Wednesday, February 2, 2011
American Ninja (1985)
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.