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From the B-Movie Vault: American Ninja and American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

January 18, 2024 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
American Ninja Image Credit: Cannon Film

From the B-Movie Vault Issue #9: American Ninja and American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

Ninja New Year!

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the latest From the B-Movie Vault. I’m Bryan Kristopowitz.

“Ninja New Year” is a bit I’ve tried to maintain over the years, reviewing/”celebrating” ninja movies at the start of every year. A big part of it is the alliteration (“Ninja New Year” just sounds right), but it’s also just fun to bring attention to one specific B-movie thing at the start of the year. Why not celebrate ninja movies every January? And so that’s why, at least for me, Ninja New Year is a thing. Unfortunately my reviews for the first two movies in the American Ninja franchise didn’t originally appear in January as I hadn’t come up with the Ninja New Year concept at that time. The American Ninja review originally appeared in December of 2011, and the American Ninja 2: The Confrontation review appeared in March of 2013. So, hey, since I’m doing this whole “reposting old reviews that no longer exist on the internets” thing, why not finally have the first two American Ninja movies be a part of Ninja New Year?

And that’s why these reviews are appearing now.

And so, without any further what have you, help me celebrate Ninja New Year 2024 with my old reviews of American Ninja and American Ninja 2: The Confrontation. Enjoy.


The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #188: American Ninja (1985)

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never been in a swordfight with anyone, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number one hundred and eighty-eight, I take a look at the first movie in the American Ninja franchise, 1985’s American Ninja, starring the Michael Dudikoff and Steve James and directed by 1980’s ninja movie master Sam Firstenberg.

American Ninja (1985)

Image Credit: Cannon Film

American Ninja, originally titled American Warrior, is one of those weird beard action flicks that’s also a true blue action classic of the 1980’s. The flick stars the great Michael Dudikoff as Private Joe Armstrong, a troubled bad ass loner American soldier on post in the Philippines. He isn’t well liked by his fellow soldiers but he doesn’t give a flip because he isn’t in the Army to make friends. He’s fighting for his country only so he can stay out of prison (he made a deal with prosecutors back home that if he enlisted they wouldn’t throw the book at him). Joe’s low standing on post goes even lower after surviving an attack by local rebels and a band of mysterious ninjas while part of a convoy escorting the base colonel’s daughter Patricia (Judie Aronson) and a bunch of weapons. Joe manages to get Patricia out of harm’s way, but just about every other soldier that was part of the convoy is cut down. As a result of the ambush, the base’s colonel Hickock (Guich Koock) and Master Sgt. Rinaldo (John LaMotta) immediately put Joe under investigation. They want Joe gone, but they have to find a way to legally get rid of him.

While all of that is going on, Joe gets closer with Patricia, he befriends martial arts expert Corporal Curtis Jackson (Steve James) after kicking his ass in an impromptu karate fight, and he wonders about his childhood, something he can’t remember (it really disturbs him). And while all of that is going on, local crime boss Victor Ortega (Don Stewart) is looking to make a major arms deal with a bearded European guy (I’m assuming he’s European. He could be from somewhere else). With the help of ninjas trained by the super evil Black Star Ninja (the immortal Tadashi Yamashita), Ortega plans on stealing as many weapons from the US military base as he can, especially rocket launchers.

The movie doesn’t really contain any surprises story wise until the last third, when “ninja magic” is introduced into the story and people start using lasers, four barreled wrist guns, and smoke bombs that allow the user to disappear. Does any of it make any sense? Not really, but if you’re a fan of 1980s action movies, especially movies from the fine folks at Cannon Films, you’ll dig all of it. That isn’t to say that the first two thirds of the movie aren’t a blast, too, because the first two segments of the movie feature some fine 1980’s ninja action. There’s plenty of karate, sword fighting, ninja star throwing, and bow and arrow using. The only thing the movie is missing is blood, but then that’s not that big of a deal as plenty of great 1980’s action flicks were essentially bloodless.

The fight scenes work well enough. By today’s standards the fight scenes are kind of slow, but at least you can actually see what’s happening (the American action movie world hadn’t discovered the “quick cutting” thing yet in 1985). My favorite action bits involved the ninja characters blocking and catching arrows with their bare hands. Watch the Black Star Ninja lay waste to several arrows simply by catching them right before they hit their intended targets. The gun fights aren’t half bad, either.

