There’s something about Ninjas that captures the imagination. Anyone who knows me, knows that there are three things that I love. Ninjas of any kind, Sharks, and Chocolate Cake. (I mean who the f*ck doesn’t love chocolate cake). So I’ve seen MANY a ninja movie. MANY. I don’t consider myself an authority by any means, but I know my Kunai from my Shurikens. Today’s feature film is American Ninja, which is an early 80’s attempt by the Western Cinema to cash in on the Ninja craze of that era. Did they succeed? I Don’t know, turn off the lights, and I glow….(damn that song has been stuck in my head all day!!!)
Here’s the trailer in all it’s 80s Magnificence:
First off let me say, the CANNON movie studio ruled the 80’s action scene. We’re talking the company that made The Delta Force, M.I.A., Cyborg, Masters of the Universe! A slew of direct to VHS movies as well. This film has the feel of a Direct to Video movie, but it was an intended blockbuster.
Secondly, Dudikoff had the emotional range of a shovel. This is the range of emotions displayed in this film:
Thirdly, the plot is luuuudicrous! Amnesiac American soldier who remembers nothing but his instinctual Ninja skills, fights mercenaries and other ninjas in that obvious ninja haven, the Philippines. Sigh.
So let’s overlook:
- The US army having an amnesiac on active duty
- Japanese Ninjas residing in the Philippines. I don’t think the writer’s understood that Japan was a whole different country. Asian is Asian right?
- The classic storyline of old Ninja Master raising infant white baby and making him an unstoppable Ninja warrior
- Bushido?? The writers thought that Ninja’s follow the code of Bushido!!??? Are they trying to give me apoplexy???
- Our main star had no martial arts experience prior to this film. He was hired exclusively for his ability to brood. I’m not even joking
Right, so aside from those things, this is actually a very fun movie. Director Sam Firstenberg was a staple of these kind of movies, having directed Revenge of the Ninja as well as Ninja Domination. So he knew his material. The fight choreography was good for it’s time. You could almost believe that our hero Joe Armstrong knew some form of Martial Arts.
The plot is this. A judge offers our troublesome hero the chance to either join the army or go to jail. This seems to be a common option in the eighties, as Lt. Mahoney can attest to. He enlists, and broods. He makes some frenemies. Suddenly a shipment of weapons are hijacked by ninjas, and Joe foils a kidnapping attempt on the base colonels daughter. Hijinks ensue leading to an epic confrontation between ninja masters and the revelation of Joe’s forgotten past.
There is a level of glee that you get when you see ninja’s suddenly appear on screen from nowhere. This is a good showcase for that sort of ninja action. Puff of smoke, clash of blades, “kyah!” and all.
The movie also stars Steve F-ing James. Don’t recognise the name? How about this picture….
He was almost always the sidekick in these kind of movies, despite being a better actor (by far) and a much better fighter (by far). This is a good movie to see him kick some ninja ass, American Style.
Sidenote: This is just an awesome profile picture, like for a facebook profile or something. I wish I could rock this pose.
This is just a great B-Movie. Nonsensical plot. Bad acting. Lots of fighting and posing. Machismo oozing off every frame. This is a great addition to any collection.