American Ninja (1985): Breakdown by Rantbo
A Private in the military proves he is an army of one, as he takes on an island of arms-dealing ninjas—with his own brand of WHITE NINJA MAGIC!
“Have you ever heard of ninjitsu, sir? The secret art of assassination. Well, according to witnesses testimony and evidence, this massacre was the work of ninjas.”
A mysterious past, a deadly art, a head shaped like a dreidel. Michael Dudikoff is—AMERICAN NINJA.
JOE ARMSTRONG—MASTER OF DISGUISE
The principle couldn’t be more simple, or more B-Action. A Caucasian jarhead, raised in the jungle is brought back to the States, breaks the law, is shipped back out to an island military post where he uses the skills taught to him by a Japanese WWII hermit, to take down a corrupt military base and the arms-dealing ninjas they employ. How’s that for a fuckin’ plot!?
The flick begins with what feels like the first 10 or so minutes of exposition missing and it isn’t long after the iron-walled introduction of Joe, the American Ninja, that his military convoy is attacked by a—militia of Hispanics…? Kay. The ninjas eventually show up, but it’s pretty clear that producers Golan-Globus took a “kitchen-sink” approach to this entry in their glorious film stable. One assumes it was done in effort to make up for the triple-digit budget, but rather than sight this as a negative, I say it’s quite charming and impressive. I’ve seen 150 million dollar blockbusters that aren’t half as entertaining. A bunch of them. Sometimes Most times, less is more and a good portion of AMERICAN NINJAS’ memorable moments and good times are due to the unintentional laughs and cheesy, though creative, stunts and battle sequences.
Which brings me to the fight choreography. Dudikoff is athletic and cut, no doubt about that…
But a master of ninjitsu? I think not. In fact, Tadashi Yamashita (GYMKATA) withstanding, I don’t think anyone in this flick was trained in such arts. And if they were, it wasn’t to a degree in which this film would like to suggest. For instance, before performing so much as a jump, the “ninjas” expel loud grunts and battlecries, almost without exception. And when I think of ninjas, I think of three things: #1) Black body suits. #2) Stealth. #3) Proficient killings. And these clowns succeed in costume only. The kills that they do manage to pull off are due to their overwhelming numbers, dogpiling and shock value, as I’m sure their victims are more than slightly off balance as their brains are likely trying to process the fact that a fucking ninja is attacking them. Which appears to be the sole purpose for wearing the ninja outfits, as they seem to only fight during peek daylight hours, thus rendering the stealth black coloring of their apparel fucking useless. So their success comes from the opposite intentions which, luckily for them, creates an element of surprise despite lacking any and all subtlety. But, what are you gonna do? It’s more expensive to film at night.
Once again though, this all works in favor of the movie. As horrible as AMERICAN NINJA is, the fact remains that it is also incredibly watchable and fun to boot. Produced by Cannon, staring the Dud and with a story revolving around gun-running tropical island ninjas, the film screams 80s like a gacked up Brian Johnson in leg warmers. Plus, the theme song is catchy. So, do I recommend it? Hell yeah. This film is a blast of ninja magic—Cracka, VANISH! ~POOF!~
[HOW BAD-ASS ARE THE MAIN CHARACTERS?]
Michael Dudikoff is Private Joe Armstrong
Date Of Birth: UNKNOWN
Next Of Kin: UNKNOWN
“A construction crew found him on an island in the pacific six years ago, knocked unconscious by an explosion where they were blasting a road through the jungle. Brought back to the United States with total amnesia—in and outta foster homes, HELL, he’s got more last names than I can count! — Here it is, I knew it—age sixteen, in reform school for almost killing a man. Six months ago, he got in trouble again. Judge gave him a choice, enlist or go to jail.”
“He possesses GWAIT skiwls.”
Dudikoff re-defines Stoic-BadAss as Joe The Ninja. Joe can drive, he can fight and he can kill. Practically impervious to all weaponry and assassination tactics, his only weakness?: emoting. Because emotions cause him pain and that he can’t have. So the Dud spends his entire role with an eerie “serial-killer-esque” determined stare on his mug and the guy couldn’t be more creepy than if he were wearing a clown suit and sporting a boner… OK, he’d be a little creepier—but not by much.
Joe kicks all sorts of ass. From a convoy ambush of ninjas, to a warehouse full of ninjas and even a hacienda that’s guarded by an army of ninjas, none of them ever get the better of Ol’ Joe . He even fights a guy whilst hanging off the bottom of an in-flight helicopter! Or, at least his stunt-double did—still, pretty impressive.
Steve James is Corporal Curtis Jackson
“You know, every place you go, there’s always SOMEONE who thinks he’s a badass! Then there are those few who are.”
