Starring David Bradley, Steve James
Fight Choreography by Mike Stone
Directed by Cedric Sundstrom
“Aw, not these guys again. Why can’t it be terrorists?”
Those words were uttered by Curtis Jackson (James), now out of the military and attending a martial arts tournament in the Caribbean who once again finds himself fighting off ninjas to defeat them from yet another stab at genetically engineering the perfect ninja. In the last film they defeated the Lion, and now they face the Cobra. However, this time Jackson’s not teaming up with his old buddy Joe Armstrong (American Ninja 1 and 2’s Michael Dudikoff) but a new guy named Sean Davidson (Bradley), a karate champion who has a Bruce Wayne/Peter Parker-style origin after watching his dad getting gunned down while trying to stop a robbery at a martial arts tournament. His dad learned that while a Gi is very good, it can’t stop a bullet, or in this case about ten.
Jackson and Sean find themselves competing in the tournament, and Jackson knows Sean by reputation, and both become friends quickly, and are unfortunately saddled with a goofy sidekick who hangs around most of the film before he meets face to face with a high-speed arrow. Until then, we all have to suffer this jackass. Look for Mike Stone in a cameo as the tournament referee. Sean soon follows a group of hired cannon fodder who are seen-in the brightness of day-kidnapping a martial artist and hauling his ass away to a hotel, where Sean beats his way to the martial artist, who turns out to be his Master Izumo. The first fights here are better than anything that Michael Dudikoff did in his previous films, mostly because David Bradley is an actual martial artist, which does improve things from a choreography standpoint.
Sean gets Jackson and sidekick involved, and together they face a lead ninja more complicated than any of the others, a female ninja named Chan Lee. She’s a master of disguise, and unlike the ninja baddies in the previous films is duped into believing that the Cobra is doing everything for the right reasons. How she can conclude this when the guy she works for is called “the Cobra” is beyond me, but perhaps that’s a mild name where she comes from. Perhaps she was fooled by the white suit.
Soon Sean, Chan, Jackson and numbnuts lead an assault on the headquarters of the Cobra for one last showdown to stop him from not only creating the perfect ninja, but to stop a virus he hopes to unleash on the world, which evidently can be expelled from the body by extreme ninja concentration, which Sean pulls off in a scene that is laugh out loud horrible.
Where to begin? Let’s start with the strength of the previous films, Steve James. As I’ve said before, he’s a great martial artists and does the best acting jobs of anyone in these films, but this time his character seemed a lot more serious and subdued, not the talking-shit-as-he-kicks-ninja-ass-coolness we’ve come to expect from his character. He has one funny line, but except for that he’s practically muted.
David Bradley does a passable but not great acting job here, but his martial arts skills are apparent, as the choreography is better than in any previous film, but even here is feels a bit tired, as if Mike Stone was getting bored with his own job. The camera work doesn’t help, as it may be the most bland camera work of any of the American Ninja films. Once again we’re treated to a ninja played by someone who doesn’t know any martial arts, and in this film that’s the character of Chan Lee. Quick cuts and edits try to mask it, but it’s incredibly obvious.
The previous films also had a sidekick to Jackson and Armstrong, but this sidekick is annoying as hell. I mean Rob Schneider annoying. Note that after he gets killed, his death doesn’t register with a single character, as if he was never there. I would question the writers on why even have his character there if he makes no real emotional impact even in death.
Unlike the previous American Ninja films, this one is missing one very important ingredient: fun. And that’s what makes it the worst entry so far.
(Out of scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)
CHOREOGRAPHY: (5) All in the all the fight scenes were better here than in previous films, but the shitty camera work sinks so much of it down that it makes that practically moot, and you can tell that Mike Stone is getting tired of this series.
STUNTS: (1) Not even worth mentioning. And you know that’s bad.
STAR POWER: (4) A subdued Steve James is better than no James at all, and David Bradley does an okay job, and will do better in his future films.
FINAL GRADE: (3) It’s obvious they tried to make a more serious film for a series that doesn’t deserve one. By removing the goofy fun, they’ve made a goofy, shitty movie. A waste of time and talent for those involved. What’s even worse is that this is Steve James’ last film in this series. He deserved a better exit than this.
NEXT: Scott Adkins is the Ninja!