Do you want to know how to take the winds out of a movie franchise's sails? How about you drop your lead actor and try to replace him after two movies? That would work. Actually, there are conflicting and varied reports on why Dudikoff bailed on this movie. One says that he did not want to be type-cast, which doesn't really hold up (you'll see why). The more logical one, however, is the fact that all of the Ninja films were made in South Africa during a time where it was not exactly popular to do so. Supposedly, he feared the backlash for doing another film there and said 'no.' Regardless of that, we still have Steve James...dammit. On top of that, we have an interesting actor playing the lead villain, even if his barely-there career was on the down-swing. Before I scare any more of you of, I will bring you...
The film begins by introducing us to our new hero: Sean Cunningham. Make note of his name for later. Anyhow, this guy is a shorter man with black hair, but still possesses the dead eyes and vacant expression required to be an American Ninja. He is joined by Steve James' character, who is known as the Master of Swords. I'm sorry, but did he ever even pick up a sword in the first two movies? No, I didn't think so. Anyhow, both of them are in town for a karate tournament. Gee, I hope ninjas don't get involved in this. Meanwhile, an evil man is making plans to do some, well, evil. That man: Marjoe Gortner! Well, the movie does have one thing going for it. Does this karate tournament really add anything to the plot? No, not really. It does, however, give us a magazine cover touting our star's prowess in the circuit. However, his name is listed as Sean Davidson! Well, at least this shot is not in the trailer. Oh crap, it is!
How does this plot involve ninjas, you ask? Well, they...show up and fight our heroes. Actually, they are the minions of the evil Marjoe Gortner, who is known as The Cobra. Hmm, a villain from the 1980s and his name is Cobra. Gee, I wonder what their inspiration was?!? Anyhow, he is experimenting on people as well and trying to make some weird formula. If you are getting a feeling of deja vu here, it's not just you. Anyhow, we get a bunch of scenes with our heroes fighting ninjas that don't really add anything. On the plus side, they are awesome...in that they are so hideously stupid and funny. One of my favorite moments comes from when our hero catches two arrows, does a tumble and stabs the offending ninjas with their arrows. However, his poor friend gets shot to death while he shows off. Poor Bastards of Cinema, anyone? Incidentally, all you fans of the great SNL skit where ninjas plan out their attacks better, the ending footage is from this movie! I feel smarter for knowing that, don't you? Oh yeah, the bad guy infects our hero with a virus too. I should probably have mentioned that, shouldn't I?
The rest of the movie is a whole bunch of silliness, even in comparison to the rest of the film. Sean gets captured by the enemies, as does a female ninja/love interest of sorts. Steve James' character shows up with, I guess, the Phillipines' National Guard to kill some soldiers. You get the usual stuff- people flipping from explosions, people fall over with squibs all over them, etc. Bradley has a long, silly fight with some ninjas after they do a 'show of their skills' bit. He wins, in spite of the lead ninja's bright red outfit. If I wanted colorful ninjas, I would watch a Godfrey Ho film...and then kill myself. Anyhow, he battles some more ninjas who simply appear after the lights flash out for a second. It has to be seen to be believed...which it can be done here. I would be remiss without mentioning the whole plot thread with the female ninja whose masks fool everyone...until the movie decides that she has to be caught. Score one for lazy writing! The best moments are still Steve James' fight scenes, especially the ones where you can see the stuntmen pause to wait for his next move. The villain dies and the day is saved...for now. The End.
This movie is good...for what it is. The story is bare-bones and mostly just an excuse to string together action scenes. As deadpan as Dudikoff was, Bradley has him beat! In fact, I would almost say that Gary Daniels has more personality than he does! Marjoe and Steve are the only two who really muster up enough personality to keep the movie going. You aren't here for characters though, are you? You are here to watch ridiculous action scenes involving ninjas and muscular men. In that regard, this movie delivers in spades. In pretty much every other regards, it is inferior to the previous films. If you go in expecting much, you will be disappointed. If you enjoy disappointment, follow me on the short journey through parts 4 and 5 of the series.
Next up, just that thing I said. Now without Steve James...for some reason. Whose idea was that again? Stay tuned...