Friday, April 15, 2011

American Numbskull: "American Ninja" (1985)

Michael Dudikoff stars in the first entry of the semi-successful, awfully cheap series from the good unemployed folks at Cannon Studios.

Dudikoff plays Joe Armstrong, a mopey private in the Army whose first day on a convoy sees it attacked by ninjas. The convoy also happened to be carrying the colonel's daughter Patricia (Judie Aronson), and Joe saves her and helps build a tiny mountain of sexual tension. Joe is blamed for the deaths of some fellow soldiers in the attack, and gets in a fight with Jackson (Steve James), eventually winning his respect by kicking his ass.

The villainous Ortega (Don Stewart) is trying to steal a missile launcher from the Army with the help of crooked sergeant Rinaldo (John LaMotta) and Patricia's dad Hickok (Guich Koock), and a whole mess of ninjas that Ortega has in his private ninja army training facility located at his estate. The rest of the film consists of Joe escaping and getting recaptured by both sides, until Ortega's gardener Shinyuki (John Fujioka), who happened to train Joe as a kid, reappears to help his former student kick more ninja butt.

As some of you may know by now, I grew up the son of an Air Force officer. Why, if I had a nickel for every time I got to ride with a military convoy, get kidnapped by ninjas, heard dad refer to himself as "THE colonel," involve myself in base affairs, fall for a female non-commissioned officer, and live in a base home the size of the White House, I would still be flat broke. Judie Aronson starts out even more annoying than damsel in distress Kate Capshaw in the second Indiana Jones film, but she eventually calms down to a tolerable whiny level.

Michael Dudikoff is all handsome looks and no performance, although this kind of role does not require any acting ability. I have not seen this many shaggy haired extras pretending to be in the military since "WarGames," the writers obviously figured the explosive ninja action would cover up any logical mistakes (like why the opening convoy was attacked in the first place).

"American Ninja" cost nothing to produce, and amounts to nothing when watched. I could go on about the lack of acting, Firstenberg's pedestrian direction, and the fact that this is paced like a very special two part "The A-Team," but why? Watching "American Ninja" is as painful as sitting on a throwing star. Ooooh, can't wait to rent the sequels... (*) out of five stars.