The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
American Ninja (1985)
I don't really remember when I first saw this amazing classic. I wasn't that old, I know that. It was one of those movies we really weren't supposed to watch, but did anyway, sneaking over to a friend's house before his parents got back from work and catching it on HBO. Either that, or we'd rent it during a big sleep over night. It's the perfect movie for a ten year old, even if it is a little violent.
The first installment of the American Ninja series introduces us to Joe, the American Ninja, played by DTVC Hall of Famer Michael Dudikoff. Here, he's a mysterious amnesiac with amazing martial arts skills. During a hijacking of a military convoy, he rescues the Colonel's daughter, played by the brunette chick from Weird Science. She's very upset by his rough treatment of her, until she sees his ripped abs, and then she falls in love with him. No one's happy with his heroics when he gets back to base, except for her, and a dude named Jackson tries to kick his ass. He fails miserably, and as a result, he and Dudikoff become fast friends.
As you can imagine, the hijacking was planned by the Colonel and his sergeant in order to funnel weapons to an arms dealer, who is supported in his endeavor by a master ninja and his myriad trained underlings. Only the master ninja and Jackson understand how good Dudikoff is, and so Jackson helps him while the master ninja tries unsuccessfully to kill him. Finally a mysterious bald Japanese man who looks like Gabe Kaplan gives Dudikoff his memory back and a whole bunch of ninja equipment, so he can beat the baddies, save the girl, and win the day.
Dudikoff's American Ninja is what we in the biz call a five tool hero: he's a great warrior, great driver of trucks and crotch rockets, has a genius level IQ, has amazing power over women, and practices magic. The magic part may not be clear, but it simply means he can make bullets miss, cause cars that hit trees head on to explode... that kind of stuff. Today, film makers try to make us take their movies more seriously, so they may remove one or more of those tools. It's kind of too bad really.
This film was made in 1985, and nothing in the film reflects the times more than the Colonel's daughter. Played by the brunette chick from Weird Science, she's a throwback to a time when women wore baggy tops, skirts and dresses that went below their knees, and overly feathered hair. I'm not saying I like the way women dressed then better than now or vice-versa, but I am saying it doesn't matter what women wear, men will still find them hot. I think that's an important point: women and gay men decide what women wear, not straight dudes.
Ninjas were everywhere in the 80s. As a kid, ninja was behind fireman and baseball player on my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up. If I wasn't watching a movie with the Coreys in it, I was watching something ninja, or playing ninja video games. This movie just added to the ninja mystique. In the opening scene, the army dudes are easily beating the armed hijackers, but when the ninjas show up, with their no guns and prehensile chains, the American military was no match. It was like the ninja could do anything.
As an adult, this film is pure silliness, and I think that makes it all the more enjoyable. Dudikoff as the guy with no past who has amnesia and doesn't know why he has such great skills; the master ninja shooting lasers out of something on his hand; how quickly the female lead changed her attitude toward our hero once she saw the abs; and more than anything else, the sheer volume of explosions and gun shots, most of which Dudikoff avoids. The plot is simple, doesn't get in the way, and is sufficiently stupid.
I'm not sure it gets much better than this classic. If you're a fan of bad action, you need to have this in your collection. It's like being a fan of Fellini, and not having La Strada. You shouldn't have to pay more than $10 for it, and I think it may be boxed with part 2. Renting it isn't enough, you have to own this bad boy.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088708/