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AMERICAN NINJA (1985)
USA RELEASE DATE 30/08/1985

CAST

Richard Norton
Michael Duddicoff Steve James Judie Aronson
John Fujioka John LaMotta Tadashi Yamashita Tony Carreon
Berto Spoor Jerry Bailey Jim Gaines (I) Phil Brock
Brian Robillard Willie Williams (I) Nick Nicholson Eric Hahn (I)


DIRECTOR
Sam Firstenberg


ASSISTANT DIRECTORS
Ricardo De Guzman Pepito Diaz
Tal Ron Gene Rose Singson


ACTION CHOREOGRAPHER
Mike Stone (II)


SCRIPT WRITERS
Gideon Amir Paul De Mielche
Avi Kleinberger James R. Silke


PRODUCERS
Gideon Amir Yoram Globus
Menahem Golan Avi Kleinberger
Ken Metcalfe


PRODUCTION COMPANIES
Cannon Group
Golan-Globus

In Short American Ninja is one of those flicks that only the true action junkie is meant to fully appreciate. Taken as an ordinary film, it’s pretty bad, and taken as a straight up action flick, it has its moments, but not enough of them; however, the real genre junkie knows to look beyond such things as “critical quality” and look for the entertainment value where one can find it. Treat American Ninja like an episode of the old “Batman” television show without the “oof!” cue cards, recognize it for the camp action flick that it is, and don’t try to justify the fact that it’s been slapped with an unwarranted “R” rating, and you’ll do fine with this movie as something to watch over pizza and beer. Synopsis Welcome to a US military base in the Philippines. A new guy named Joe (Michael Dudikoff, Bounty Hunters) has just arrived on base, and the boys already there don’t seem to be taking a liking to him. Not that Joe is giving them any reason to; he’s quiet to the point of rudeness, and “antisocial” doesn’t even begin to describe his lack of apparent personality. But surely this must be a defense mechanism to hide a troubled past and a wounded soul, right? Surely, there must be someone who can melt that exterior and reveal the true Joe, the one who cares… Speaking of, tagging along with the convoy Joe’s driving in this morning is Patricia (Judie Aronson, Deep Core), the Commanding Officer’s daughter. When said convoy is stopped by a gang of what appears to be rebel thugs, the soldiers follow the orders of their sergeant (John LaMotta, Revenge of the Ninja) and try not to cause trouble, but when one of the rebels decides to get rough with the Colonel’s daughter, Joe swoops into action and starts taking down bad guys. Little do the Americans know that this encounter is by watched by – and will soon be joined by – a group of Ninja warriors concealed in the jungle. Their leader, known only as the Black Star Ninja (Tadashi Yamashita, The Octagon), looks at Joe with a keen eye and a strong suspicion that somehow, someone has taught Joe skills forbidden to be passed on outside the East. Though there is supposed to be no such thing, could it be that Joe is in fact an American Ninja? In Detail Ah, the 1980s, when action was king. This was an era when movies were made by a different set of rules, and when bones breaking and stuff going “boom” weren’t triggers to get members of Congress all in a huff. Many great action franchises and action stars got their start in that grand decade defined by Ronald Reagan and the final paranoid years of the Cold War… And so did many mediocre ones, including American Ninja. American Ninja is one of those flicks that can only be fully appreciated by the truly die hard action junkie; for anyone else, this is going to be background noise of a quality that doesn’t even surpass that of an episode of “The A-Team”. Even for the action junkie, there are plenty of flaws to be found here; however, the true genre fan will also be savvy enough to know where to find the hidden entertainment and look behind those flaws to get a decent hour and a half’s worth of fun out of this flick, anyway. Thus, the true action fan won’t be disgusted by the gross idiocy of a guy in a former Spanish colony with an extremely Spanish sounding name like “Ortega” (Don Stewart, Future Zone) speaking with a thick French accent as he walks around in a white linen pimp suit borrowed from “Miami Vice”; that’s not “poor quality control”, that’s entertainment. Nor will the true action fan be turned off by the horrendous “Eng-rish” of “Black Star Ninja”; the genre junkie lives for