Review: American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

Starring Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Mike Stone

Fight Choreography by Mike Stone

Directed by Sam Firstenberg

Theyyyy’rrrreeee baaaaaaack! The American military find themselves owned by ninjas and once again need the help of Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff) and his sidekick Curtis Jackson (James). They find themselves transferred to an island in the Caribbean when several U.S. Marines are kidnapped and no one has a clue who’s doing it (answer: ninjas).

Joe and Curtis arrive to the island to find that the marines lead a very laid back lifestyle, wearing cabana shirts and drinking mohitos on the beach instead of shooting something. Soon they find themselves patrolling the nearby islands with some marines, one of which was a marine named Taylor that has lured the others into the arms of the ninjas. Joe’s bullshit detector is on full and he senses that this guy is a douche, and confirms as much when Taylor pulls the plug on the boat, faking it to be disabled, and Joe checks for himself after the others go swimming and finds that indeed Taylor was fill of shit, and before Joe can let everyone know, the ninjas decide to attack. One thing has to be said about the American Ninja films, these ninjas like to attack in the daylight, still wearing their black ninja uniforms. In the hot sun of the Caribbean. Because that makes hella sense. Anyway, the ninjas attack, but never fear, they have no chance of beating Joe or Curtis, not because they are so good—actually Curtis is the best in this film—but because these ninjas are like keystone cops. Half the damn time they wind up killing each other will ill-timed sword slices and arrow launches. The fight here kinda sucks because none of the sword cuts look remotely real. You can actually tell they are swiping at the air! Dudikoff does a better job than in his fight scenes in the previous film, but Steve James really goes all out. Curtis is a more interesting character than Joe Armstrong because of the energy and badassness that James brings to the part, not to mention his abilities as a real martial artist.

After the attempt to kill Joe and Curtis fails, Taylor lures Joe to a bar called the Blind Beggar, where the other soldiers were kidnapped, and Joe gets jumped by a group of thugs, one of which is played by Friday the 13th killer Jason Vorhees, Kane Hodder. Joe beats them up in a pretty good scene and then has to face them again in Taylor’s room before Joe confronts Taylor, who is about to spill the beans when he walks into a ninja spear. It’s here where we find out about a supercriminal named the Lion who is harvesting the DNA of the marines in an attempt to create genetically engineered ninjas, and sell their services to the highest bidder.

After Taylor is killed Joe and company attend a ambassador’s luncheon, where a strange woman interrupts the proceedings, accusing the Lion, who happens to be there, of drug dealing, which is true, so of course no one believes her. Joe and his boys follow Lion’s men, who take her away, right back to the Blind Beggar bar. Joe and his crew get attacked by the same men as before and a fun fight ensues, thanks in large part to the shit talking that Curtis gives throughout the entire brawl scenes. It is here we really meet the lead ninja Tojo, placed by martial artist and fight choreographer Mike Stone. During the fight the girl gets away again, but Joe goes after her alone, and finds her, but the ninjas find them both, and a good, but very,  very cheesy ninja fight happens here, but you can see that Dudikoff has learned a lot since the previous film as his fighting style has a much better form, and his speed has increased. Of course it is here that we meet fucking ninja Terminator. Joe and the girl get into a truck along with a kid who is helping Joe get around town, and this ninja first jumps in the bed of the truck and fights Joe, gets thrown off of the truck, throws a chain and connects, and instantly wonders about the folly of doing this as he is drug for a few miles over dirt and pavement, and then flies over the truck as Joe stops, hangs on to the front like Indiana Jones, and they kill his overachieving ass by jumping out of the truck and letting it rocket him into a gas station that finally blows the ninja up. I have to wonder who the hell was this ninja? Why wasn’t he the main villain? This was a flunky with aspirations of being a lead henchman, dashed by a 1976 Chevy and a shit-ton of gasoline. Damn that Joe Armstrong! Soon Joe and Curtis, and a whole lot of marines find the base of the Lion, and lead and attack to stop his plan once and for all…

Is it possible to be even sillier than the previous film? Apparently the answer is yes. The plot is ludicrous by itself, and the fights are both funny and pretty bad, except for the stars themselves. Michael Dudikoff remains a blank slate acting wise, but his fight scenes are much better than in the previous film. Mike Stone does a great job as Tojo, not saying much but displaying a lot of menace, and at least he stays real for the most part, not having any shit like laser sleeves or flamethrowers wrists like the villain in the previous film.

Steve James is really the gem of the film here. He brings great energy and a load of fun every time he appears on-screen, and I loved when he pulled out the Butterfly Swords and went to town on some ninjas toward the end of the film. Yeah, he would’ve stolen the film from Michael Dudikoff if Michael hadn’t been content to share it with him. What really hurts this film, but also adds to the fun in its own way, is that the acting of the stuntmen is horrid. It’s like none of them went to death-acting school. Every action scene is full of henchmen and ninjas who die in the most horrendously acted moments not seen since early Roger Corman films. Bland direction by Sam Firstenberg doesn’t help matters any as well, but what the hell, Cannon films loved the guy, so he must be doing something right I’m not seeing.

Favorite scene that sums it all up: After a cheesy fight in which Curtis breaks the neck of a ninja Bruce Lee-stomp style he walks away, and the ninja tries to get up, and Curtis turns and yells “Stay down!” and the ninja immediately dies. Fun stuff. You can tell that despite the production values and overall cheese of the film everyone had fun making it, and it shows.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (7) Much better than the previous film. Maybe having Mike Stone also play the villian as well as the fight choreographer helped, and it’s obvious he had more time to work with Michael Dudikoff.

STUNTS: (2) The stuntmen did a horrible acting job, dying in hilariously bad acting scenes. You’ll laugh too much to notice anything else they did.

STAR POWER: (7) Michael Dudikoff returns as does Steve James, and this time they give James a lot more to do than in the previous film, allowing him to have entire action scenes by himself. That really made this movie a lot of fun.

FINAL GRADE: (7) Actually a film that was a lot more fun than the first, silly in its execution, but an improved Michael Dudikoff and more Steve James makes this a lot of fun. Just let your mind go and enjoy the silliness of it all!



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