'Showdown' no hit when it strays from karate format

November 19, 1991|By Lou Cedrone | Lou Cedrone,Evening Sun Staff

''Showdown in Little Tokyo'' is good enough fun when it sticks to karate and related physical activity. Unfortunately, the film goes ugly now and then and when it does, it's really ugly. It includes, for instance, decapitation, amputation and finger-cutting.

The last, of course, is a given. This is a film about the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia, and in all films about this group, there is always a finger-cutting sequence, and it's always a little finger that goes.

Apparently, it's a Yakuza tradition. According to their code, if you disgrace yourself, you must cut off your little finger in front of the big guy.

That's expected. We're prepared for it. It's the other business that is really objectionable, the beheading and the foul treatment of women in the film.

Dolph Lundgren and Brando Lee star. They play cops who are partners.

Lundgren was Ivan Drago in ''Rocky IV.'' He made enough impression to build a career on the role. Lee is the son of Bruce Lee, possibly the most famous martial arts figure the entertainment industry has ever known.

Lee takes very easily to the screen. He may have a movie career ahead of him if he sticks to the martial arts formula.

According to the plot, Lundgren is the son of a military policeman who was murdered in Japan by a Yakuza killer.

Years later, the same Yakuza figure is in Los Angeles where he is a prominent member of the Japanese underworld.

You can believe that. According to the movies, anything and everything happens in Los Angeles.

Lee plays a Japanese-American, a policeman who knows

nothing about the Japanese culture. That gets a few laughs in the film.

These are intentional. Others are not. There is, for instance, a sex scene that gets laughs. Most of the time, the silliness is acceptable because the film aspires to little more than comic book.

''Showdown in Little Tokyo'' is showing at local theaters. It doesn't run that long -- it's only about 77 minutes, but the producers have managed to cram a lot of bloodletting into that much time.

''Showdown in Little Tokyo''

* A cop whose parents were murdered by the Japan mob meets the murderer years later in Los Angeles.

CAST: Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee, Tia Carrere, Carey-Hiroyuki Tagawa

DIRECTOR: Mark L. Lester

RATING: R (sex, violence, nudity, language)

RUNNING TIME: 77 minutes

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