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.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

American Ninja V (1993)

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This was recently placed on Netflix's Watch Instantly. I'd been meaning to get to it for a while, since I have all the others reviewed here, but other things keep popping up. Also, with David Bradley's performances in some of the other films we've done of him recently, I wasn't too excited about the prospect. Still, if this is the Direct to Video Connoisseur, then it needs to have all five American Ninjas on it, whether I like it or not.

American Ninja V has Bradley as a dude teaching martial arts in Key West, when his master, Pat Morita, makes him watch his 12-year-old nephew Hiro while he's away. Bradley also has a date, so he brings the boy along. As luck would have it, the date is the daughter of a scientist, and the bad guys decide to kidnap her so the scientist will do what they want. They kidnap her on the date, and Bradley chases after, the nephew not far behind. They stow away on a plane, track the girl down, Bradley teaches the boy the ways of the ninja, and they fight a James Lew whose dressed like M. Bison in drag, and save the day.

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This had to be a comedy. Like more than American Ninja 2 was a comedy. I mean, as a comedy, it was pretty funny, if their goal was to spoof the previous American Ninja films. I don't even know where to begin, though. Maybe the bad guy guards. They were dressed in plain white T-shirts, billowy khaki shorts, and high tube socks. If it wasn't for the machine guns they were toting, I'd think they were taking a break from a nearby tech convention. Then you got James Lew in his outfit. Had it been purple with a purple mask, he'd be the Phantom Fireworks guy. The nephew was played by a somewhat annoying kid (Lee Reyes, who may or may not be related to Ernies Reyes jr.), but he would do all these things like drive a car or fly a plane, and the reactions were always like "Oh you," or "what're we gonna do with you, Hiro?" I'm not kidding either, he really would just drive cars and fly planes. Throw in all your average funny ninja stuff with none of the gore, and you've got a hilarious family ninja movie.

David Bradley's taken some heat here at the DTVC. There's the poor performance in American Ninja 3 that I gave him a mulligan on because it was his first starring role; and then the fanny pack in Cyborg Cop, which I definitely didn't give a mulligan on-- that was unforgivable. Just the same, I also gave him props for the amazing Hard Justice, one of the best DTV films of the 1990s. Here we get something in between, which I was okay with. His martial arts skills were solid, and his ability to do tongue and cheek was much improved from AN3 four years before. He was just a much more believable lead. I'm not sure what happened to him in 1997, which is the date imdb gives for his last movie, but that's it, 15 pictures in 8 short years, and he's gone.

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This is the second film I've reviewed in a week which featured That Guy James Lew in a bigger role than just a hatchet man in a baddie's gang, the other being Circuit 3. He was definitely used better here than he was in that one. First, the mullet was in full effect, though often pulled back in the classic ape drape ponytail, you know, the kind that's really business in the front, and then, instead of party in the back, it's 80s hipster doofus. Gotta love that, but hold on cowboy, we're not done. Red gloves, red ninja outfit, and red cape. Yep, you guessed it, M. Bison's drag outfit. Again, this had to be a joke, because it was hilarious.

Most of these movies I review from the 80s and 90s have a nostalgia aspect, whether it's the clothes, hairdos, or Zack Morris cell phones. Usually it stops there, though, but not in American Ninja V. First, you got the nephew rocking the Miami Dolphins Starter jacket and hat. Classic. Then, he's playing the Game Gear. I forgot that existed! Now I want one really bad. The McDonald's they passed in the car chase looked modern, but the Doritos bag Bradley and the kid found was totally old school-- we're talking like Jay Leno commercials era... whoops, sorry, that's a bad name around here.... (The Game Gear image is above, and if you click on it or any other image in the post, it will take you to the image page, which has pics of the other things I mentioned above.)

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One thing that was great about this was how Bradley fought different waves of ninjas through out, but each wave was a different color. The color didn't mean anything though, they didn't fight differently or better than any others, that just seemed to be how it was. Again, I think this was all done for the silliness of it more than anything, but coming from the Mortal Kombat school of ninjas, it was a little disappointing. Ninjas in different colors should all do different things. I found a website (http://www.mortalkombatonline/) that talks about the games, and I guess in some of the newer ones, the ninjas aren't all color swaps, they're actually given individual looks, which was a disappointment. Hopefully they'll make a new one that's all 2-D, with some of the classic characters, and myriad unlockable color-swapped ninjas. Maybe something downloadable for Wii Ware.

This movie isn't a bad deal, especially if you get it on Watch Instantly. It's funny-- whether intentional or not-- the martial arts is decent, and the action isn't bad. David Bradley turns in a redeemable performance, though not one that will allow us to forgive him for the fanny pack faux pas. It'll be interesting to see what we have next for him, but for right now, you could do a lot worse than see this one.

For more info:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106257/

And to read my other American Ninja posts:
American Ninja
American Ninja 2
American Ninja 2 (revisited)
American Ninja 3
American Ninja 4

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