So what's new this time? Given the past history of the series, you know that something would be different. This time, we get to keep David Bradley (damn!), but we lose Steve James. While he is not the lead of the series, I have to question the idea of doing a film without him. The producers did not think that way, however, and pushed on. The big get of the series has always been the ninja action, so they figured that they could get by. However, there is some hope here- Michael Dudikoff is back. Depending on which story you believe, he came back because the shooting location was changed from South Africa...or he just needed the money. But wait, you're saying to yourself, this is American Ninja not American NINJAS! How will the producers work this out? Well, find out for yourself in my review of...
The film begins by reintroducing us to our hero from the last film- Sean Cunningham...er, Davidson. When will you guys makes up your minds?!? Anyhow, he is now a CIA Agent, since most people who kicked Marjoe Gortner's ass in the 1980s got promotions. It was like a rite of passage to beat up that Brillo-haired man. As it turns out, there is a grave- and somewhat illogical- situation going on that he must attend to. Okay, try to keep up with me here. An evil British General (character actor James Booth) has teamed up with the evil Sheik Maksood to destroy New York City. This is back in 1990, mind you, when you could still do these stories without being eerie, not that terrorism was ever 'cool.' Anyhow, to help carry out their plans, they are also training an army of NINJAS! Okay, I'll be the one to ask this- why? Are you planning on red-suited ninjas flipping into the New York City subway system to drop off the bomb? Is the ability to vanish in a puff of smoke part of your master plan? So yeah, these guys must be stopped Davidson-Cunningham. Good thing he has some help in the form of a nurse. It's time to kick ass and...oh, they got captured. Never mind.
So yeah, the producer's solution to having two leads was to have one of them get capture less than halfway into the movie. Interesting choice, guys. Desperate, the military calls in Joe, who has apparently retired from the army in the mere three years since the last film he was in. The play up the 'I quit and will never come back' angle from Rambo III (which came out first), but that ends when Joe is told about the evil ninja behind it all. Back in the bad guy's camp, the movie amps up the 'evil quotient' by having the British man attempt to rape our heroine and revealing that he killed her father. Okay, movie, we get it! Packing up his silliest ninja outfits, Joe goes to save the day. With the help of some rebels, the tide begins to turn. By the way, if you ever wanted to see what someone who is only doing a movie under protest looks like, check out Dudikoff here. He is more 'zombie' than man here, even managing to look bored while fighting ninjas! In the end, everyone gets something to do. Joe beats up the Ninja leader (of course), Sean kills the Brit and even Sean's partner- who is so forgettable that I'm only mentioning him now- gets to blow up the Sheik's helicopter. Everyone who is evil in this country is now dead. The End.
Yeah, this movie has some real problems. Having two leads is something that most movies can handle. For example, Crimson Rivers has Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel. They investigate their two cases for the first forty minutes or so before meeting up and realizing that their cases are related. Instead, our movie has to make one of them look bad and have the original hero of the series come back to save everyone. It's not even really balanced out all that much, since the ninja villain (and most of the ninjas themselves) are dispatched by Dudikoff. It's like 'here- you can have what I don't feel like killing.' The pacing of the movie is also made odder by this choice, since it builds up an area, has Bradley fight and then has to stop to reintroduce Dudikoff. Have you heard of momentum, guys? On the plus side, the movie does have Dudikoff catch an arrow with his teeth, which is as funny and ridiculous as it sounds. I still recommend staying with the first two films, although this movie does have some fun parts at the end. Overall though, it is actually weaker than most of the series because of having two leads.
*Up next, I conclude the Quintology with a film that dares to ignore every other film in the series. Hey guys, you know this is actually the FIFTH film, right? Stay tuned...