Man, is this movie a giant bowl of ridiculous. ¬†It might be the most over-the-top film I’ve ever seen. ¬†And that’s after seeing Fast and Furious‘ car wheelie bonanza last year. ¬†American Ninja is one of those flicks where you’re like, “Well that motorcycle jump was a little out of control but that’s got to be it right?” ¬†And then some dude shoots a laser out of his knuckles.
…out of his knuckles!
So what do I make of this flick? ¬†Honestly, as far a movie is concerned it’s a complete mess. ¬†The acting is atrocious, the stunts are pretty painfully choreographed, and the main character might as well be a plank of cedar. ¬†But somehow, I came away having some amount of fun with the flick. ¬†I can only imagine what a keg of beer and a stack of pizzas would do to enhance this viewing experience.
Taking place on a US Army base in the Philippines, the film begins by introducing us to our everyman, Joe. ¬†Played by Michael Dudikoff (which I hope is pronounced dude-ee-cough), Joe is immediately ostracized by his fellow servicemen as he’s a pretty keep to himself fellow. ¬†While leading a convoy of Army vehicles, Joe and his platoon are accosted by a gang of, you guessed it, ninjas. ¬†Joe ends up saving a high ranking officer’s daughter (Judie Aronson) and further alienating himself from the group of men he’s supposed to be working alongside. ¬†That could be the whole movie right there, but this of course starts a chain reaction of events that lead to the aforementioned laser scene. ¬†I’ll not spare any further details of the plot, just know that it serves it’s purpose as a loosely strung together excuse for several fight sequences.
I’m sure it sounds like I’m doggin’ this movie. ¬†To an extent I am but there’s something endearing about this flick that keeps me from just completely hating it and asking Adam to review it in his Crawl Space. ¬†Yes, it’s goofy as all get out but at the same time it’s a lot of fun. ¬†This is the kind of movie that can generate an endless amount of drinking games in a single sitting and be deadly about it. ¬†The very thought of drinking during this movie scares the shit out of me. ¬†In all seriousness, it’s the kind of movie that you put on in the background while you’re hanging with friends and have a blast with.
So let’s get to some of the pros and cons here. ¬†My favorite part of the movie was where Cpl. Jackson (the late Steve James) pushes Joe into a sparring match. ¬†The set up was completely stupid but the pay off was bad ass as Jackson and Joe found a common thread to base their friendship upon. ¬†Namely that Jackson was no match for Joe’s quick hands and had no choice but to give the man respect. ¬†Nowadays when characters start as assholes such as Jackson, they are stuck with it through the credits. ¬†So it was cool to see a guy cut that shit out.
I could be a wise-ass and say there were no cons but I’d be lying. ¬†From the fifteen minute mark, you’re thrust with about 15-20 minutes of nothing, then we get the excellent scene mentioned above which is then followed by… a date night for Joe and his new found piece of ass? ¬†Seriously? ¬†You just put a dating scene in a movie with the word ninja in the title? ¬†What I’m trying to say is there’s a lot of cleverly placed spots in this film where you’re supposed to be grabbing a refill or another piece of Golden Chick. ¬†So I guess it’s not really a negative as much as it is a great job of pacing by director Sam Firstenberg. ¬†Yeah, that’s it…
As questionable as this may seem, I still have to recommend this film to you if you’re any kind of martial arts film fan. ¬†Being a movie produced and released in the mid 80s, it actually has more of a 70s style to it. ¬†The version I watched was pretty impressive (Netflix Instant Queue) in that it looked and sounded fantastic. ¬†And you can bet your ass that every kick, punch, and chop came with those most awesomely exaggerated sound effects. ¬†If any of this interests you at all, definitely check it out. ¬†Especially for that laser shit.