American Ninja
Dir: Sam Firstenberg
Star: Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Judie Aronson, Tadashi Yamashita, Don Stewart
Cert / Year: 18 - R / 1985
Format: DVD R2

Recently transferred to a remote US Military base on an island in the Philippines, young American soldier, Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff) drives a truck in a convoy which is hijacked by a gang of local rebels. Joe fights back to protect the "honour" of the colonel's daughter. The rebels are backed however by a group of ninja, led by the mysterious "Black Star Ninja" (Tadashi Yamashita) whom Joe recognizes. Joe defends himself with ninjitsu and automatically becomes a target for the mysterious Black Star Ninja and his men. This also puts him under suspicion with his commanding officer and his fellow soldiers. Joe makes friends with the base martial arts instructor (Steve James) who proves to be his only friend as he takes the fight against murder and corruption straight to the Black Star Ninja and his associates, whilst he also discovers the secrets of his very own mysterious past. Will Joe be able to prevail against the forces of evil?.....

For anyone growing up during the eighties, this has to be one of the better known of the ninja movies. The video store shelves were adorned during the mid eighties by a whole collection of various ninja films including Nine Deaths of the Ninja and Enter The Ninja to name but two. This isn't however the best and in many respects this is a terribly flawed and idiotic movie but by no means the worst. The entertainment factor is one of the only redeeming features.

A B-movie regular cast provide adequate performances overrall but the late Steve James is perhaps the most memorable as he steals the scenes and shines amongst a general drudgery that is the ensemble cast. Michael Dudikoff is unconvincing and wooden throughout, and what is it with him wearing eye shadow all the time. He can't pull off the whole moody look, so he shouldn't bother. In addition to looking like a prize fool and being unconvincing with martial arts, he also has some of the worst dialogue (When he speaks). His role seems to rely upon leaping, flipping and throwing himself around like a loon. Ninja movie regular John Fujioka appears yet again as a Ninja / martial arts master, and proves to be one of the better members of the cast. At one point during the eighties, it seemed that it wasn't a ninja movie if he didn't appear as the obligatory Ninja master, you just got used to him kind of reprising the same role in virtually every film. Judie Aronson is winsome and stereotypical, the soldiers are pushovers and the ninja were hired from "inept ninja warrior R us" which is of course a subsidiary company of "inept guards R us".

The "plot" is full of holes galore and cheapened by some idiotic action and an abundance of comedy hurling oneself to the ground at every oppurtunity. This is before you consider some very shabby and poorly choreographed martial arts. When you have a martial artist of the calibre of Tadashi Yamashita you would think that he would get something impressive to do but no! We don't even get to see his famous blindfolded "Kama - Kata" or any real martial arts, what we get instead is the same regurgitated fight work which is quite tedious and rather frustrating.

The direction by Sam Firstenberg is horridly cliche and follows the same sort of ninja movie by numbers formula that they all did at that time. There is nothing new here and certainly nothing impressive. The Black Star Ninja has an impressive arsenal including a laser and a wrist mounted gun.... the less said about that I think the better and let us not forget that every bad guy has a ninja training camp in his back garden. You have heard the music before and seen much better martial arts before. This is more choreographed fighting really as there is little real martial arts here. Time certainly does fly in the Philippines as day very quickly turns to night, and jeeps manage to explode upon low speed impact with a tree. The atmosphere is obviously vacant and is there really a plot in this flimsy story? This story might well have come out of a GI Joe comic, as are the dull and uninspiring characters. There is no real pacing to the thing, as it meanders along lacking invention waving a flourescent flag of blatant obviousness all the way. This is not a film for the more discerning action or martial arts movie fan, it is over the top, far fetched and unrealistic, but it is quite good fun in a full frontal lobotomy way.

Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy with a sprinkling of corn for good measure. A bad film..... but..... so good with it. Despite being a B-movie, this remains one of the most entertaining of the ilk. If you liked the old 80's ninja / karate movies then you will probably like this, but be warned this is probably not as good as you may remember.....


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Rating: 1 out of 5

Picture 1.85:1 Anamorphic Pretty good quality transfer
Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 Not bad but 5.1 would have been nice
Features Theatrical trailer
Verdict What a poor disc. A trailer and a widescreen transfer. Cannon film group retain their "cheap" reputation.

Rating: 0 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home