Review: Action veteran Mark Dacascos (Brotherhood of the Wolf, Hawaii Five-0) makes his directorial debut with Showdown in Manila, a low budget homage to the Cannon/Golan-Globus days of the ’80s and ’90s from Hollywood Storm Productions that is partly Lethal Weapon and partly a similar approach to 2010’s blockbuster, The Expendables, which was an action homage in itself. Disgraced former law enforcement officers turned private investigators Nick (Alexander Nevsky, Black Rose) and Charlie (Casper Van Dien, Starship Troopers), are operating in Manila when they are approached by Mrs. Wells (Tia Carrere, Wayne’s World) after her FBI agent husband (Dacascos, who also directs the film) is murdered before her eyes by an international crime boss known as The Wraith (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Kickboxer 2) and his associates. Virtually every action cliche in the book is thrown into the fairly formulaic plot, culminating in a rather lengthy jungle shootout of a finale. Action fans, particularly the diehard connoisseurs, will recognize most – if not all – of the fairly large roster of action veterans on either side, including Matthias Hues (Kickboxer 2), Olivier Gruner (Nemesis), Don “The Dragon” Wilson (Bloodfist) and Cynthia Rothrock (Lady Dragon). Carrere and Tagawa reunite onscreen once again after 25 years, having appeared together in 1991’s cult classic Showdown in Little Tokyo.
There is a noticeable degree of onscreen chemistry and balance between Nevsky’s larger than life, stoic presence and Casper Van Dien’s lecherous comic relief character, who adds most of the heart and soul to multiple scenes in this movie. It would have been nice to see them get more time together onscreen than they got here, although they do just fine with what they have. Nevsky does well as a physical, Schwarzenegger-esque presence, and it would be a lot of fun to see him in a prominent villain role in the future. Tagawa never fails to deliver on that very role. A few somewhat painful bits of overacting from some other performers make their way in here, however. There are no real twists, so those who are familiar with these kinds of movies know almost exactly what to expect: fistfights, explosions, gunplay, nightclub fights, more explosions, chase scenes, blood, and a few more explosions thrown in for good measure. Fight choreographer Al Dacascos has nothing but veterans at his disposal here, which is why the movements and action flow well enough, but the early camera work is more dynamic than in later scenes, and the mostly daytime environments sometimes feel a little bland up until the final act of the film. Speaking of which, a great deal of the action and a number of characters are only introduced towards the end, and as fun as a jungle shootout tends to be on camera, it felt like one long, drawn out scene and feels rushed, whereas it might have felt more steadily paced if broken up a little more for the sake of character development and story advancement. The very end has a bit of a Road House feel to it. This is a nostalgic and fun trip for fans of Cannon Films and buddy cop movie diehards, but most of the budget limitations hold it back from what it could have been. Give Mark Dacascos (who was a VERY bright spot in the rebooted Hawaii Five-0 TV series as its recurring villain) more time, a larger budget and more focus on the locales, and we could see some great things in potential sequels, which are hinted towards the end. Showdown in Cuba, Showdown in Bangkok or Showdown in Hong Kong could be terrific hypothetical future installments. As it is, Showdown in Manila has its shortcomings in balance and development, but provides some really fun and nostalgic moments for fans that can be more genuine than a lot of mainstream theatrical releases, gives some time to veterans and a few relative newcomer actors alike, and will more than likely prompt the viewer to go back and find some of their favorite action flicks from 20-30 years ago. If you loved those, you should definitely give this one a shot.
Filmed in Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines. Written by Craig Hamann, Alexander Nevsky and Mark Dacascos, who also directs. Fight choreography by Al Dacascos.