This could be one of those old-fashioned rebus puzzles. American flag + ninjas = American Ninja. Add the profile of one of the finest b-movie stars of our generation, Michael Dudikoff, and we have ourselves the most obvious choice for a pick for this weekend. Fire up the grill, slap some hot dogs on there and bring the fireworks indoors. We're renting this one!
American Ninja II: The Confrontation was released in 1987 by the awesome Cannon Films and produced by the infamous Golan-Globus partnership. It is the sequel to American Ninja. If you required me to inform you of that then stop reading here. Director Sam Firstenberg first came into prominence with Revenge of the Ninja. He followed that up with Ninja III: The Domination and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. So if anything, the man knows his way around a ninja movie and a breakdance movie. If I see breakdancing ninjas, maaaaaaan I'm just going to commit suicide because why would you need to go on living?
Michael Dudikoff stars as "Sgt. Joe Armstrong" and the late Steve James as his good buddy "Sgt. Curtis Jackson". Dudikoff is renowned as one of the more popular stars on the b-movie circuit throughout the late 80's and the 90's. He is a meat and potatoes ass-kicker with about eight lines of dialogue in this film. James passed away in 1993 from pancreatic cancer and it's a shame because he really seemed to be enjoying himself here. James has also appeared in such films as American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt and Bloodfist V: Human Target. The man was just scratching the surface!
So after events in the first film, Armstrong and Jackson have been promoted to Army rangers and are sent to the Caribbean to assist the marines stationed there in an investigation into the disappearance of several soldiers. Here we meet "Wild Bill" Woodward played by Jeff Weston. Weston has appeared in Puppet Master II and was also in the recently reviewed, awesome Demonic Toys. Here he gets to cut his teeth a little and succeeds in getting some of the best lines in the film. Lines such as "This is really beginning to get on my tits!". Woodward briefs the men on the situation and lets them know that there was a witness to one of the kidnappings and the witness described seeing men in black suits. Of course, Armstrong and Jackson immediately think "ninjas", am I right? Most of us would have thought feds, I'm sure, you bunch of conspiracy theorists.
So the boys go on a water skiing adventure after the briefing, as all dedicated ninja-trained Army rangers do when they're in town. One of the soldiers accompanying them is being blackmailed into assisting the bad guys with the kidnappings, so he fakes a boat breakdown and they float in to shore on Mangrove Island. An unassuming name, isn't it? I mean, how dangerous can Mangrove Island be? The awesomeness of this film kicks up a notch right there. The boys go for a swim, leaving Armstrong alone, when suddenly....NINJAS ATTACK FROM OUT OF NOWHERE! And boy do they suck at ninja-ing. At one point, Armstrong catches an arrow and throws it back at the ninja and KILLS HIM! What sort of movie heaven is this??? Jackson comes to the rescue and they hightail back to their boat and take off. Later on, the blackmailed soldier, Taylor (Jonathan Pienaar), is told by the main villain, The Lion (Gary Conway), to lure Armstrong into a trap. Of course, Armstrong and Jackson foil this as well by kicking ass, breaking tables, busting doors, and oh so many broken bones. They learn from Taylor that The Lion, a drug dealer, is conducting experiments on the fabulously named Blackbeard Island. Taylor says that they kidnapped his wife, but you know what? We never find out what happens to Mrs. Taylor because the plot forgets about her. Also, Taylor is killed by a 10 foot spear through the chest from a ninja outside his window at point blank range.
The boys then encounter a woman named Alicia Sanborn (Michelle Botes), whose father is a scientist working with The Lion on Blackbeard Island. The experiment apparently is kidnapping soldiers and then biologically re-engineering them into horribly bad ninjas. So the story moves to Blackbeard Island, which makes me very happy because only cool stuff can happen on Blackbeard Island. Armstrong and company attempt to take down The Lion's SuperNinja experiments but all those cool drugs that The Lion's been dealing get forgotten about. You have to pick your fight: awful biologically engineered ninjas and drug shipments. Seems like an easy choice.
So breaking down the review goes like this: non-stop goofy fun action first and foremost. My favorite scene was one that had a ninja harpoon Armstrong's getaway truck and have himself dragged about five miles out of town through dirt roads, paved roads, and finally getting caught in the truck just as it flips over and explodes. Scenes where Dudikoff is catching poison darts with his bare hands in mid-air and constantly twisting and breaking arms and legs just left me with a grin from ear-to-ear. It's stupid! Next, the dialogue was dumb. One scene had the character Alicia, being dragged by the bad guys to imminent doom, screaming "Somebody help me! They're taking me to the back room!" and evil ninja Tojo Ken (Mike Stone) stating "That damn American ninja. He fights like a tiger!". The main villain, Leo "The Lion" Burke, was not played too over-the-top, which loses some points with me, although he was megalomaniacal in the scope of his plans. How many drug dealers have tried to work in an army of super ninjas into their money-making schemes?
Bottom line is that I LOVED this movie. Everything about it was silly and it appears that some of the cast were loving every second of filming it. Except I couldn't tell with Dudikoff. I think he thought it was real.