Monday, December 10, 2012

My Favorite Era: American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

Not every movie in this series will be a traditional 'good' movie.  It's all well and good to have a stellar cast, an impeccably written script and a true cinematic vision...But sometimes you don't want a nice cut of prime rib, you want a greasy chili cheeseburger with chili cheese fries and a beer.  American Ninja 2 is just such a dish, just about the finest thing Cannon Films out out in 1987 (they also released Barfly which actually got some Oscar nominations so you can't dismiss that).

The great thing about this movie is that unlike the first one (reviewed right here on this site a while back), this one dispenses with such silly things like plot and acting and just gives you 90 minutes of pure cheesy insanity.  Michael Dudikoff and Steve James are back and this time, they're helping out some Marines on a tropical island who have been losing some of their men to a band of ninjas.  There's some silliness about creating super soldier ninjas but for the most part, this is just a fun action romp.  Let's take a closer look.
  • Of course, this is a part of the ninja craze of the mid-80's.  In fact, one could say this is really the last ninja movie worth watching.
  • Things start off well with a cool soundtrack by George S. Clinton.  The setup is also entertaining, though I really, really hope that in real life a couple of trained Marines wouldn't get the snot kicked out of them by a couple of schmucks in a bar...Even if one of their own is in on the operation.
  • Another part of the setup I love, the Marines on this island are trying to keep a low profile so they tend to dress like your standard beach bums with khakis, sunglasses and surfboards.  It sort of makes me wonder if the initial idea was to have the two leads protecting a hotel resort.  Weirder things have happened.
  • Dudikoff and James are in fine form with a good, natural chemistry.  While Joe is just as wooden a character as he was in the first film, this is offset nicely by Steve James as Jackson, showing just how enthusiastic a man can be while kicking the poop out of stuntmen.
  • I get a kick out of the base commander's second-in-command who seems to exist merely to be a grumpy, miserable jerk.
  • The action is quite good with an extended beach fight and the huge climax being the highlights.
  • The plot (what little there is) is the best kind of comic book stupidity with a scientist and a drug dealer (played by co-screenwriter Gary Conway) teaming up to somehow make mutant super-ninjas using abducted Marines from the base.  Yeah, I don't get it wither.  All I know is that it's an excuse to have a huge body count by the end...And that's a good thing.
  • Of course, the scientist has a pretty daughter who falls for Joe.
  • As in the first movie, the local government is also involved in the plot, in this case the police chief.  In fact, this film as well as the third one can be seen as essentially structural remakes of the original film.
  • Sam Firstenberg does a decent enough job directing, with all the action films under his belt he certainly should be good by this point.
  • I love the huge bar fight midway through.  Steve James is truly in his element here, clearly having a blast.  You just don't see that level of enthusiasm in action stars anymore.
  • Equally entertaining is the scene a few minutes later as Joe has to evade the most tenacious ninja ever.  Seriously, the guy is dragged behind a truck for at least a few miles in terms of actual travel and even then he still keeps coming.  Awesome.
  • I love how the bad guy goes on about his super ninjas and then presents a demo of them in having his man henchman who is just a regular ninja decimate the super ninjas.
  • The climax is great as Steve James once again steals the show, blasting bad guys with a huge gun and then going to town with two huge machetes.  There is a classic moment where he gets a gut to stay down simply by yelling at him.  Awesome.
  • Equally funny is the showdown between Dudikoff and the main ninja.  I never knew a sawed-off shotgun was part of the typical ninja arsenal but there you go.
The second American Ninja movie improves on the second one simply by not having as much plot to get in the way of the action.  It's fast paced, funny and action packed (as in a huge brawl about every ten minutes or so) with a light, cheerful tone that makes it imminently watchable.

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About Me

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