Billy Blanks was one of the archetypal straight to video action stars of the nineties, he was one of those men with a ton of charisma and appeal who never quite found his niche in American cinema. He managed to be pushed in to the gallery of people like Jeff Speakman, Roddy Piper, and Don “The Dragon” Wilson (no disrespect to those gentlemen), but always deserved so much more. He was relegated to a ton of straight to video action and genre titles eventually becoming a fitness guru for his Tae Bo program. It’s a shame because Blanks does have a very good on screen presence and could have likely launched in to the blockbuster fold alongside contemporaries like Wesley Snipes.
Ken has just moved from Kansas with his mother after getting in to trouble; after meeting Julie, he’s unaware that her boyfriend Tom is very possessive of her. Tom is learning karate from Lee, a sensei whose brother was killed by a rookie cop named Billy. Billy has since then become the janitor of the school that Ken, Julie and Tom go to. When Ken gets beaten up by Tom for talking to Julie, and becomes the victim of his and his friends’ violent harassment, Billy helps Ken by teaching him how to defend himself. This eventually culminates in to a battle between student vs. student, and sensei vs. sensei, all in the backdrop of an illegal martial arts competition.
One of Blanks’ many nineties gems was what is quite simply a cheesy but fun “Karate Kid” clone that takes all the eighties out of the original article and injects pure nineties energy in to it. In 1993, America was still coming down from “Home Alone” and “Karate Kid” so every studio were busy trying to cash in on either or both properties. “Showdown” is a “Karate Kid” clone in every sense of the word with a lot less charismatic stars, save for Blanks. Blanks is pretty much the heart and soul of “Showdown” and one of the main reasons to check it out. Also there’s the fact that Robert Radler’s action thriller is pure straight to video, video store fodder.
So much so that the experience doesn’t quite feel complete without popping the big black VHS out from the transparent plastic case. And if you think the movies can’t get any more nineties, there are even supporting performances from young Christine Taylor as the film’s answer to Elisabeth Shue, John Asher as the goofy comic interest, and Brion James and Patrick Kilpatrick pulling bad guy duties. It’s goofy, occasionally silly, and garners a ton of campy training montages, but in the mindset of 1993, “Showdown” is a ton of fun. Even without the nostalgia goggles on, it’s solid action fodder.
As with all MVD Rewind Collection titles, the keep case has a full color mini-poster for the film. The Blu-Ray features The Making of Showdown, a ninety minute very in depth piece that covers all the nuances of the film’s development and production, including cast and crew interviews, talks with various members of the production, and some back story behind the development. The Fights of Showdown is yet another very in depth and exhaustive forty six minute segment that explores the choreography of the film, and includes interviews with the cast, and breaks down core fight scenes. Billy Blanks: Martial Arts Legend is a fourteen minute interview with the star of “Showdown,” who discusses making the movie and his career. Robert Radler: Portrait of a Director is a twelve minute discussion with the director who talks about his background in documentaries, and his association with the production. Finally, there’s a Behind the Scenes Gallery, and an Artwork Gallery.