(Original Publication Date: January 25th, 2018) By: John M jerva
Review: SHOWDOWN IN MANILA
Starring: Alexander Nevsky, Casper Van Dien, Mark Dacascos, Tia Carrere, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock, Olivier Gruner and Matthias Hues
Directed By: Mark Dacascos
Official Synopsis: The film follows private detectives Nick (Alexander Nevsky) and Charlie (Casper Van Dien) who live and work in Manila. A murder investigation leads them to the jungle camp of an international terrorist called The Wrath. Not trusting the police, Nick and Charlie assembly a team of daredevils to walk straight into the Wrath’s lair and fight an army of his goons.
The Review: International action star, producer and director Alexander Nevsky (Moscow Heat, Black Rose) is back and back in a big way in the action ensemble film Showdown In Manila which stars some of the greatest action stars ever to grace the video store shelves. Wanting to make a film that payed homage to The Expendables and the great action films of the 80’s and 90’s, Nevsky brought together a power house team of stars such as Casper Van Dien, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Cynthia Rothrock and Olivier Gruner in a tale of one man’s mission to bring down one of the world’s most powerful international criminals. Nevsky stars as Nick Peyton, the head of the Violent Crimes Unit Strike Force who, at the beginning of the film, conducts a raid to apprehend a known associate of the criminal known as The Wraith (Tagawa). The raid goes sideways in a big way and Peyton loses his whole team in the process and while he suffers severe injuries at the same time. The higher ups need a scapegoat to pin the failure on so Peyton unfortunately takes the heat even though they were set up from the word go.
Fast forward to two years later and Peyon is now a private investigator in Manila who has teamed up with ex-American police detective Charlie Benz (Van Dien) and together the two tackle cheating spouses and marriage fraud cases. When Mrs Wells (Carrere) approaches the two gentlemen about finding the man responsible for the death of her husband , FBI agent Matthew Wells (Dacascos), the two agree to take on the case when Peyton learns that The Wraith is involved. Now the two must navigate the seedy underbelly of Manila to find the ones responsible and bring them to justice. They’re going to need help though and that help comes in the form of some of the greatest action stars in B-movie history.
When I saw the trailer for Showdown In Manila a few years ago, I was immediately intrigued because from watching it, I was convinced that it was a throwback to all the great action films of the 80’s and 90’s that I loved to watch. Added with the superstar cast, I couldn’t wait to see the film. Well, I finally have gotten my chance and was I right? Yes I was! Showdown In Manila is a 90 minute fun action ride that culminates in one awesome climax where the best of the best come together to bring down the bad guys in a barrage of bullets, explosions and fisticuffs. I’m a super fan of all that are involved and to see them all together kicking ass and taking names was a treat to say the least.
Showdown In Manila is advertised as a B-movie Expendables and while that is true, it is a film that is broken into two parts. The first part is a buddy cop film where Nevsky and Van Dien trade punch lines as they look for the film’s bad guys. It is this part, where Showdown really shines because the two men have such great chemistry together. From the get go, you can just tell that they have been friends for a long time and they feed off each other with great zeal. Van Dien really brings the humor as Nevsky’s partner Charlie and it is Van Dien that has some of the best lines in the movie. When asked why he isn’t a cop anymore, someone answers, “Because he slept with the captain’s wife” to which Van Dien responds without a thought, “I used to have a problem.” Nevsky is a master of the stoic face and the way he answers Van Dien when they’re arguing is truly priceless. I would love to see these two hook up again for a sequel or any movie for that matter.
The last act of the film is where The Expendables awesomeness happens. When Peyton and Benz finally find The Wraith and his associates in a jungle stronghold, they call on some of Peyton’s former allies. Enter Wilson as Dillon, Rothgrock as Haines and Gruner as Ford. In what can only be described as an action free for all, they all eliminate the bad guys with extreme prejudice. Each actor has their moment to shine and I was grinning from ear to ear the whole time. You get to see The Dragon kick up a storm while Gruner displays some rather awesome close quarters combat moves on some unfortunate goons that has to be seen to be believed. Rothrock has all the fun as she dispatches a few faceless villains with a pair of really big sticks. She proves once again that she is the queen of unarmed combat. Nevsky obliterates all that stands in his way and Van Dien demonstrates some great skills of his own. The ending alone was truly worth the price of admission. It’s an action lover’s dream come true.
Action and martial arts legend Mark Dacascos makes his directorial debut and he deserves an A rating in my book. Armed with decades of action films under his belt, Dacascos takes all of his knowledge and crafts a small budgeted action extravaganza that proves you don’t have to have lots of money to make a film exciting. The action scenes are shot nicely and you can clearly see what’s going on. Dacascos spreads the wealth and gives each performer their moment in the sun. He gives them all a chance to showcase their stuff and genre fans should be pleased with the finished product. My only complaint is that he wasn’t in the film more.
The rest of the supporting cast is great to see as well such as Tia Carrere who looks great as always and veteran bad guy Matthias Hues who is as slimy as ever. Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, who probably played the bad guy in every action film of the 90’s, hasn’t lost a step in the ruthless category. You loathe him from the start and wait for him to get what he deserves.
Can I just say that Casper Van Dien is great in anything that he plays in. The man can truly do it all and do it all with flair. If you need an actor to play a veteran cop out to get a serial killer, call Casper. If you need someone for a romantic drama, cast Casper. Have a comedy that needs a star, put in Casper. If you need someone to play a bad ass intergalactic soldier who must save humanity from alien bugs, call on Casper. I’ll literally watch anything that the man is in. He never disappoints.
With Showdown In Manila, Alexander Nevsky proves once again that he is a force to be reckoned with. One of the best lines in the film is when Van Dien calls him the “Russian Hulk” and with those two words, he nails it. Nevsky is an intimidating action hero who, when the shit hits the fan, you want backing you up every day of the week and twice on Sundays. When he enters the room, even the good guys get nervous. But at the same time, he is one of the nicest guys you will probably ever meet. He is a man of many talents and I cannot wait to see what he has up his sleeves next.
To sum it all up, Showdown In Manila is as advertised. It’s a high-octane, butt kicking action fest that will please fans in spades. Nevsky and company deliver the action goods and pay their respects to one of the greatest eras of action cinema. I came into the film wanting to see my heroes kick the ever loving shit out of the bad guys and that’s exactly what I got! My hats off to everyone involved and we can only hope that these men and women of action team up again in the future.
VERDICT: ACTION-FLIX APPROVED!!!!
Showdown In Manila is now available on DVD and VOD from ITN Distribution