J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Mark Dacascos’s Showdown in Manila

Maybe Trump shouldn’t have asked for so many encores from Duterte, the Mindinaoan Fog. Ordinarily, you would think when an American FBI agent is gunned down on the beach of the Philippines’ most exclusive tourist hotels, the cops would be slightly keyed up to catch the killers. Unfortunately, his widow will have to retain the services of an unlikely private investigator, Russian Nick Peyton, a former Manila copper and his American sex addict partner, Charlie Benz, in Mark Dacascos’s Showdown in Manila (trailer here), which opens tomorrow in Los Angeles.

How did a Russian stiff like Peyton get on the Manila force in the first place? Apparently, it was his fast-and-loose approach to due process and that kind of stuff. These days, he mainly works divorce cases and his partner Benz causes them. Mark Wells’ new widow is a bit frustrated with the local cops. Everyone knows he was gunned down by the notorious drug lord Aldric Cole and his men. She can even whip up a portrait of him, since she is a former police sketch artist.

The problem isn’t identifying Cole, it’s finding him. Fortunately, Peyton will be able to track him down by laying a beating on several of his known associates. While they are at it, Peyton and Cole will also rescue Kiki, a lapsed recovering teen addict they both seem to take a creepy fatherly interest in.

Thank Heavens, Cynthia Rothrock, Don “The Dragon” Lee, and Olivier Gruner all show up to save the film’s bacon when it is time to launch an assault on Cole’s jungle hideout-meth lab. They are also old colleagues from the Manila SWAT team, or whatever. In any case, when they are shooting the living the snot out of Cole’s men, Showdown is pure 1980s gold.

Unfortunately, it takes about an hour to get to that point. Still, Alexander Nevsky (the actor, not the Thirteenth Century Russian Prince) and Casper Van Dien are tolerably chummy as Peyton and Benz. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Matthias Hues chew plenty of scenery as Cole and his chief henchman, Dorn. Philippine teen idol Hazel Faith Dela Cruz has some screen presence, but as Kiki, she looks totally out of place in this ostensibly gritty story. Of course, Rothrock, Lee, and Gruner do their thing as Haines, Dillon, and Ford, basically the cavalry. However, Dacascos kills himself off too early as Wells, because he definitely still has the moves. As a bonus, that really is Tia Carrere as Mrs. Wells.

Dacascos helms the big action scenes with the sort of lucid professionalism fans prefer. We’ll take the clarity of Isaac Florentine over the shaky-cam of Paul Greenglass every time. Everybody seems to enjoy the big smack down with Rothrock and company, like a sort of mini-b-movie Expendables featurette, for good reason. Indeed, a little less talking, a little less Nevsky, a little more action, and a little more Dacascos and this film would have really been getting somewhere. Worth catching on VOD as a nostalgia trip, Showdown in Manila opens tomorrow (1/19) in LA, at the Laemmle Music Hall.

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