First off, I’d like to
acknowledge the fact that American
Ninja was directed by Sam Firstenberg; the same gentleman who brought us
Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo. So, without further adieu, allow
me to interject:
And with that out of the
way, let’s get back to the business at hand.
While pondering what to
review for the ninja roundtable, I initially decided to critique all
the American Ninja films in one
grand piece. Being a shameless procrastinator, this was setting my sights
pretty damn high. I have a hard enough time writing one
review in a timely fashion. But what the heck? Three movies, I thought. No
big deal, right?
has five installments. Not the
piddly three I recalled from that unreliable void I call memory. I may be a
fool, but I’m not delusional. Not only would it be impossible for me to
watch and write about five American
Ninja movies in one week’s time
(you don’t think I plan ahead, now
do you?), but I don’t think I could physically stomach the cinematic
endeavor in and of itself. Let’s just imagine that through some act of
sheer intestinal fortitude I did, somehow, manage to endure the first four
films. I would then be, at the very least, in a considerably weakened state.
Alas, there would still be one more American
Ninja installment to digest, and said film would feature Pat Morita
teaching yet another (karate) kid the mysteries of the Orient!
credit myself as being pretty damn tough when it comes to bad movies (Heironymous Merkin aside), but I do have standards. I can’t stand
the original trilogy with Ralph Macchio and Hilary Swank. How could I
possibly tolerate a rip-off of the original? Ancient Chinese Secret my ass!*
does the first American Ninja
lack Pat Morita, but it’s a lot of fun to boot.
Dudikoff plays Joe Armstrong; a quiet man with a mysterious past. Joe was
found many years ago on a tropical island, knocked unconscious from an
excavation’s dynamite blast (there’s gold in them coconuts!). He
survives, but now suffers from amnesia (amnesia must be one of the most
convenient plot devices ever) . After being dubbed with most generic name
possible, Joe spends his turbulent childhood being bounced from one foster
home to another. Naturally, this has a rather negative effect on young
Armstrong, and it doesn’t take long before he has multiple altercations
with the law. Finally, after nearly killing a man during some fisticuffs, a
judge gives Joe the option of prison or enlistment in the Army. Faster than
you can say “Well, goooo-lly!” Joe finds himself a PFC stationed in the
during a routine convoy when Joe and his platoon are ambushed by Filipino
guerillas. At first it seems they only want military equipment, but once
they catch a glimpse of the Colonel’s beautiful daughter, Patricia, their
monetary desires turn carnal. Naturally, Michael Dudikoff will have none of
that monkey business. Joe springs into action with a flurry of kicks,
punches and things of that general nature. He rescues Patricia, but all hell
breaks loose when ninjas appear from virtually out of nowhere (some just
from out of trees). Outnumbered, Joe and Patricia escape into the jungle
while the remainder of the platoon is slaughtered by the ruthless assassins.
stealthy American ninja, Joe returns Patricia back to the base no worse for
wear. Unfortunately, the Colonel is unimpressed with Joe’s heroics and
promises to have him court-martialed; until then, Joe will be forced to take
on the more remedial tasks around base: garbage detail, kitchen patrol, and
programming the CO’s VCR to catch every episode of Temptation
matters even worse for our domestic ninja friend, turns out that the rest of
the base is equally unimpressed with Joe’s heroics as well. They resent
the fact that a whole platoon of soldiers had to be killed in order to save
the Colonel’s daughter. They reason that none of this would’ve happened
if Joe hadn’t decided to whup some guerilla tail. Tensions evaporate,
however, after Joe is forced into a fight with local tough, Curtis Jackson.
Joe spanks Jackson soundly, and immediately afterward everyone decides that
perhaps the American ninja isn’t so bad after all.
for Michael Dudikoff, however, proves not to be universal.
Ortega (Spanish enough for you?), mastermind behind the aforementioned
hijacking, has big plans: gun stealing, Patricia nabbing, and finally,
ridding himself of that meddling American ninja – permanently
(said slow while stressing every syllable for sinister effect).
And who better to eliminate the Caucasian martial arts enthusiast
than the lethal Black Star Ninja and his skilled band of (non-American)
So, with a
vast array of kung-fu prowess at his disposal, Joe has his work cut out for
him: uncover Ortega’s dastardly plot, find out the truth behind his own
shadowy past, and finally, come up with legitimate reasons to doff his shirt
and flex his two sweet pecs.
admit, the plot to American Ninja
sucks eggs. But despite a complete lack of creativity, Sam Firstenberg has
ingeniously crafted a masterpiece: improbable action; bad dialogue;
gratuitous explosions; grown men putting water buckets over their heads for
no apparent reason. American Ninja
has it all.
ever rented a ninja film only to be disappointed by a distinct lack of ninja
goodness? Trust me, my friends, we are in the same boat. There have been
several instances where I rented a movie based solely on the fact that the
word “ninja” was displayed prominently in the title. I take the movie
home, pop it in, and get ten minutes of ninja mayhem. Tops.
I think I
speak for everyone when saying that when I’m in the mood for ninja
carnage, I demand at least
80% of the film to feature some form of ninja tomfoolery. Exposition?
Character development? A freakin’
love story?! This is a ninja
movie! I want pointy projectiles. I want merciless skewering. I want absurd
has ninjas coming out of the woodwork (sometimes literally)! They’re
jumping out of trees! They’re bouncing off random jungle trampolines!
They’re wreaking havoc with those little sticks with the curved
knife-thingy on the end! They’re flipping
those rare circumstances when there isn’t a ninja present, Michael
Dudikoff is doing cool stuff like jumping his motorcycle over the base
fence. And did I mention he puts a bucket on his head? How
cool is that?!
allow me to reiterate that American
Ninja is as dumb as a box of rocks. Seriously. Check your brain at the
door. But what this films lacks in brains it more than makes up for in fun. American
Ninja should be a staple in every self-respecting ninja connoisseur’s