noticeably improved over the previous DVD release and black levels are solid if just a tiny bit lighter than reference quality. Texture and depth are sometimes quite impressive, but there are some shots that look a little bit softer than others likely due to how they were shot. There's a natural amount of film grain noticeable here but very little in the way of actual print damage to note, just the odd white speck here and there. So yeah, the movie looks quite good in HD. Fans should be pleased with this aspect of the release.


The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo track with optional subtitles provided in English only. The audio quality here is fine. The score has some nice depth to it that helps to enhance the atmosphere of certain scenes while the levels stay properly balanced throughout. The dialogue is always easy to understand the sound effects have some serious wallop to them. There aren't any problems at all with any hiss or distortion while range, presence and clarity are all noticeably advanced over the previous DVD release.


Outside of a static menu and chapter selection, the only extra feature included on the disc is a theatrical trailer for the feature. Fans will lament the absence of anything substantial here and the movie deserved more, but that is, unfortunately, all we get.

Final Thoughts:

Showdown In Little Tokyo might not win any awards for originality or ever be lauded for its complex characters or layered, nuanced performances but it is a whole lot of fun. Lester keeps the action coming and Lundgren and Lee really do make for a great team here. There's just a whole lot of entertainment value crammed into this movie's running time and that, coupled with the quality of the presentation, makes it easy to overlook the lack of extras and recommend the disc.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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