By: John M Jerva
Happy New Years everybody! Welcome to the first installment of Foot Fist Fridays where we talk about all things fisticuffs and for the very first entry of 2021, we have the one and only Billy Blanks kicking ass and taking names like he did so many times in the 90’s. Before Blanks became a sensation with his workout regime Tae Bo, Blanks was one of the leading go getters in the direct to video martial arts craze in the 90’s that flooded video store chains everywhere. Blanks made a ton of titles where he showcased his lethal onscreen fighting abilities like Talons of the Eagle, TC-2000, Back in Action and Tough and Deadly to just name a few.
One of my favorite titles in Blanks’ filmography was 1993’s Showdown which was kind of a retread of The Karate Kid although I think this one was a little more dark and gritty. Here, the new kid in school this time was played by Kenn Scott who was one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the live action films. Scott plays Ken who gets on the wrong side of the bully in the school Tom, played by Ken McLeod who also starred in a variety of chop socky flicks, when he begins talking to Julie played by Christine Taylor. Unfortunately Julie is Tom’s boyfriend and he is most definitely the jealous type so he makes it his personal mission to make Ken’s life miserable on a consistent basis and let’s him know that Julie is off limits.
Did I forget to mention that Tom is the champion of the town’s illegal underground fighting circuit. Oh yeah, there’s also that and he is and his Sensai is Lee (Patrick Kirkpatrick) who makes John Kreese from The Karate Kid look like an upstanding citizen of the community. With that in mind, even if you haven’t seen the film you know where this is all heading right? Lee is the worse of the worse and he preys on the kids in the town by flashing cash and success at them making them fight in illegal grudge matches for his own personal gain. Not even Kreese did that. At one point, Lee unapologetically yells “You reek of failure!” to his pupil. What a wonderful role model to say the least.
Fortunately for Ken, the janitor of the school is Billy Grant, played by Blanks, who basically becomes Ken’s Mr. Miyagi and when Billy sees how much torture he is going through from Tom, he makes it his personal mission to train Ken in martial arts so he can stand up to himself and Tom. Billy also happens to be an ex-cop who quit the force when he accidentally kills someone. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that that somebody happens to be the younger brother of Lee. Small world, isn’t it?
After a series of training montages which is par for the course in these types of films, Ken takes on Tom in a winner takes all fight in the ring as the whole school and a bunch of greedy rich people bet on the outcome. This sounds like a lovely town to visit.
Not to be outdone by the younger guys, Billy takes on Lee in a fight as well to hopefully end Lee’s reign of terror over the kids in town. The fight is pretty brief but it has all the trademark Billy Blanks’ moves including the dramatic jump spinning kick in super slo-mo. He also gets to do the devastating flying side kick and the scissors kick which was also trademarks of his in the films. He has some of the best aerial kicks around pure and simple. Blanks has such superior fighting ability that he elevated any film he was in and upped the fight action to a whole new level.
Showdown was and continues to be one of my favorite films of Blanks and I thought that the acting was pretty darn good to go along with all the fist and feet flying. Blanks was more of a supporting character here but he still owned the movie in the fight department with the climatic clash with Lee as well as another awesome fight between James Lew and Nick Hill which takes place on school grounds.
Now in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan The Destroyer, “Enough Talk!” It’s time to watch Billy Blanks take on resident 90’s action movie bad guy Patrick Kilpatrick in the climatic duel from 1993’s Showdown! Time to go to school!!!