Monday, November 06, 2023

Showdown at the Grand, Starring Dolph Lundgren

Imagine how great My Favorite Year would be, if it were inspired by Dolph Lundgren instead of Errol Flynn. That is basically this movie. Best of all, the Dolph Lundgren character is played by Dolph Lundgren. If anyone can save the faded Warner Grand movie palace, it would be Claude Luc Hallyday. It has been a while since he has been in the hero business, but to him, it is like riding a bike in Orson Oblowitz’s Showdown at the Grand, which releases in theaters and on-demand this Friday.

The Warner Grand was once a stately theater, but it suffered from the decline of the neighborhood, as has happened in just about every over-taxed and over-regulated big city. However, George Fuller is not about to quit on the longtime family-owned Grand, even though he is the last of his kin, especially since gives him a chance to program a lot of Claude Luc Hallyday action movies from the 1980s and 1990s.

His great ambition has been to bring Hallyday to the Grand for a special retrospective, but the reclusive star retired to Estonia (for the saunas). Deciding it is time for a comeback, Hallyday agrees right when a real estate consortium is trying to strongarm Fuller and his neighbors out of the neighborhood. It is hard to see why they are bothering, when chains like Nordstroms, Target, and Whole Foods are closing so many downtown stores, but the villainous Lynn must keep her henchmen busy somehow. Naturally, Burton (a psychotic enforcer who was once a wild-pitching professional ball player) is ordered to make his big, explosive play on the night of Hallyday’s retrospective.

Throughout the film, we see vintage-looking clips from Hallyday’s movies, all of which are more fun than the fake trailers in Tarantino’s
Grindhouse. Obviously, Lundgren is in his element playing retro Hallyday. However, he is terrific, in a surprisingly poignant way, as the older, less self-assured Hallyday. He really is analogous to Peter O’Toole’s Alan Swann in My Favorite Year.

Terrence Howard is also appealingly understated as Fuller, whose love of movies is exponentially more resonant than any of the big prestige “love letters to cinema” that released last year. John Savage has a few amusing scenes as Fuller’s shaggy dog pawnbroker pal and Jon Sklaroff is a standout (in the right way) chewing the scenery as Burton. However, Hallyday and Fuller deserved a more flamboyant super-nemesis than Amanda Righetti’s typically corporate Lynn (yeah, yeah, she collects katana swords, but that’s about all there is to her).

Fans who watch
Showdown would happily come back for a feature-length fix-up of any of the Hallyday films screening at Fuller’s theater, if Lundgren came back as Hallyday. This film is a ton of fun, even though it goes in an unexpectedly bittersweet direction. Oblowitz and Howard really stick the landing and the design team does amazing work recreating the props and backdrops of the films-within-the-film. Very enthusiastically recommended, Showdown at the Grand releases this Friday (11/10) in theaters and wherever films are rented.