Released: January 2018
Director: Mark Dacascos
Run Time: 86 Minutes
Distributor: ITN Distribution
Alexander Nevsky: Nick Peyton
Casper Van Dien: Charlie Benz
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa: Aldric Cole
Tia Carrere: Mrs. Wells
Mark Dacascos: Matthew Wells
Mathias Hues: Dorn
Don “The Dragon” Wilson: Dillon
Cynthia Rothrock: Haines
Olivier Gruner: Ford
When The Expendables came out back in 2010, people have always wanted to have their own dream team of action stars. The Expendables had Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Gary Daniels, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren. At the same time, Robert Rodriguez did Machete, which featured the likes of Danny Trejo, Don Johnson, Robert De Niro, Jeff Fahey, Steven Seagal, and Michelle Rodriguez. These were pretty awesome movies at the time, but over the past few years we’ve been seeing team-ups of actors like Mark Dacasco, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, and Olivier Gruner in films like Ultimate Justice, Death Fighter and a new film called Showdown In Manila.
The film begins as Nick Peyton, head of a local Violent Crimes Unit, as he and his team are prepared to take down a known drug and human trafficker. Unfortunately, they are led into an ambush by a criminal kingpin known only as The Wraith. With his entire team decimated and himself left for dead, Nick leaves the police force. Two years later, Nick is a private detective with partner Charlie Benz, taking down cheating husbands and other minor non-lethal activities. At the same time, FBI agent Matthew Wells is murdered in front of his wife by The Wraith. Seeking retribution, she hires the two private detectives to hunt down and bring back The Wraith to face justice. I really love it when stories are straight-forward without the extraneous use of surprise twists. Half of the time, those twists don’t work and you can see them coming a mile away. When a movie presents a story that takes you from A to B to C without any deviation, that tells me the story is honest in its approach. Simple, yet honest. The story in Showdown In Manila isn’t anything that I haven’t seen before, but it works for what’s presented here.
Let’s talk about the cast first, shall we? Leading the pack is Alexander Nevsky, a former Russian bodybuilder turned actor, writer and producer. I’ll be honest, I’ve never really seen anything with this guy in it. I’ve heard the name in the independent action film scene, but I’ve never had the pleasure of actually seeing him in action. Standing at 6’6″, this guy is TOWERING and built like a tank. Unfortunately, I can’t really compare his performance in this film with another, because I haven’t seen his other movies. I will be rectifying that over the next few weeks. As a result, I’m not entirely convinced yet that he can hold a movie on his own. He strikes me as an actor that’s a lot better when he’s bolstered by a strong cast. Thankfully, we do have that here. Nevsky definitely has some really solid chemistry with Casper Van Dien’s Charlie Benz. I have to admit, I’m a big fan of Casper Van Dien. Ever since he showed up in Starship Troopers over twenty years ago, he’s shown that he’s got some pretty good screen presence and pretty strong personality. Here, he plays a former LA cop with a unique……problem. His introduction into the film is one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. Later on in the film, we get screen legends like Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock and Olivier Gruner. It’s really awesome seeing these guys on the screen together. Cary Tagawa always makes for an outstanding villain. He’s got that real sinister feel about his characters that makes them somewhat scary.
The action in the film is not bad. It really isn’t. However, and some people not like this, but the film does take its time getting to the actual showdown part of the film. Outside of the opening action sequence, the first half of the movie is more like a buddy cop movie. Showdown In Manila takes time to get our two main leads to search and find this particular bad guy, and I really like the way that they actually do a little bit of investigating. There’s not a whole lot of investigating, but what is there is appreciated. There is some actual tension that does build up throughout the film and it feels like things could really explode, which they eventually do. The film saves the big climactic battle for the last and I really like the fact that the film does that. There’s gunplay and explosions and wonderful stuff like that. But we also have some hand-to-hand action, which has been choreographed by Mark Dacascos’ own father, Al Dacascos. Sadly, some of these action sequences are let down by some questionable editing. The hand-to-hand stuff suffers the most from the editing. Don’t get me wrong, what we see is pretty decent, but the way the camera moves along with some of the editing kinda gets in the way. That being said, the final battle is a pretty thrilling sequence. Watching Don “The Dragon” Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock kick ass never gets old. Alexander Nevsky is clearly a physical presence, but I don’t feel the film fully utilizes Nevsky the way it needed to. He’s got some serious potential as the next Arnold Schwarzenegger-type of action star, and that’s not a bad thing.
I think a lot of the problems that the film has can be chalked up to the fact that it is an independent action film. A lot of the things that I’m sure that they wanted to do or do better came down to budgetary and time constraints. That’s something that needs to considered when you watch an indie film, whether it’s a horror film, action film, or a comedy. That being said, I really like the way that Mark Dacascos staged some of the action. He doesn’t really rely on shaky-cam, thank god. However, for fans of Mark, he only shows up for a couple of minutes. At the end of the day, Showdown In Manila was kind of what I was expecting. Nothing super complex or ultra dark. It’s definitely got a sense of humor, and the chemistry between Alexander Nevsky and Casper Van Dien is pretty strong. A lot of the issues I have with the film I can forgive because of the nature of the film and how it was made. Honestly, it’s pretty solid little action flick. I can honestly say it’s worth check out at least.
My Final Recommendation: Welcome to the jungle, baby!! 8/10