Monday, 21 April 2014

Movies; Showdown in Little Tokyo, Django the Bastard

Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)

Showdown In Little Tokyo couldn't have been a better action film if it were filmed in the throat of a volcano. This is a movie that takes its cues from literally everything that came out in the 80s, and that might sound deprecating, as if it were nothing more than another clone, but I'd rather describe this ditty as simply wearing its influences on its sleeves. Director Mark L. Lester (Commando, some other stuff) must have had a field-day with this script, perhaps the perfect crystallized buddy action, just before the Will Smiths and Jackie Chans. With the most over-the-top Mr.Perfect protagonist, his over-the-top back story, and Brandon Lee's weird wit, Showdown In Little Tokyo was a neat one. It's a Bruce Springsteen song in movie format.

Detective Chris Kenner (Dolph Lundgren) is a best-at-everything white knight with a low tolerance for injustice. Kenner is the fundamental action hero, women want him, men want to have a beer with him, Japanese gangsters want him dead. He's partnered up with the impressive (but not quite as godly) Johnny Murata (Brandon Lee), and though reluctant to join forces at first, like action couples always are, the duo eventually unite and take on the violent Yakuza that cast a menacing shadow over their beloved Little Tokyo.

As I said before, this film is nothing new, but everything old turned up to 11, including the cheese factor. Indeed, the cringe in this film is also immense, much of that cringe being conducted by Lundgren's character, who is portrayed as a demi-god and all around great guy. He's contrasted with Lee's character, who is supposed to be the lesser man, the simple side-kick, but Lee actually plays a more convincing character than Lundgren, even in his feature film debut. The action is creative and the one-liners flow gloriously like cider at a girl dorm party. Lundgren may look like Hitler's image of the superman and Lee might be shamefully underused, but this flick is an absolute must for any fan of cheesy action.

Django the Bastard (1969)

Sergio Garrone was certainly no Sergio Leone, he wasn't even much of a Sergio Corbucci, but even so; Django The Bastard is a pretty great film. It just seems like Garrone showed up late to the wrong party. The film has all the poetic energy of the very best of the Spaghetti Western genre, but when compared with those very same films, it just doesn't measure up enough, that's why you'd never hear Garrone spoken in the same sentence as Leone. Maybe it's because there's something very empty about the film, despite its great action and fun plot, or maybe because Garrone would prove himself a much more proficient director with Nazi torture porn later on in his career, but Django The Bastard just kind of shows up, entertains, then leaves.

The plot centers around, you guessed it, Django, who, depending on who you're asking, can be a bit of a bastard. He's seemingly returned from the grave to exact his vengeance on the men that betrayed him and his squadron during the civil war, and though slain pretty easily the first time round, he returns as a marksman unmatched. A cold-blooded motherfucker, Django even tries to shake off the subplot concerning one of his enemy's wives, a subplot that never goes anywhere and whose existence merely ticks the ever vital "Titties" box. A part from some scenes that really are excellent and well thought out (one in particular, you'll know it), there isn't much else to be found in the plot. 

There really isn't that much to the film that I haven't already said in one paragraph. It's pretty great, but it's not brilliant. It falls below a bar set very high by the likes of Leone, and it suffers for it. Womp womp woooooooommmmp. 

Check out Garrone's Nazisplotation SS Experiment Love Camp (1976) though, real heartwarming stuff.

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