Aside from apparently possessing a forensics degree in eastern assassination methods, this mother fucker is ripped like a bag of chips. Every time we see Jackson, he seems to have lost an article of clothing, and the more his lack of inhibitions show, the larger the weapon he ends up holding and subsequently, the more deadly he becomes. Eventually leading to him brandishing a fuckin’ rocket launcher. And he still has on pants and a headband! Could you imagine the destruction Jackson could wrought had he gone the full monty!? I don’t think there is a film stock out there possible of capturing such awesomeness.
[THE BODY COUNT: AROUND 115]
An ass load! This flick is the Normandy of Ninja movies. Joe himself wastes an impressive 28 and his buddy Curtis, an even more impressive (considering his screen time) 16. Watch it go down, HERE. The rest are all ninjas and soldiers killed in the wake by each other as Joe pursues the evil kidnapping gun-runners. Methods include, shooting, stabbings and explosions, all very average stuff, but the sheer unexpected volume really makes up for the bulk and lackluster deaths.
[MOST SATISFYING DEATH]
[flashvideo filename=videos/ANJeep.avi.FLV /]
Holy shit! Our military equipment is worse off than they talk about! Who knew that army jeeps can, and DO, explode when the bumper is hit at 10mph!? That shit is scary / awesome.
[DUDESWEAT AND MACHISMO]
Jackson: “Yeah, YEAH, YEAH! You’re tingling, YOU’RE tingling—I knew I’ve touched something again! HAHAHA—Yeah!”
Ninjas are one of the few “manly” professions that aren’t inherently homosexual. Lucky for us, this film takes place on a military base and soldiers are gayer than church.
Picture One: Bad Touch! BAD TOUCH!
Picture Two: While it is insinuated that Joe sleeps with the general’s daughter, Patricia, his line of duty is still God—Country—Jackson. Joe and his chocolate bear are one cute couple. Quick to overheat and get in each other’s face, they are just as fast to reconcile with a sweaty post-sparring embrace and an affectionate hair mussing.
Picture Three: As for that ninja with the mallets. Not sure why he is dressed, or rather un-dressed, in such a fashion, but why not!? More fun like that anyways. Bang a gong!
And then Jackson makes quite a statement appearing during the final battle dressed as Rambo, but with fingerless gloves and an unexplained ripped shirt, to do battle with another barely clothed beefcake. And Jackson’s special game-changing move? He eagle-claw grabs the guys scrote…
“How do you like that, Little Nuts!?”
And it sounds like someone twisting a handful of wet celery. Whoo Gaa!
[EXPLOITATION AND MISOGYNY]
Played by that one girl from WEIRD SCIENCE and FRIDAY THE 13th 4, Patricia is the epitome of the term ‘cuntbucket’. Filled to the brim with pure feminine fail. Snooty, self-centered, dainty, bitchy, loud, obnoxious, dumb and unable to drive a car 10 yards without crashing it. An affront to women everywhere, from any and every decade. So, naturally, I thought she was pretty funny.
[EPIC MOMENT AND BEST ONE-LINER]
EP-M: Decisions, Decisions…
I’m really torn here… There are at LEAST 3 epic moments in this one. So, I ask you, what’s more awesome?:
1. Joe catching an arrow—then breaking the SHIT out of it.
2. Joe’s master praying himself invisible?
3. Or Black Star Ninja using a hidden laser wrist -cannon to kill a flower pot, instead of Joe?
I can’t pick just one.
Shinyuki: “Beware the Black Star Ninja, he has taken the dark path and has betrayed The Code.”
Joe: “Then—he must die.”
[THE MORAL OF THE STORY]
No matter how long your race has honed and perfected it’s martial arts craft, when taught to Americans, we will always kick your ass.
[THE CHECKLIST: 21 outta 25]
[X] Athlete(s) Turned “Actor”
[X] Clinging To The Outside Of A Moving Vehicle
[X] Crotch Attack
[X] Dialogue Telling Us How Bad-Ass The Main Character(s) Is/Are
[ ] Ending Featuring An Ambulance, A Blanket or A Towel
[X] Giant Explosion(s)
[X] Heavy Artillery
[X] Improvised Weapon(s)
[X] Macho Mode(s) Of Transportation
[X] Main Character Sports Facial Accessory(s)
[X] Manly Embrace(s)
[X] Notorious Stunt-Man Sighting
[X] Passage(s) Of Time Via Montage
[X] Politically Fueled Plot Point(s)
[X] Senseless Destruction Of Property
[X] Shoot Out(s) and/or Sword Fight(s)
[ ] Slow-Motion Finishing Move(s)/Death(s)
[X] Stupid Authoritative Figure(s)
[X] Substance Usage and/or Abuse
[ ] Tis The Season
[ ] Torture Sequence(s)
[X] Unnecessary Sequel
[X] Vehicle Chase(s)
[X] Vigilante Justice
Shh, SHH! It’s going to be OK, I—won’t—hurt—you… SHHhhh
American Ninja (1985) © Cannon Film Distributors and MGM/UA Home Entertainment