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Showdown at the Grand (2023) Review

With a title that pays reference to one of its stars’ best-known films, Showdown in Little Tokyo, Showdown at the Grand is a tribute to the stand-alone indie theaters of the past, and the action films that played in them. Filming in one such surviving movie house, San Pedro’s Warner Grand, writer/director Orson Oblowitz (The Queen of Hollywood Blvd, The Five Rules of Success) tells a story that not only celebrates that independent spirit but gives a middle finger to corporate greed.

George Fuller’s (Terrence Howard, Iron Man, The System) family has owned the Warner Grand since it opened in the 1920s with a showing of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. He runs it now as a repertory theater but it’s not easy paying the bills. So when Lynn Shrader (Amanda Righetti, The Mentalist, Friday the 13th), a big-time developer, offers him big-time money for the property you would think he might be tempted to sell. He isn’t, not at any price.

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Lynn’s goons Reed (Mike Ferguson, Colonials, Devilreaux) and Burton (Jon Sklaroff, Life Without Dick, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) don’t intimidate George, but they do put a beatdown on his buddy and fellow holdout Lucky (John Savage, The Deer Hunter, Betrayed) setting off an escalating series of incidents that reaches its climax during an appearance by reclusive former action hero Claude Luc Hallyday (Dolph Lundgren, Dead Trigger, Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning) and the two of them face a showdown at the Grand.

Oblowitz was obviously working on a slender budget, so apart from the actual showdown, don’t expect a lot of action setpieces in Showdown at the Grand. Even the ones we do get are shot with an eye toward suggestion rather than costly stunt work. A scene where George rams Reed’s pickup concentrates on five figures worth of cocaine turning into a dust cloud from the impact. A retaliatory beating by a corrupt cop uses sound effects and the cruiser’s flashing lights to get the point across.

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There are also scenes from Hallyday’s films scattered through Showdown at the Grand, among them a war film named “Iraqnophobia,” a slasher “Malibu Massacre III,” and my favourite, “Moses Versus the Nazis.” They add an affectionately tongue in cheek element to the proceedings and give Lundgren a presence in the film before his character arrives around the halfway mark.

Showdown at the Grand also gives Lundgren a chance to do something he hasn’t gotten to do much of lately, act. It’s hardly Shakespeare but as the indestructible hero facing his own mortality, he gets to do more than bark orders from behind a desk or drop a one-liner after he kills someone. His response to actually killing someone for the first time is funny but for an entirely different reason.

For his part, Terrence Howard does an equally fine job as George who looks like he’s auditioning for a reboot of Urban Cowboy and is willing to fight and die to hold onto what matters most to him. Sklaroff manages to be intimidating as the mirror image of George, a psycho who’s also a huge movie buff. Unfortunately, Piper Curda (The Wretched, School Spirits) is wasted as Spike, George’s sole employee.

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Oblowitz and cinematographer Noah Rosenthal (Dangerous, Detention of the Dead) previously worked together on Trespassers and here they have a blast in the last half hour staging considerable mayhem all through the beautiful Warner Grand with some motorcycle mayhem reminiscent of Lamberto Bava’s Demons and what may be the first use of Skittles as a lethal weapon.

While not the balls-out action film many viewers were hoping for, Showdown at the Grand is a worthy film that blends action, humour, and some surprisingly touching moments. It’s one that’s worth seeing.

Showdown at the Grand is available on VOD and Digital Platforms via Shout! Factory. If you want a physical copy, they are taking pre-orders for DVD and Blu-rays, though no shipping date has been announced.

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