this stuff. The Boba Fett flamethrower and laser gun stuff the character pulls near the end of the film will be looked upon as pure gold. And the paint-by-numbers formula storyline with the plot device girl, the deus ex machina, and the narrative so predictable that even Criswell could get it right? The junkie’s seen it all before, and would actually be worried if American Ninja didn’t follow the formula. This isn’t to say that American Ninja doesn’t have its share of problems that even the action junkie can’t ignore; for the fact of the matter is that the movie is indeed deeply flawed, and its rating of low mediocrity is essentially an act of nostalgic generosity. One could say that part of the problem is that there’s too much “American” and not enough “Ninja”. For an action movie made during the Decade O’ Action (and produced by Golan-Globus, for cryin’ out loud), American Ninja is incredibly tame. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for this movie to deserve the “R” rating it’s been slapped with; even a “PG-13” would be harsh here – this is straight up “PG” material. There’s more blood in the average episode of “M*A*S*H” than there is in this entire flick – there are exactly two very brief traces of it that are no big deal – the violence is extremely toned down, the worst language in the movie is on the order of “badass” and “numb nuts”, and there is absolutely no nudity here whatsoever. Every week on network television, the aforementioned “A-Team” was bringing stronger stuff to the small screen than American Ninja brought to the big one. Indeed, the overall feel of American Ninja is that of a network television movie. The “look and feel” of the entire picture scream TV, and the cheap music score sounds like network stock material. Again as well, the violence is so heavily toned down that it has the overall atmosphere of a network television censoring crew. This isn’t to say that there’s no action here; there’s just not enough of it, and in those scenes when it does occur, it’s all bloodless. It cool to see Joe make creative use of automotive tools in the roadway encounter, but some blood and maybe some evidence of injury other than guys knowing when to fall down would have made it better. Sure, Dudikoff’s got some good moves, but surely they could be filmed to greater effect. And why do the Ninjas seem like they can’t decide whether to be lethal warriors, Solid Gold Dancers, or finalists to star in “A Chorus Line”? (One bets that were someone to plunk down a ghetto blaster in the middle of their training camp and play “Kung Fu Fighting”, these guys would stop what they were doing and boogie down. But then again, that’s part of the camp entertainment for the action fan – fun is where you find it.) As for the acting, no one’s looking for thespian quality here, which is probably a good thing. Michael Dudikoff does very well as a fighter, and it’s really not fair to say anything about his acting here, given that the script gives his character zero personality and no room to maneuver. Judie Aronson is the typical 1980s damp rag damsel in distress who thinks she’s smart but is really a flake; her character’s screaming and bitching during the initial jungle chase are enough to turn one off from her performance for the entire rest of the film. Perhaps the best showing here is given by Steve James (The Delta Force) as Jackson, who manages to get a few moments of real acting in there along with the “fighting stuff” (where he also holds his own). All in all, American Ninja is acceptable as entertainment for the serious action junkie – especially the nostalgic one – but will be little more than background nosie for most anyone else. One suspects that things would have turned out differently with a better director, but as it stands, this is a pretty tame entry for the start of a franchise in the “Decade O’ Action”. -Ziggy's Video Realm review

VERSION(S)
Format Language(s) Subtitles Presentation Quality Time Screenshots

1 PAL English None Fullscreen 2nd Gen. 01:32 Download

2 PAL English
German
Spanish
English (Opt.)
German (Opt.)
Spanish (Opt.)
Swedish (Svenska) (Opt.)
Norwegian (Norsk/Bokmal) (Opt.)
Danish (Dansk) (Opt.)
Widescreen 0 Gen. 01:32 Download
Includes original trailer

3 NTSC English None Widescreen 0 Gen. 01:36 Download