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Showdown L.A. (alternatively titled as Showdown: LA or as Showdown Los Angeles in overseas markets) is a 1975 American dark comedy film meant to satirize the exploitation, specifically blaxploitation, genres prevalent at the time. The film was directed by George Deacon and starred Jack Germaine as the alcoholic, gritty and tough-as-nails Narcotics Lieutenant Jack "Toots" Markane, and also starred B-movie kung-fu star Kim Jong as the high-strung, over-caffeinated and hotheaded Constable Johnnie Lee and then-unknown Jeff Bright as clumsily naive rookie cop Billy Nelson. The three radically different cops are thrown together onto a gang taskforce in 1969 Los Angeles to prevent a potentially race-riot inspiring showdown between a black gang and a Latino gang over a failed drug shipment.
The film, while a modest commercial success, was a critical success, gained a cult following in later years and is now known as a cult classic. Jong's performance as Lee earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, however, and is regarded as one of Hollywood's classic "manic" performances.
Style and References
Showdown L.A. was written, filmed and released in 1974 and 1975 at the height of the exploitation film movement, and was intended as a response to such works, according to screenwriter Nathan Pannatelle. The film followed the basic tenets of most exploitation films with its over-the-top gratuitous violence, cursing and nudity, as well as over-exaggerating the 90th Street Snakes from the type of street gang that would normally have been found in 1969 to be almost cartoonishly like the characters of most blaxploitation films.
The character of Smoochy Sawdust is played by Billie Dee Williams almost exactly like the pimp antagonist in Black Vengeance, and the film contains other references to the notoriously awful Black Vengeance peppered throughout scenes containing black characters. Pannatelle also intended to use the film to poke fun at the genre by showing what it would be like if non-black characters were as ridiculous as those in blaxploitation films through the character of Johnnie Lee.
In 1979, a sequel titled Showdown L.A. Part II was released by Pacific Print, but was a commercial and critical failure. Not a single cast member returned for the much-maligned film, which, ironically, was itself trying to "exploit" the popularity of its predecessor.