When you’re a kid, you like to make up movies, usually starring all of the action figures you’ve played with, and featuring all of the stuff you find cool. It’s very rare, if ever, that such movies are made. Sure, you get comic book movies that feature storylines you’ve loved since you were a kid, or movies based on a line of toys where the right actor is playing the right role, but nobody does a “kitchen sink” type of movie.
Except for American Ninja.
Produced by Golan-Globus for Cannon Films (the same company that gave us classics like Enter the Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, and Ninja III: The Domination), American Ninja came out in 1985, right around the time that toys like G.I. Joe were getting very popular among boys. I was about eight at the time and didn’t see it in the theater but wound up renting the film on video and watching it with friends. It was rated R and may have been the very first R-rated movie I saw (or that was Commando). But even though it was a pretty violent action movie, watching it again after 25 years, I can see that the movie was clearly geared towards those kids with permissive parents.
Take, for instance, the opening scene. After some witty banter between a toady-looking Army douche named Charlie and some other G.I.s wherein the star, Michael Dudikoff, stands against a jeep playing with a switchblade and saying absolutely nothing, a convoy gets going. Among the precious cargo that this convoy is hauling is Patricia (Judy Aronson), the daughter of a very influential colonel. Sure enough, the convoy is hijacked by the go-to villians in the 1980s–Latin American guerillas. They rough up the troops but Dudikoff decides he’s not going to take their shit and starts throwing some karate moves about, including throwing a screwdriver so it lands in someone’s carteroid artery, taking someone out with a tire iron, and karate kicking people left and right.
Patricia, who apparently is your typical “Army brat” then decides to commandeer the car that she’s in and promptly drives it into the jungle, where it crashes. This is around the time that a shitload of ninjas show up, led by a super-ninja who has a black star on his face (and actually is known as “Black Star Ninja”, the most deadly ninja in the world).
Seriously, read that back again. I can imagine the people who created this movie sitting around a table with this scene and someone saying, “I know what would make this awesome: NINJAS! And the leader should have a black star!”