This week Jeremy is back to review “American Ninja,” “American Ninja 2: The Confrontation,” “American ninja 3: Blood Hunt,” and “American Ninja : The Annihilation” newly on Blu-Ray from the fine folks over at Olive Films. But first, let’s take a look at what these action packed classics are all about.
“American Ninja” (Blu-Ray)
Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
The first film in the successful martial arts franchise, American Ninja stars Michael Dudikoff as Joe Armstrong, a one-man ninjitsu fighting machine. Serving in the army to avoid a prison sentence, Joe will find himself battling the deadly ninjas of the Black Star Order, as well as corrupt military leaders in order to bring down an illegal arms sales conspiracy.
Joining in on the adventure is Joe’s comrade-in-arms Curtis Jackson (Steve James, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka) and Patricia Hickock (Judie Aronson, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), the daughter of Joe’s commanding officer Colonel William Hickock (Guich Koock, North Dallas Forty).
American Ninja is directed by Sam Firstenberg (Avenging Force) from a screenplay by Paul De Mielche (based on a story by Gideon Amir and Avi Kleinberger) and produced by Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan.
“American Ninja 2: The Confrontation” (Blu-Ray)
Directed by: Sam Firstenberg
Michael Dudikoff is back in action as Joe Armstrong in American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, the sequel to the highly successful martial arts extravaganza American Ninja.
Joining Joe is Curtis Jackson (a returning Steve James, American Ninja) who, like Joe, is promoted to the Army Rangers and sent on a mission to the Caribbean in search of missing Marines. Quicker than you can say déjà vu, Joe and Curtis are battling scientifically-engineered Super Ninjas in an attempt to bring down a dreaded drug lord known as The Lion (Gary Conway, Once is Not Enough).
American Ninja, directed by Sam Firstenberg (American Ninja) from a screenplay by Gary Conway and James Booth (from a story by Conway based on the characters created by Gideon Amir and Avi Kleinberger), is produced by Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan.
“American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt” (Blu-Ray)
Directed by: Cedric Sundstrom
Martial artist David Bradley (Cyborg Cop) takes the reins as Sean Davidson in this third installment of the American Ninja franchise, teaming up with the returning Steve James (American Ninja and American Ninja 2: The Confrontation) in yet another explosive action-packed adventure, American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt.
With the aid of Curtis Jackson (James), Davidson battles “The Cobra” (played to the hilt by Marjoe Gortner, Earthquake), a maniacal terrorist experimenting with biological warfare and an army of genetically-cloned ninjas led by Chan Lee (Michele Chan, TV’s Danger Bay).
American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt is directed by Cedric Sundstrom (Captive Rage) from a screenplay by Gary Conway based on the characters created by Gideon Amir and Avi Kleinberger.
“American Ninja 4: The Annihilation” (Blu-Ray)
Directed by: Cedric Sundstrom
American Ninja star Michael Dudikoff returns for the fourth installment in the popular action series, American Ninja 4: The Annihilation. Teamed with CIA operative Sean Davidson (martial artist David Bradley, American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt), Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff) is out to help foil the plans of Mulgrew (James Booth, The Breed), a terrorist hell-bent on annihilating New York City.
American Ninja 4: The Annihilation, directed by Cedric Sundstrom (American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt) from a screenplay by David Geeves based on the characters created by Gideon Amir and Avi Kleinberger, is produced by Christopher Pearce.
THE REVIEW: Caught up? Great! Now I’d like to start by saying each disc looks and sounds fantastic! “American Ninja” and “American Ninja 2: The Confrontation” feature audio commentaries with director Sam Firstenberg and bonus content producer Elijah Drenner, along with well produced featurettes covering the making of. Olive Films also throws the trailer on each disc to complete the extras with some fun nostalgia goodness. “American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt,” and “American Ninja 4: The Annihilation” are also given their own featurettes featuring interviews with cast and crew, as well as the trailers, but do not come with audio commentary.
Now that we got the technical aspects out of the way, we can get into the real meat of these films: 80S ACTION GOODNESS! When it comes to the 80s Action genre, Cannon was in a league of their own. Where the big studios would hitch their wagon to one or two stars, mini majors, such as Cannon, believed in quantity over quality. The “American Ninja” series is packed full of action, stars you may or may not have heard of, and plots that force the viewer to leave any expectations of a film rooted in reality at the door. And I love it!
Michael Dudikoff stars in the first two “American Ninja” films before stepping aside to let David Bradley take a swing at the plate in “Blood Hunt.” Dudikoff of course returns to save the day in the third sequel when all hope has seemingly gone out the window for Bradley’s Sean Davidson. Dudikoff is something special in these films, folks. A rich man’s Thom Mathews, Dudikoff has hot surfer looks with the personality of a dead gold fish, but it works for the haunted character of Joe Armstrong. He’s seen some shit. And it lives in his dead eye stare.
David Bradley’s Sean Davidson was fine in “Blood Hunt” and “The Annihilation,” but something felt like it was missing. A gifted martial artist, but when it came to acting, for me, much was left to be desired. Thank god these movies aren’t supposed to make you feel anything outside of wishing you could roundhouse a ninja in the face.
Of course Dudikoff and Bradley aren’t left holding the bag on their own, along for the ride in the first three of the “American Ninja” flicks is Steve James playing Cpl. Curtis Jackson. Steve James is not only the muscle in these flicks, he is also where the films anchor for me. James, also a gifted fighter in real life, also has a pair of acting chops that would fill the appetite of the heaviest buffet customers. Dudikoff and James make a wonderful pair of buddies in “The Confrontation” in particular. Steve James has said in the past that that might have something to do with the fact that they did not get along very well on the first film, but made peace during the sequel. Fun fact courtesy of IMDb trivia.
THE VERDICT: If you’re looking for a fun way to celebrate a national holiday, a three day weekend, or your son’s (daughter’s) tenth birthday, head over to Olive Films and grab the “American Ninja” flicks, folks. A series full of so much action, Jason Price of Icon vs. Icon would watch it twice.
Jeremy Morrison – Staff Writer
Co-creator/host of the Acid Pop Cult Podcast, film reviewer, screenwriter, Jeremy has more than eight years experience in television and film production. His childhood fascination with the naked breasts featured in the “Friday the 13th” franchise prepared him for absolutely nothing in life. J-Mo lives by one motto: #wecantallbezacksnyder