'Showdown in Manila': Film Review

Should have been released on VHS.

Alexander Nevsky and Casper Van Dien co-star in Mark Dacascos' action movie, which also features such aging B-movie favorites as Olivier Gruner, Don "The Dragon" Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock.

Only those still obsessively watching videocassettes of their favorite '80s and '90s-era B-movie actioners will find anything of interest in Showdown in Manila. And even they may decide that nostalgia has its limits when it comes to Mark Dacascos' directorial debut starring co-starring Alexander Nevsky and Casper Van Dien. A mishmash of action movie and buddy-cop clichés rendered in incompetent fashion, this wink-wink homage to 1991's Showdown in Little Tokyo makes its inspiration seem like a classic.

Nevsky, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, is a three-time winner of the Mr. Universe contest. But while he possesses a similarly impressive physique, he has absolutely zero charisma compared to Arnold. Nevsky plays Nick Peyton, a cop who in the opening sequence leads his fellow officers in a raid on a drug kingpin known as "The Wraith" (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) that results in numerous casualties and Nick getting shot and suspended from the force.

Cut to two years later, when Nick is now a private investigator partnered with Charlie (Van Dien), whose wisecracking bonhomie is clearly meant to strongly contrast with Nick's stone-faced, monosyllabic demeanor. They get involved in a case involving the widow (Tia Carrere, another blast from the past) of an FBI agent (Dacascos) killed on The Wraith's orders. It all leads to another raid, this time on the criminal mastermind's jungle hideaway, led by an Expendables-style assemblage of such mature B-list action/martial arts stars as Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Olivier Gruner and Cynthia Rockrock. Suffice it to say that not all of them have aged well.  

Although composed of nearly non-stop action sequences set in alternately gritty and picturesque locations, Showdown in Manila somehow manages to be terminally boring. Dacascos displays no flair for staging cinematic violent mayhem despite his extensive acting and stunt credits in such fare. The shootouts resemble the sight of kids playing cops and robbers on the playground, the CGI explosions wouldn't pass muster in a videogame and the hand-to-hand combat makes WWE bouts look realistic.

But the endless action at least provides a respite from the godawful dialogue, which mostly features variations on the phrase "Let's kick some ass!" Here's one memorable exchange between Nevsky and a supporting player: "Hurt?" "No, you?" "No." At one point (and this is true), an explosive device suddenly appears and Nevsky actually says, "Bang bang." (Not that the hulking actor could handle much more. But since the publicity materials mention that he represents Russia as a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assocation, he may well be up for a Golden Globe next year.)

Van Dien at least tries to look like he's having a good time despite the subpar material. But he's saddled with a one-dimensional horndog character whose sex addiction issues aren't quite as amusing in the #MeToo movement era, even if he does point out, "I'm going to meetings!"

Displaying misplaced optimism, the film's final scene features the two main characters taking a break after their exertions, with Van Dien's Charlie suddenly suggesting, "We should go to Cuba!" But if this misbegotten actioner gets the reaction from audiences it deserves, don't hold your breath waiting for Showdown in Havana.

Production company: Hollywood Storm
Distributor: ITN Distribution
Cast: Alexander Nevsky, Casper Van Dien, Cary-Hiroyuki Agawa, Tia Carrere, Mark Dacascos, Matthias Hues, Don "The Dragon" Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Olivier Gruner
Director: Mark Dacascos
Screenwriter: Craig Hamann
Producer: Alexander Nevsky
Executive producers: Andrzej Bartkowiak, Alexander Izotov, Mark Dacascos
Director of photography: Rudy Harbon
Editor: Stephen Adrianson
Composer: Sean Murray
Casting: Anthony Cinco

89 minutes