American Ninja & American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

| August 16, 2016

Those of us who love action movies have long understood that, when you want to watch some bonkers 1980s action, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus’ The Cannon Group is where the action is. I mean, we’re talking the studio here that put out the Death Wish sequels, the Missing in Action movies, Cobra (1986), Over the Top (1987), and of course, Bloodsport (1988). So it’s great to see Cannon and their movies getting so much attention lately with the release of a pair of documentaries about the studio as well as the release of a glut of their films on Blu-ray.

One distributor that’s been getting into the Cannon Group game in a big way is Olive Films with their Blu-ray releases of The Last American Virgin (1982), Messenger of Death (1988) and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects (1989). And this very week they released all four American Ninja movies on Blu-ray! Ninjas, realize, were bread and butter for Cannon in the 1980s. In fact, the entire ninja craze is said to have been instigated by Cannon’s own 1981 release of Enter the Ninja. This they followed up with 1983’s Revenge of the Ninja and finally, the absolutely insane Ninja III: The Domination, which fuses ninja action with aerobics and a possession narrative. That last one is a total must-see!

After that, Cannon launched a new series of ninja releases (mostly) starring their recent discovery, Michael Dudikoff. American Ninja (1985) stars Dudikoff as Joe Armstrong, a soldier with no memory of his ninjitsu upbringing… unless you count muscle memory, that is! The film opens with Joe as part of a military convoy that comes under attack by a horde of ninjas. Joe almost single-handedly fends off the ninja attack bare-handed. After he saves the day, everybody really hates him because… reasons. (Honestly, it makes very little sense to me how everybody on the base is mad at him for fighting off the ninjas.) So when Joe becomes aware of a ninja/military conspiracy to sell illegal arms, it’s up to Joe, his pal Curtis, and his love interest Patricia to stop them on their own.

It’s a solid Cannon actioner of the era co-starring Steve James (I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (1988) and the incredible vanity piece, Street Hunter (1990)) as Joe’s brother-in-arms Curtis and Judie Aronson (Weird Science (1985), Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)) as Patricia. Steve Firstenberg, who helmed Cannon’s iconic Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984) directs the picture.

Firstenberg returned to the franchise two years later with 1987’s American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, which is a more enjoyable outing thanks to its ridiculous premise. In The Confrontation, Joe and Curtis are shipped off to a tropical island to investigate the disappearance of locally-stationed Marines. There they come into conflict with The Lion, a drug lord who’s scientifically engineering an army of genetically-superior super ninjas! It’s an ultra rad payoff to what is otherwise an equally entertaining outing for Joe Armstrong and a strong addition to the Cannon oeuvre.

Though I admittedly prefer the spectacularly bananas Ninja III: The Domination to most any other ninja movie out there, I’m still glad to add Olive’s American Ninja releases to my collection and can’t wait to get a look at the third and fourth installments. As for the first two, Olive’s transfers look fantastic, and what’s more, the releases include a handful of special features, which is something I’m happy to see from Olive, who have to date mostly put out terrific-looking but special feature-free Blu-rays.

Bonus content on Olive’s American Ninja release includes:
-Audio Commentary with director Sam Firstenberg
-“A Rumble in The Jungle”: The Making ofAmerican Ninja: Featuring interviews with director Sam Firstenberg, actors Michael Dudikoff and Judie Aronson, Screenwiter Paul De Mielche and Stunt Co-ordinator Steve Lambert
-Theatrical Trailer

Bonus content on American Ninja 2: The Confrontation includes:
-Audio Commentary with director Sam Firstenberg
-“An American Ninja in Cape Town”: The Making of American Ninja 2: Featuring interviews with director Sam Firstenberg, actors Michael Dudikoff and Gary Conway, Executive Producer Avi Lerner and Stunt Co-ordinator BJ Davis
-Theatrical Trailer

About the Author:

Jef is a writer and educator in Chicago, Illinois. He holds a degree in Media & Cinema Studies from DePaul University, but sometimes he drops it and picks it back up again. He's also the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com and is fueled entirely by coffee (as if you couldn't tell).
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