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We get a large variety of discs to review here at DVDAnswers, everything from your big summer blockbusters to smaller independent films. Every so often a disc comes along that is so magnificent it has everyone fighting for the honour of being the one to review it. Unfortunately this time around I got lumbered with American Ninja...

The American Ninja - so hard he can fight with a bucket on his head!
Film
The movie opens (very abruptly I might add) with the introduction of a group of decidedly camp military officers playing hacky sack. One exceptionally camp soldier named Charlie manages to kick the sack towards a morose looking guy named Joe, who can be identified as the hero from his brooding looks and moody stares.

After an extraordinarily terrible display of acting and some appalling dialogue, the troops head off in a convoy, bound for who knows where, accompanied by a car carrying the Colonel’s daughter, Patricia. Along the way they are ambushed by a bunch of moustachioed guerrillas, who are intent on stealing the convoy’s cargo of weapons. The sergeant doesn’t want any trouble, and orders his men to offer no resistance (as if this bunch of fairies could put up any kind of a fight). Unfortunately one of the guerrillas takes an interest in Patricia, and after ramming Charlie’s head through the car window, decides to have a bit of fun with her. This spurs Joe to into action, and he casually executes a bunch of ninjas with little more than a tyre iron and a screwdriver! It seems that Joe has all of the abilities of a ninja, but no recollection of how he learned these skills.

The ninjas themselves are the private army of a French arms-dealer named Ortega, who is using the convoys as a type of one-stop-shop for all of his arms needs. Unfortunately, the actor playing Ortega lacks even the most basic ability to mimic the French accent, and his ‘Allo Allo’ inspired ramblings are one of the most unintentionally hilarious things about the film. Ortega also own his owns little ninja training dojo, which mostly consists of guys in different coloured pyjamas somersaulting and occasionally dodging easily avoidable bits of wood with spikes in them...

Aside from the evil Ortega, Joe’s main enemy is the Black Star Ninja, who spends most of the film grunting and pointing, whilst occasionally having his eyes filmed in close-up while performing some kind of Action Man ‘evil eye’ routine (presumably to emphasise his ‘super-awareness’). This bloke also has more tricks up his sleeve than Inspector Gadget, possessing as he does needles, wrist canons and even a laser! Apparently the BS Ninja has abandoned the ninja code, taken the quick and easy path to power and been seduced by the dark side of the f…Oh wait, that’s another movie.

Joe’s only real buddy in the fight against evil comes in the form of Curtis Jackson (played with suitable machismo by Steve James). After a bizarre fight with Joe, in which the American Ninja wears a bucket on his head and Jackson is beaten up with a hosepipe, the two become firm friends. Jackson is pure cheese, and spends most of his spare time riding around on a big red motorcycle in an ever so vaguely Tom Cruise manner.

This is Charlie. Charlie is as camp as a row of tents.
I recently read an Internet post that suggested the film should have been called ‘Ninja Holocaust’, and that’s not too far removed from the truth. The amount of supposedly well-trained, lethal ninjas that Joe batters to death during the course of the movie must be in the hundreds, although to be honest it seems like it’s about fifty-zillion. Most of these ‘deadly’ assassins are dispatched with a single punch, with our heroes barely breaking a sweat. The ‘action’ scenes are mostly laughable, as is the fight choreography. In fact, there is very little to redeem American Ninja. The incredibly predictable sub-plots and romantic entanglements caused real difficulty in sitting through the whole movie. By the time I finally reached the end, and the origins of Joe’s ‘amazing’ ninja skills were revealed, I had all but stopped caring...

Video
Considering its age and humble origins, American Ninja looks surprisingly good on DVD. The film is presented in anamorphic 1.85:1 and, although the video shifts between acceptable to above average throughout, it’s pretty decent on the whole. Colours are nice and vibrant during the majority of scenes, but the picture can be a little soft on occasions (although thankfully this happens fairly infrequently). Overall this is a half decent transfer.

Audio
Sound is provided courtesy of a Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono track, and is serviceable at best. Everything from sound effects to dialogue remains clear throughout, although considering some of the lines in this film make the dialogue in Attack of the Clones sound like Shakespeare, it may be a mixed blessing. While this may indeed be the original audio track, in these days of 5.1 Surround sound and better the mix left me feeling a little short-changed. There are a number of sequences that could have benefited from a remixed soundtrack, but then again why would anyone go to the trouble… The film also “benefits” from an amazingly cheesy 80s soundtrack, which really is quite shockingly poor. Even the A-Team had a better theme tune than this!

Extras
Well at least this portion of the review is fairly straightforward, as the disc’s only supplemental feature is the theatrical trailer. As is usual for an 80s action flick, ‘Voiceoverman’ provides the narration for the trailer. He deserves some credit for managing to make the film sound a hell of a lot more interesting than it actually is (although this may be because they show all of the best bits from the film in the trailer). In fact, why bother sitting through the movie at all when you can just watch this? For some inexplicable reason the trailer is for a movie called American Warrior, which was presumably the working title for the film.

The Black Star Ninja does his best Action Man impersonation.
Overall
What can I say, other than the movie is terrible? I suppose masochists might glean some sort of perverse pleasure from it, and it may even raise a smile or two providing it’s viewed as a slapstick comedy rather than a serious action flick. One positive thing to say is that this version is uncut, but then again that only means there’s more of this rubbish to sit through. I’m tired of writing about this film now, not to mention ashamed that I quite enjoyed it as a kid. This is utter drivel on a below par disc. Avoid like the plague.


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