Friday, 18 July 2008

American Ninja 4: The Annihilation

American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1990)

Directed by: Cedric Sundstrom
Screenplay: David Geeves
Starring: Michael Dudikoff & David Bradley

Whoa, this movie is crazy, sleazy, cheesy, lame and all kinds of awesome. Pushing the 80s fascination with ninjas to the max, American Ninja 4 features loads of day glow night warriors and enough trash and action to fill several movies. American Ninja and American Ninja 2 were pretty solid action movies from the Cannon group and cemented Dudikoff as a star (at least for a brief moment). Fun and action packed they brought ninjas to the mainstream and were packed with ninja throwing star silliness. The third sequel, Blood Hunt, isn’t as fondly remembered with Dudikoff being absent and the new direction being camper than a row of pink tents. Still it’s kind of a guilty pleasure much like this fourth instalment.

Dudikoff is back, well sort of. He doesn’t turn up until well over forty minutes into the flick and shares the running time with American Ninja 3, David Bradley. Bradley is sent into some kind of crazy ninja compound where a bunch of US Delta Force soldiers are being held, only to get captured himself. Then Dudikoff gets called up and goes in to rescue everyone, making a pretty easy job of it. Dudikoff doesn’t look too pleased to be here, uttering hardly a word and seemingly only turning up to film some fight scenes and honour his contract to Cannon. It’s good to see him back in the series that made his name but maybe they should have just left the series to new guy Bradley. The first half of the flick is his while the second is Dudikoff’s.

The action and production values aren’t bad. Some ok fights, chases and explosions and a rather nifty aerial shot of an army of ninjas training on a mountain top. There is also a distinctively nasty side to this entry with the main bad guy having a tendency to brutalize people frequently. Presumably so we know he is evil. On top of that there is the requisite ton of ludicrousness that accompanies these late 80s/early 90s fight flicks. Since it’s the fourth in a series, an annoying kid gets shoehorned in; when Bradley and his partner are sent in to infiltrate the camp and rescue the hostages they turn up in nothing more than civilian clothes (!?); and Dudikoff masters that hardest of ninja skills by catching an arrow with his mouth and then spitting it into another ninja, killing him. No really. It’s up there with Christopher Walken in McBain shooting down a plane with a handgun while sitting in a sealed cockpit of another plane, for the most ridiculous moment in action cinema.

Great stuff if you like this kind of cheesy ninja action or an absolute abomination if you don’t. I like this kind of stuff, so I enjoyed the hell out of it.

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