Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)

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Released 18-Jul-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 75:25
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mark L. Lester

Warner Home Video
Starring Dolph Lundgren
Brandon Lee
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music David Frank

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Now that Universal Soldier has been out for a considerable length of time, it is only fitting that another entry in the sub-genre known as Action Stars Getting A Thorough Showing-Up By Dolph Lundgren should arrive on the market. The newest entry in that genre to make its way to our beloved format is Showdown In Little Tokyo, a film where Brandon Lee's on-screen "personality" gets drowned in Dolph Lundgren's uncanny coolness. Okay, so you have to be a raving fan of either one of these actors to consider investing thirty-five dollars in a film that runs for less than eighty minutes, but those of you who enjoy unabashed action will have no problem with this effort.

    The plot, or rather the very minimal excuse for the two top-billed stars to beat the crap out of as many anonymous extras as will fit into the film's running length, revolves around Detective Kenner (Dolph Lundgren) and Johnny Murata (Brandon Lee). Kenner (it boggles the mind that a character should be named after a toy company) is a no-nonsense detective who is heavily into martial arts and all things Japanese while Murata is a wiseacre who can't understand his partner's ways. The story begins in a little Japanese restaurant in the section of Los Angeles that is known as Little Tokyo, with Kenner sitting to eat when a mob of gangsters, led by Sato (Toshirô Obata), decide to drop by and stand over the owner. Kenner proceeds to try and reason with these hoods, but it soon disintegrates into a display of violence, with Murata coming in just as one of the Japanese thugs is thrown out the window. This, of course, is a less than ideal way to get acquainted with your new partner, and the rest of the detectives from the Asian gang unit are offering Murata their condolences when the only suspect they managed to take back to the station kills himself.

    Next thing we know, the corpse of a young woman known as Angel (Renee Griffin) is found, with her head cut off so cleanly that only a sword like the katana could have done it. We're also told that the young woman was so loaded with methamphetamines that she would have died even if someone hadn't taken the time to cut off her head, so our two intrepid heroes go to meet with her closest friend, Minako (Tia Carrere). It seems that Minako is the only living witness to the murder, and the man who killed Angel, Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) also has quite a trade going in the distribution of methamphetamines. All of this is secondary to the endless sequences of action and women getting naked, however, and this is one film that doesn't take the time to get bogged down in boring details. Indeed, one can't help but wonder if they couldn't have squeezed in another action sequence in order to beef this film up from its modest seventy-five minute (once the PAL speedup is accounted for) length.

    Now that more Dolph Lundgren films are making their way onto our beloved format (hopefully Joshua Tree, one of my big favourites, will be next), I guess there are no more excuses for action-starved DVD enthusiasts to buy Seagull or Van Dammit films. Short, sweet, and to the point, Showdown In Little Tokyo is more fun than even I thought it would be, although I still caution that only fans of action or naked women need apply.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Okay, so the film is now ten years old, but it has scrubbed up quite well considering that factor.

    The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced.

    The sharpness of the transfer is very good, far better than I've ever seen before with this film, although it still isn't quite perfect. Grain occasionally makes itself known in the backgrounds of low-lit shots, which detracts a little from the sharpness, but there are things revealed in this transfer that weren't present in any other I have seen. The shadow detail is average, with just enough details resolved in the blacks for the darker action sequences to make sense. There is no low-level noise.

    As you would expect for a film set in Little Tokyo, the colour scheme in the film varies somewhat from bright, flashing neon lights to dark, shady offices in illegal nightclubs. The transfer captures these variations without a hiccup, although there were occasions, such as the assault upon Kenner's hideaway, where skin tones appeared a little too red. Aside from this one factor, however, this is as close to the original film image as it gets on a Standard Definition format.

    MPEG artefacts were not apparent in this transfer, with the combined length of the overall programme and the trailer allowing them to fit on a single layer with very minimal compression. The aforementioned grain in some backgrounds could be compression-related, but with the age of the film and the locations of the grain borne in mind, there are several other possible reasons for its presence. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of a few minor instances of aliasing scattered through the length of the film. Film artefacts consisted of a moderate helping of small black and white marks upon the picture, none of which were particularly intrusive, and their sum total was more than acceptable for a ten year old film.

    Burned-in English subtitles are present on this disc, which is somewhat annoying if you speak Japanese or don't speak English.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is a total of three soundtracks to be found on this disc, all of which are rendered in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding and a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. The first, and default, soundtrack is the original English dialogue, with dubs in French and Italian included for good measure. I listened to the English soundtrack.

    The dialogue in the English soundtrack is clear and easy to understand until the Japanese characters begin speaking, then it takes just a little more effort than I would have liked. This is hardly the fault of the transfer, so I can let that one slide. There were no perceptible problems with audio sync, although Foley effects did seem a little out of step at times.

    The music in this film is credited to David Michael Frank, who has also worked on such B-grade action films as Out For Justice and Hard To Kill. In spite of the very pseudo-oriental themes, the score does an excellent job of supporting the on-screen action and keeping the very tongue-in-cheek rapport between the heroes in focus. On some occasions, it also helps to give the on-screen proceedings a dark, eerie sort of feeling that is appropriate, but hard to maintain given the breakneck pace the film follows.

    The surround channels are not overly worked by this soundtrack, which is very frontal in nature, but when they are used, they are used quite effectively. The best example of the surround channels' economic but effective use comes at 44:45, when Dolph Lundgren puts a rather flabby extra into one of the tubs. All through their attempts to drown one another, one can hear the sound of the water bubbling and displacing from the rears. It is somewhat disappointing that there isn't more action in the surrounds, but not all that surprising considering the vintage of the film.

    The subwoofer was not specifically encoded into this soundtrack, but some gunshots such as at 4:30 and 36:10 were supported by redirected signal and thus had a much more aggressive feel. Other gunshots, such as at 53:11, and explosions such as at 67:04, had a comparatively flat and lifeless sound, which made me wish that the soundtrack at least had a dedicated LFE channel.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Well, there is a theatrical trailer.


    The menu is static, themed around the front cover of the packaging, and 16x9 Enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer

    Clocking in at seventy-seven seconds, this 1.78:1, 16x9 Enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 trailer is of very good quality.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    A hands-down winner for the local disc, given that it is much closer to the proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is packaged in a case that will outlast me.


    Showdown In Little Tokyo is a funny, entertaining, and likeable action film where Dolph Lundgren once again hints that he has talent beyond the scope of his status as an action hero. I'll bet he would make a much better comedy actor than Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    The video transfer is very good.

    The audio transfer is very good.

    The extras consist of a theatrical trailer.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Sunday, August 26, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySamsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony STR DE-835
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, DTX 5.6T Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer

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