Wednesday, December 28, 2022

American Ninja

About a year ago, I did a post on the documentary Electric Boogaloo, a movie detailing the Cannon studio when it was owned in the 1980s by Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoran Globus. One of the movies the documentary discusses is one that I hadn't actually heard of before seeing the documentary, American Ninja. TCM showed it earlier this year in TCM Underground, so I recorded it for a chance to watch it.

The action is set in the Philippines, reminiscent of some of Pam Grier's early movies as I mentioned a few weeks back. There's a US military base there that the locals have a love-hate relationship with, as some of the locals harass the Army men when they leave the base on official duty. In the film's opening scene, a convoy is transporting various things, including the base commander Hickock and his daughter Patricia (Judie Aronson), when the convoy is ambushed in a seeming plot to kidnap someone, maybe Col. Hickok's daughter. Taking some initiative is Pvt. Joe Anderson (Michael Dudikoff), although he's not exactly following orders. The people doing the ambush start shooting, and Joe whisks Patricia off to try to save her.

Joe does indeed save Patricia, and as you might guess she winds up falling for the reasonably fit top-billed guy. But Joe isn't well-liked back at the base, since a couple of the soldiers died in the incident. However, he earns their respect when he shows off his fighting skills, which he learned as an adolescent even though he doesn't quite remember how he learned them. He was a nasty little juvie, apparently, as a judge gave him the opportunity of going into the army or going to jail.

Meanwhile, when he takes Patricia out for a clandestine date off-base, he's discovered by Sgt. Rinaldo. This is a problem in and of itself in that it's a breach of the rules. However, it's a bigger problem in that Rinaldo is there to meet Victor Ortega, a black marketer fencing weapons Rinaldo takes from the base and selling them for a higher price. No wonder Rinaldo doesn't want Joe learning about this.

Rinaldo has Ortega's men try to bump off Joe. Ortega's men are... ninjas, trained by the best of them all, the Black Star Ninja! But of course they're going to be no match of Joe since he's the hero of the movie and you can't imagine Golan and Globus giving audiences a sad ending. But it's going to get more complicated along the way. Patricia believes Joe when he tells her what's going on, since after all she saw part of it herself. But what she doesn't realize is that her father is in on the black marketeering!

American Ninja is ludicrously bad, but you can see why it was a financial success for Cannon as it's just so much fun despite -- or more really because of -- it's badness. Dudikoff can't act; the fight scenes aren't all that much; and the plot strains credulity even more than Pam Grier's Philippines movies did. But I found myself laughing at how ludicrous it all was, which is a good thing.

That having been said, American Ninja is probably the sort of movie you'd want to watch together with a bunch of your friends so you can have fun together laughing at how bad it all is.

No comments: