Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)
"One's a warrior. One's a wise guy. They're two L.A. cops going after a gang of drug lords. Feet first."
What do Mortal Kombat, Rocky IV, Wayne's World , and The original Crow have in common? They all share actors with this movie! This bad boy is definitely not for the kids, however, containing some language, a bunch of nudity, and even more violence. For the adults in the audience who are fans of classic 80's and 90's action flick, you are going to find yourself right at home with this one.
There's a bit of twisty characters in this flick. Kenner (Dolph Lundgren) is an American who lived and trained in Japan for a good chunk of his life, where his parent's where ruthlessly murdered by Yakuza man Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa). Now all grown up, Kenner is a police officer in Little Tokyo attacking crime as any golden-day cinema cop would - fist first. Kenner has a run in with some of the Yakuza members while casually eating at a restaurant when they try to extort the owner, and in the midst of his scuffle his new partner Murata (Brandon Lee) shows up. It's a bit of a rough introduction, but over the course of the movie Kenner and Murata bond as any good buddy cops would - witty banter and a noble cause. When investigating a murder case, Kenner has a run in with Yoshida, and the pace of the movie swiftly changes to a revenge plot - in which Murata starts off playing "good cop" to the vengeful "bad cop" of Kenner. The tipping point occurs after the run in, when Kenner prevents the singer Minako (Tia Carrere) from committing Sepuku after being essentially raped by Yoshida.
It's seems a bit trivial - something that feels like nothing more than an added excuse for the violence about to come, and to add a romance sub-plot to a testosterone filled movie. More than that, however, it helps to reinforce the ties to Japanese culture that Kenner has (and humorously enough Murata does not have, being a american born guy who only has one Japanese parent) and are also laced throughout the movie. The rest of the plot slowly transcends into what anyone going into a movie named Showdown in Little Tokyo really wants to see: gun fights, martial arts, explosions, and a "for honor" final battle with swords.
It's a bit like Big Trouble in Little China in respect to how it integrates another culture into the otherwise American movie - Kenner constantly references it throughout the film as he explains things to Murata, as well as the more obvious instance of the Yakuza and a Japanese-themed safe house. Being not Japanese myself, I can't entirely vouch for the accuracy of everything put forth by this aspect of the movie even if some of it is what I myself have learned as well, but as a mechanic it functions incredibly well. It keeps things from feeling simply like a re-skinned mafia movie, and allows for a more diverse set of locations to shoot in (such as the bathhouse, the for-mentioned safe house, and the Little Tokyo parade). Little details are presented as far as even the costumes go, with each and every member of the Yakuza bearing tattoos (the specific name of the specific one used to Identify them escapes me).
The acting jobs across the board are done quite well, even for moments when it seems like they are just having way too much fun hamming it up. Such lines grace the film as "And when we're done, we're gonna go eat fish off those naked chicks!" as well as numerous others that had me almost rolling on the floor with how absurd they were (even if it was totally sound in the context of the movie). Fight choreography was performed quite well, with a nice mix of punches and kick with the more direct act of bustin' caps. The lines also came through well as far as audio levels are concerned, meaning it was easy to hear even the lines in Japanese that aren't subtitled. Some of the sub-characters may have been a bit over board with their lines (such as the generic black gangsters or biker goons), but this only added to the charm of the film and wasn't in the slightest bit offensive (seriously, if you think it's offensive for a portrayed black gangster to say "dawg," then you need to be a bit more open minded in the first place).
If the movie has any major flaws (outside of not being a very family friendly flick) it's that some of the scenes are shot in a manner that can break immersion. When the Yakuza punish a man by crushing him and his car in a car crusher, we can clearly see that the man is a dummy as he still delivers a line and the dummy just sits there casually listed off to the right looking out the front window - even when the scene immediately before and after has the actor looking out the side windows at his will-be killers. It's trivial, but certainly makes it feel much more like a B movie with an all star cast then might have actually been intended, dating the effects a bit. I honestly don't mind, even if I did double take while watching that particular scene, because it was still quite the enjoyable cheesy movie (by the end, Kenner is running around in giant karate kid bandanna, samurai style pants, and open kung fu vest).
Now, as I stated at the start of this, there are some pretty obvious reason's I can't recommend this to everyone because it wouldn't be appropriate for me to do so. That being said, for those of you that wouldn't be offended by the large amount of free-roaming breasts and people getting shot and cut up, it's a rather enjoyable movie. It's rather much a classic martial arts buddy cop revenge flick - so if that's your kinda of movie, then by all means I'm sure you have seen it already anyways. Honestly, of all the amusing parts of this movie, the one quote has stuck with me the longest, as has the fact that I couldn't believe I saw so many actors whom I recognized.