It seems fitting to close out 2009 with the review of a film that closed out a popular 1980s film franchise. After four films, what kind of story can be left to tell? If you guessed 'a cliched tale of crime, drug dealers and ninjas,' then you would be a winner! Of course, anyone watching American Ninja 5 could hardly be considered a winner in anything. Here's the up-side though: David Bradley is back. Try to contain your joy for a moment, so I can continue. The film takes the series in a new direction, which is interesting. Of course, it is also the last film in the series, so this is a moot point. No more stalling! This is...
The film begins with Mr. Bradley teaching karate to some children. Well, at least he wasn't teaching them acting! All of a sudden, Mr. Miyagi shows up! Actually, he is a different Japanese man, who is actually an old ninja. He drops his grandson off with our hero in order to get him in touch with his ninja roots. The boy, you see, is all about playing video games (on his giant Sega Game Gear) & not about flipping or killing. Can you imagine?!? So the young kid comes to stay on our hero's house-boat. Man, government jobs really don't pay that much. He gets hit on by a woman, although it takes him a while to figure it out. Are you really surprised by this? Ever the romantic, he has a private dinner with her...and the kid. The thing turns worse as the woman is kidnapped by ninjas before desert! Way to be a mood-killer. If you think that there is any reality in the film, it vanishes the second that our hero fights a series of ninjas as he walks down the docks. One chase scene later, both our hero and the kid end up on a plane headed for Venezuela. This can't end well.
So what is the evil villain's plot? Basically, he has some weird bio-weapon that he is making for some evil general. This series really makes you distrust military men, doesn't it? The problem is that the thing is not finished and the kidnapped scientist he got refuses to finish it. Want to guess who the girl is? That's right- his daughter! Our duo ends up getting split up and wandering around the city. Eventually, they rejoin and the kid gets a talking-to about how 'life is not a game.' Within five minutes of this scene, Bradley is fighting off a group of purple clad ninjas. Mixed messages, much? Incidentally, the kid in this movie is an actual martial artist (Lee Reyes) who does all of his own stunt work. Of course, his character has all the depth of a thimble. All of this amounts to a series of ninja fights that culminates in a battle at the enemy's base. Just to really drive the point home, the villain ties up an old man, a kid, the daughter and a puppy in a room that will fill with gas. Was that last one necessary, movie?!? The lead ninja villain is pretty damn ridiculous and all of the stunt choreography is as cliched as you would expect. They escape and go home, leading to Pat Morita's only other scene. Thanks for your three minutes, Miyagi. The whole thing ends with Bradley getting the girl and the kid doing a 'ninja vanish.' Hurray? The End.
This movie is really not good. There is nothing all that really bad about- it's just not good. The plot is basic and the acting is...well, what you expect. They sort of tease you with the idea that Pat Morita is going to be a main character and then just pull it away from you! Mind you, Pat was also in Bloosport II and III, so he did not always do 'good' movies. The problem with the movie relates to both it stars and its tone. The series tries to incorporate more kid-friendly aspects to it, such as ninjas being knocked out rather than killed. Bradley cannot carry a scene based on his personality and nobody else really has anything to work with. It is not the worst ninja film out there (those all have Godfrey Ho's name on them), but it is just supremely-underwhelming. I just miss Dudikoff even more. Come back to us! We'll be nice this time, I swear!
Next up, I begin the new year with a film about scanners, cops and melting bodies. That could only be one film...since I did Scanner Cop already. Stay tuned...