American Ninja (1985)

Deep in the Philippines, “rebels” are ambushing US Army trucks to steal the goods. But these rebels are really ninjas, a league of silent assassins under the employ of a man who wishes he was Ricardo Montalban and sells the stolen weapons to the highest bidder, all with the help of a corrupt army colonel and his master sergeant. But what no one expected was that this latest convoy was driven by Michael Dudikoff, the American Ninja! That’s right, the tagline says everything: The deadliest art of the Orient is now in the hands of an American!

OH SNAP! USA! USA! USA!

Seriously though, despite all of the ninjas flipping out and killing people, soldiers shooting big guns, and Dudikoff throwing people around and showing off his ninja moves…this movie is really boring. You get a big half-assed sort of fight at the start, and then…nothing. For a long time. It’s all about setup, letting Dudikoff meet the colonel’s daughter for both comic relief and a love interest, and one really awful motorcycle stunt (really, was that a stunt man on the motorcycle? I hope he’s ok, but I really don’t think he survived that). The action feels forced and contrived, the fights all just look awkward, and it’s all incredibly bloodless and bland. And Dudikoff’s acting? Well, there is less wood in a tree, put it that way. When he finally did stop trying to be the mysterious silent type, he sounds like he doesn’t really want to be there. It’s…awkward.

But how did Dudikoff learn his ninja moves? Well, a Japanese soldier stuck hiding in the jungle from WWII finds a baby, raises him from birth, trains him to be a ninja, and then gets separated from him by an explosion. Dudikoff is the child, but he suffers from amnesia, except for his sweet ninja moves. Somehow he goes to foster school, goes to prison, and gets sent into the army, where he ends up back in the Philippines, only to discover his ninja master is Montalban-knock off’s gardener! Dun dun DUN!

Ultimately this movie ends with Dudikoff and his master fighting the army of ninjas while American soldiers raid wannabe-Montalban’s love pad right in the middle of a deal with some Spanish guy. The master gets killed, Dudikoff casually chases down the head ninja dude and kills him on a roof, and then Dudikoff saves the girl from faux-Montalban’s helicopter right before Steve James shoots it with a bazooka. Everybody’s happy, we get a sort of wannabe M*A*S*H sequence, and the audience ultimately wonders just how a movie with ninjas in it could be so completely boring.

Except for that motorcycle stunt.

Seriously, I hope that guy is ok.

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