American Ninja

A G.I. with a mysterious past rescues the Colonel’s daughter Patricia (Judie Aronson),  when his convoy comes under attack from ninjas.  While fighting the ninjas, the G.I. – Joe Armstrong (played by Michael Dudikoff) fends off the ninja force in impressive fashion, leading the head Ninja, Black Star Ninja (Tadashi Yamashita)  to believe that he has some extraordinary skill, and may be a ninja himself.

During the rescue, four of his own men were killed, so Joe gets outcast when he makes it back to the base.  While Joe’s working on one of the trucks, Cpl. Curtis Jackson (Steve James) challenges him to a fight.  Joe whips his ass six ways to Sunday and earns his respect.  After the fight, Joe takes Patricia out for a date, and sees one of the Sergeants out with Victor Ortega, a local “plantation owner” who coincidentally ordered the attack on on the convoy earlier.

Ortega (Don Stewart) has a ninja training camp where ninjas of every color of the rainbow are training in his own complex.  When the Sergeant and Ortega see Joe, Ortega realizes that this is the G.I. that gave his ninjas so much trouble, and tells the Sergeant that he wants Joe killed.  The Seargent then sets up Joe to be ambushed in a warehouse by at least a dozen ninjas, but that doesn’t stop him.  After a long motorcycle chase scene, Joe hitches a ride back to Ortega’s base to see what’s really going on – that Ortega is using the nearby base to get U.S. Army weaponry and give it to the rebel forces.  While trying to investigate, Joe is found out and gets chased off of the base.  His escape is helped by a mysterious old man that might have some kind of link to his past.

When Joe gets back to base, he’s promptly put into the stockade for losing his truck and going AWOL.  Black Star Ninja is set to assasinate Joe after he escapes from Ortega’s compound, and inadvertantly breaks Joe out.  Does the corruption go higher than just the Seargent?    Can Joe survive against the overwhelming members of Ortega’s ninja army?

I remember watching American Ninja in the late 80s with my dad on cable.  I always thought it was a great movie, but I’d only caught it that one time.  It’s a great movie to just sit back and zsone out to.  It’s got a good balance of martial arts action, a little mystery and intrigue, and a whole lot of ninjas (can’t go wrong with ninjas).

They try to throw some lore into the film, explaining breifly that there is some kind of “force” for ninjas, ninja magic, and that each ninja can be a good ninja or a bad ninja.  Black Star Ninja has chosen to take the dark path of the ninja, but Joe and his master have taken the path of light.  I personally think the writers watched a little too much star wars and got a little overzealous with the ninja idea.

The acting isn’t actually that bad, and neither are most of the effects.  The stunts on the other hand can be a little shady.  I wondered while watching some of these stunts if this was one of those films where the stunt people were actually seriously hurt from some of this stuff.  I’ve noticed in a lot of 80’s action movies they shoot about 1,000 and hit their target maybe twice.  I’m thinking if they actually aimed intead of shooting from the hip, they might have a little more accuracy.

Victor Ortega – the main baddie of this film, is a total joke.  He’s supposed to be a Columbian or something, but he has a total french accent throughout the film.  There’s a scene near the end where he’s speaking in some foreign language, and I know it isn’t Spanish.  The Black Star Ninja has more weapons and doodads than Batman, pulling endless things out of his ninja utility belt, includeing a red lazer (if you spell it with a z it makes it cooler) that he just ends up zapping a potted plant with.

There are 5 films in the entire American Ninja saga, and hopefully one day we’ll be able to review them all and bring them to you.

I really enjoyed American Ninja for what it is, a mindless action movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and never goes too over the top..  I give American Ninja 4 Shuriken out of 5.


3 thoughts on “American Ninja”

  1. Truly a classic. I like the second film the best, for sheer cheesy fight-filled ninja goodness.

    You may be interested in checking out the Bollywood ripoff, which is named Commando. I did a review of it over at Cinema Suicide. There’s also a Mexican ripoff called El Ninja Mexicano that I have never been able to find. 🙂

    Lurples last blog post..The Wrestler

  2. I’m looking forward to reviewing the second film. So far I’ve been able to get my hands on 1, 2 and 5, so the journey continues for 3 and 4. I’m also looking to get Commando, based on your review.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so it sounds like American Ninja and Sam Firstenburg should feel pretty flattered.

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