Wednesday, February 2, 2011

American Ninja (1985)

For our first entry from Cannon Pictures, I'd like to examine American Ninja.  I've covered several of their movies over at The Agony Booth so you can think of this as sort of a cross-over type deal.  Michael Dudikoff is our titular hero, a young American G.I named Joe.  So yes, our hero for the movie is essentially G.I. Joe.  Right off the bat we're served up with a nice plate of awesome!

Joe has a past he can't remember but it all ties into the fact that he is able to change from a rather introverted loner to a high kicking, unstoppable martial arts war machine at the first sign of trouble.  Well, at least as much as the budget will allow.  This is a Cannon film, after all!

We see him spring into action fairly quickly as he stops the hijacking of a convoy as well as the base commander's daughter (Judie Aronson) from a team of ninjas.  Due to his loner nature, he's not embraced by his fellow soldiers and ends up getting in a fight with our second lead, Curtis Jackson (Steve James).  Steve James was always great and is a personal favorite of mine when it comes to low budget action movies.  He was always enthusiastic and energetic, it's a shame he's no longer around.

The plot, what little there is (and really you don't need much in this sort of film), revolves around a weapons smuggling ring being led by a bad guy named Ortega who has an army of ninjas at his disposal and the base commander in his back pocket.  It's nothing you wouldn't see on the average A-Team episode, which is what makes it so damn entertaining.  It all ends up at Ortega's compound where Joe faces off against the dreaded Black Star Ninja and Jackson leads a platoon of soldiers to save the day and the general's daughter.  The battle between Joe and the BSN is quite a sight as the bad guy turns out to have everything from a flamethrower up his sleeve to a weird gun rig to a damned laser!  It's hilariously over the top in the best way possible.

Dudikoff makes for a good action hero.  He's not much of a martial artist but he's athletic enough to make the fighting look good.  James is great as always and the film has a breezy sense of fun that makes it go down easy.  It's not the best thing you'll ever see, the pacing in the first half is a little slack, but it's still a damn good way to kill 95 minutes.

1985 was a damn good year for Cannon.  Along with this, the year also saw the release of Invasion U.S.A. (arguably Chuck Norris' best movie), Death Wish 3, Lifeforce (which I feel is underrated) and King Solomon's Mines (one of the best bad movies I have ever seen).  I'll be looking at more Cannon films in the near future.  They just don't make them like this anymore.


  1. I love American Ninja. You're absolutely right, they just don't make 'em like this anymore.

  2. Yep, though every now and then you do get a theatrical release for something that just screams out this time period.

    I'll probably covers parts 3 and 4 at some point. I'm saving 2 for a longer Agony Booth piece. It's too good for a short review.


About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.