Showdown in Little Tokyo

Showdown in Little Tokyo

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mark L. Lester
Produced by Martin E. Caan
Mark L. Lester
Written by Stephen Glantz
Caliope Brattlestreet
Music by David Michael Frank
Cinematography Mark Irwin
Edited by Robert A. Ferretti
Steven Kemper
Distributed by Warner Bros.
(Time Warner)
Release dates
  • August 23, 1991 (1991-08-23)
Running time
79 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $8 million
Box office $2.3 million[1]

Showdown in Little Tokyo is a 1991 American buddy cop-action film directed by Mark L. Lester, and starring Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee. This was Brandon Lee's first American film role. The film was released in the United States on August 23, 1991.


Los Angeles (L.A.) cop Chris Kenner (Dolph Lundgren) is an American who was raised in Japan. He is given a new partner, Johnny Murata (Brandon Lee), an American of partial Japanese descent. Kenner does not appreciate American culture, while Johnny does not much like Japanese culture. One thing they both enjoy are the martial arts, of which they are both experts. The two are assigned to L.A.'s Little Tokyo, where they break up some criminal activity in a Japanese restaurant, and an arrest is made.

While Kenner and Johnny are questioning the suspect, Kenner loses his temper and rips the suspect's shirt, and the tattoos that Kenner sees on the suspect remind Kenner of when he was 9 years old, a time when he witnessed his parents being killed by a member of the Yakuza. The tattoos are the trademark of the Iron Claw Yakuza clan. However, before Kenner or Murata can get any information out of the suspect, he kills himself in the interrogation room by breaking his own neck.

On the other side of town, the leader of the Iron Claw, Yoshida (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), kills the owner of a popular downtown nightclub called the Bonsai Club by crushing the owner, Tanaka (Philip Tan), in a car compactor. To celebrate "gaining" ownership of the Bonsai Club, Yoshida throws a party at his house with all of the club staff.

One of the girls at the party, named Angel (Renee Griffin), is revealed to have warned Tanaka about Yoshida behind his back, and this infuriates Yoshida. Yoshida questions Angel about her loyalty, and she attempts to appease Yoshida by offering her body to him. Yoshida then drugs Angel and strips off her clothes, and then fondles her from behind before beheading her.

When the coroner runs an analysis on Angel's body, it is revealed that she had a large amount of methamphetamines in her system (induced by Yoshida) which would have led to her death anyway. This discovery of drugs, together with the suspect having Yakuza tattoos, cause Kenner and Johnny to go to the Bonsai Club in search of information. There they meet lounge singer Minako Okeya (Tia Carrere), who was a good friend of Angel's. Before they can get any useful information out of her, they are ambushed and taken to see the nightclub's owner and Kenner recognizes the owner Yoshida as the man who killed his parents. Yoshida is now a drug manufacturer using a local brewery as his distribution center. He uses smaller gangs such as the Hells Angels, Crips and Sureños to peddle the drugs for him, in return for a percentage of the profit.

Kenner and Johnny escape from the nightclub. Later that night, Yoshida rapes and kidnaps Minako and vows to kill Kenner. Kenner and Johnny set out for Yoshida's heavily guarded home, where they rescue Minako. His pride wounded, Yoshida sends his men out to get Minako back. He has Kenner and Johnny captured and tortured, but Kenner and Johnny manage to escape, and they take on Yoshida and his men in a battle to the death.



It is set and filmed in Los Angeles and Long Beach, California in 53 days on January 14 and March 8, 1991.

Editor Michael Eliot was brought in by Warner Bros. for substantial re-editing to make the film faster after WB were unhappy with an early cut. He had performed the same job on Warner's other 1991 action film, Out for Justice. Scenes cut included a different introduction to Kenner, and his former partner Yosuto, more of the Nelson character, played by Ernie Lively, more dramatic scenes between Lundgren and Lee and a scene after the opening gunfight at the underground boxing match where Kenner is chewed out by his superiors for all the mayhem he has caused. Kenner's training scene before final showdown was originally in the deleted, possibly 10 minutes longer opening. Theatrical trailer shows some extra shots from this scene.

Stuart Baird, another editor who would often re-edit original cuts of Warner Bros. movies when they were displeased with them was also hired to re-edit Showdown in Little Tokyo, but he is uncredited in the movie.

Director Mark L. Lester's final cut came in at 90 minutes, but Warners didn't like the film and cut it down to 79 minutes. [2]


The movie faced largely negative reviews from critics.[3][4][5][6] Vincent Canby of the New York Times described it as "violent, but spiritless." [7]

Box office

Warner Bros. was not happy with the film and re-edited it, only to give it a limited theatrical run in the United States, Mexico, Italy, Israel and Hungary. Except for these markets, the film was released direct-to-video in 1992.

In the US opening weekend, the film grossed $455,192 from 140 theaters which was an average of $3,251 per theater. This accounted for 20% of the film's total gross.[1][8][9]

It ranked #9 in Hungary's Top 10 of 1992 Overall Box Office Grosses (according to the 1994 Variety International Film Guide), grossing $197,590 in Hungary.


An earlier draft of the script (104 pages) by Steve Sharon had a more serious tone to it, less tongue in cheek, and a slightly different outline.

The shooting script was 95 pages and included a longer opening scene that was filmed, featuring Kenner's former Japanese partner Eddie Yosuto. There was also an omitted chase scene that was not shot, after the Japanese bath scene where Dolph and Brandon go after the fleeing yakuza, it ended up in an action scene set in a shopping mall.

The infamous homoerotic line from Brandon Lee's character was originally filmed as "You have the biggest dick I've ever seen on a white man" (by fear of racism criticism from the studio) and was shortened in editing by Warner Bros to simply: "You have the biggest dick I've ever seen on a man".

In the US, around 13 seconds were cut in order to avoid an NC-17, namely: -An extra topless shot during the pool party. -Some of Yoshida caressing Angel before chopping off her head was cut. Her initial decapitation lost an extra shot, reducing it from two to one. Later, when her severed head is shown, the head is shown once due to an extra shot being cut. -When Kenner stabs a guy underwater, a brief closeup of him stabbing him in the gut and twisting the knife around was edited out. -In the version screened for test audiences, Minako's rape was longer and more brutal.

Home media

After Brandon Lee's untimely death while filming The Crow, his movies such as Showdown in Little Tokyo saw a surge in video sales.[10]


  1. 1 2 "Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)". Box Office Mojo. 1991-09-10. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
  3. Fox, David J. (1991-08-27). "Weekend Box Office : List-Toppers Are Listless". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-13.
  4. Thomas, Kevin (1991-08-26). "MOVIE REVIEW : 'Showdown in Little Tokyo' a Class Martial-Arts Act". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  5. "Showdown in Little Tokyo". Variety. 1990-12-31. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  6. Fox, David J. (1991-08-27). "Weekend Box Office List-Toppers Are Listless". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  7. Canby, Vincent (1991-09-22). "Review/Film; 'Showdown In Little Tokyo'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  8. Daly, Steve (1992-02-14). "Box Office Upset". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  9. "Showdown in Little Tokyo". Deseret News. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
  10. Hunt, Dennis (1993-04-09). "A Resurgence of Interest in Films of Brandon Lee". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
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