Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)

Muscles meet manners.

Muscles meet manners.

I spent far too many years shunning the muscle-bound action hero. I don’t think I did this on purpose; it just never really occurred to me that anyone would ever enjoy watching sweaty dudes run around for 90 minutes. What was I thinking? Seriously, now that I’m older and wiser it’s very clear to me what a wonderful and simple pleasure the shitty action movie can be. Even better still, is the shitty action movie starring brainiac Swede Dolph Lundgren, who is awesome not only for playing He-Man and for having a master’s degree in chemical engineering, but also for dating the one and only Grace Jones! Can you imagine the amazing cheekbones their offspring would have had? Phew. But anyway, why is all this important? Because I had the good fortune to marry a man who owns Showdown in Little Tokyo, a perfectly entertaining buddy-cops-versus-Yakuza picture also starring Brandon Lee.

Sergeant Chris Kenner (Lundgren) is a mildly renegade cop working the streets of Los Angeles. Though buff as hell and blond as can be, the man is a product of Japanese culture: his parents were slain by an evil man when he was just a boy, and he was adopted by Japanese parents, making Little Tokyo the perfect home-

Yoshida and the Kingdom of ICE!

Yoshida and the Kingdom of ICE!

away-from-home. Kenner smells a rat when some thugs come into his favorite noodle shop trying to shake down the owner. Not knowing he’s a good guy, another cop, Johnny Murata (Lee) comes on the scene hoping to save the day, but in the end just ends up driving the bad guys out the front door while fighting the good guy! This, of course, is just the first of many hijinks the pair will get into together!

Back at the station, it becomes clear to Kenner that Murata, an American-born man of Japanese descent, knows nothing of his Japanese culture! This sets the stage for many hilarious misunderstandings. Despite their mild distaste for one-another, they are, naturally, assigned to be partners. Their main goal: find and arrest Yoshida, an old-school Yakuza who is planning on making a fortune selling “ice” to American kids in beer bottles! But first, his taste for Japanese women makes him capture the beautiful Minako (Tia Carrere), a singer at his nightclub who’s had several run-ins with Kenner and Murata already. Can the unlikely pair of cops stop Yoshida from addling our youth and keeping the young woman for his own?!



This movie is like candy. Sweaty, muscle-bound candy! The plot is stupid, weak and predictable, but that is precisely why this movie is a joy to watch. There’s nothing to puzzle over here; it is one of those movies you can just sink into the couch while watching, and every once in a while that’s just what I need. The dialogue is pretty shitty, but that’s okay; the awful one-liners suit Brandon Lee’s lack of acting talent just fine! What impressed me most about Showdown in Little Tokyo is Lundgren’s understated badassery. All too often, the man with the muscles chews the scenery and spits it in your face. Mr. Lundgren, however, handles the camera ever-so-gently, easily stealing the show. I really loved watching this movie, and I have no doubt that it will become an old standby – whenever I need him, Dolph will be there, ever-so-delicately drinking Japanese tea.


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