Some “team-up” action movies are legitimately good. Some “team-up” action movies are so bad that they’re good (a guilty pleasure, if you will). Then, there’s a movie like Showdown in Manila, which falls into a third category: one that has potential to be a guilty pleasure, fun and entertaining ride but is, unfortunately, a boring slog of an action film.
The premise is quite simple: it focuses on Nick Peyton (Alexander Nevsky), an ex-special forces agent that was ambushed and left for dead by “The Wraith”, an international terrorist. Peyton is hired by Tia Carrere’s Mrs. Wells to hunt down and bring The Wraith back alive because he killed her husband. Peyton meets up with his old friend Charlie Benz (Casper Van Dien) and begins to hunt his target, and eventually enlists a group of “daredevils” (as the official synopsis calls them) to storm The Wraith’s base and capture him. It’s not a complicated story, which isn’t a bad thing for a movie like this. Unfortunately, the execution leaves plenty to be desired.
A huge issue in the movie is the writing. For starters, the dialogue is so janky and sounds absolutely nothing like how a normal person would be speaking. It doesn’t help that lines like “wow, that must have been a really horrific experience for you” are delivered with such a deadpan lack of talent that it makes an already poorly written line even worse. These kinds of interactions still astound me: does the writer actually think people talk like this in real life?
Another point on the writing is the actual plot… while it really doesn’t matter in a movie like this; it’s still bizarre to see more than half of the “daredevil” team that’s on the front cover of the film just kinda show up before the finale. No prior introduction to these characters, just a “here they are!” Peyton’s girlfriend says something along the lines of “don’t forget about this date” twice, at two different points about a half hour apart, as if to insinuate Peyton is usually late and that he likely would be again, but the movie ignores it completely at the end and never pays it off.
I wish I could say it’s at least a little fun. That the action is at least enjoyable or there are some quips, some one-liners that made me chuckle. But unfortunately, I can’t. The “action” scenes are boring and monotone, mostly consisting of a single person shooting at nothing, a cut to some people shooting back, and so on until the bad guys just kinda die. There’s a chase scene about halfway through that feels like a couple of guys going for a jog together instead of one chasing the other. There are no cheesy one-liners and hardly any jokes to add any sense of fun. Showdown in Manila‘s biggest flaw is that it takes itself way too seriously, but it just isn’t well shot, written, acted or choreographed enough to be as serious as the filmmakers tried to make it.
There’s a little bit of decency hidden in the rough, though. Casper Van Dien injects some sort of life into the movie, even if his character is written solely to do so. The music honestly isn’t awful, save for a few tracks. It serves its purpose and is never distracting, and fits the movie well. It also seems like a lot of people just had fun making this movie. Nevsky and Van Dien do seem to enjoy themselves the whole time, and I imagine behind the camera the people were having a decent time too, and that’s commendable. I just wish it influenced the movie more because it’s just so dry.
Showdown in Manila Overall: 1.5/5
I’d say I was taking Showdown in Manila way too seriously, that I should have just turned my brain off and let myself have fun, but I tried. That’s the worst part about this movie, that I was fully willing to turn my brain off and enjoy the dumb fun like I would with The Expendables 2. Unfortunately, this movie just isn’t enjoyable. It should be, but again, the action is just so boring and it really takes itself far too seriously that it’s not even worth your time or money. If you really enjoy this kind of movie, give it a shot. In my opinion, though, there are far better and far more enjoyable movies of the same style out there.