The music, by composer Michael Linn, is a little weird for a ninja movie, as it sounds like war movie music. I was expecting more of a general 1980’s synth score, something like Death Wish 3, but by the time the end credits roll you’ll be humming the flick’s theme. That’s what happened to me.

The movie’s only real disappointment is the lack of a scene where Dudikoff’s Joe and James’ Jackson start up a business of staged karate fights. Jackson tells Joe several times after they first meet that they’d make major money with “pro wrestling like” karate fights as the locals would pay top dollar to watch Americans beat the crap out of one another, but instead of ending the movie with their first staged fight in front of a bunch of villagers the movie ends right after the final siege at Ortega’s compound. Joe and Jackson are best pals now. Why the heck wouldn’t they team up to make some money? A real lost opportunity. The movie certainly isn’t ruined because that scene isn’t there, but it would have been nice if the story had paid off that bit of dialogue.

Dudikoff does a great job as the lead Joe Armstrong. He has just enough bad ass charisma to pull off the moments where he’s supposed to be the strong, silent type, and he looks credible in the martial arts scenes (I’m not sure if this is true but allegedly Dudikoff didn’t have any martial arts training when he got the part. If he really didn’t have any, he certainly knew back then how to fake it well. He also doesn’t look like a moron in full on ninja garb). Steve James is his usual awesome self as Corporal Curtis Jackson. He’s the best actor in the cast, comes off as a real bad ass even when he’s forced to wear a weird camouflage bandana, and manages to come out of the movie with his dignity intact (again, the outfit Firstenberg makes him wear at the end is just atrocious. It isn’t “Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson in The Black Cobra 2 bad, but it’s still pretty dang bad). Judie Aronson does a decent job as Colonel Hickock’s daughter Patricia. She overacts a bit at the beginning of the movie (I find it hard to believe that she’d give a crap about her shoes if she was being chased by armed rebels and ninjas in the jungle) but when she mellows out she’s a joy to watch. She’s also quite attractive, and that’s always a good thing in an action movie.

Don Stewart does a good job as the villain Victor Ortega. I’m not sure I completely understand why he’s in the Philippines or why he has ninjas as henchmen beyond the obvious (ninjas will always make the best henchmen because they’re goddamn ninjas), but you never like him and that’s what you want in your action movie villain. Tadashi Yamashita is amazing as Black Star Ninja. He’s a total bad ass in his fight scenes, and he manages to sell the “ninja magic” scenes towards the end of the movie although they’re completely ridiculous. I’d like to know why he decided to work for Ortega but the movie never explores that beyond “Black Star Ninja is evil” (and, as we all know, evil people work for evil people). I mean, does Black Star Ninja get paid a salary or is he a full partner in Ortega’s criminal enterprise? And John Fujioka does a damn fine job as the mysterious Shinyuki. Pay attention to Joe’s flashbacks to see what I’m talking about.

John LaMotta isn’t very convincing as Master Sergeant Rinaldo, mostly because it’s difficult to imagine that he would have lasted all that long in the army (the guy is a fucking douchebag. Maybe he kisses ass well with all of the right people?). Guich Koock is a little stiff as Colonel Hickock but then when you realize he’s riffing on John Wayne you completely understand his performance (he’s got a big painting of the Duke in his living room, which somehow coordinates with the giant picture of then U.S President Ronald Reagan in his base office). And Phil Brock puts in a fun performance as Private Charley Madison. The man is a natural goofball.

American Ninja is yet another great 1980’s action flick, a classic from start to finish. I’m glad that I decided to check it out again as I hadn’t seen it in years (the last time I remember watching it was back in the early 1990’s on, I believe, WPIX out of New York City, some Saturday afternoon). I’ll definitely have to check out the other four movies in the franchise (for some reason, out of all of the action movies Cannon made in the 1980’s, the American Ninja franchise is one I missed out on. I plan on changing that in 2012). If you haven’t seen American Ninja, do yourself a favor and check it out as soon as you can. It’s a great action flick. A classic.

See American Ninja as soon as you can. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 50 +

Explosions: Several

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Mysterious road work, attempted hijacking, head through a car window, bitch slapping, uniform stealing, a mild car roll over, screwdriver to the neck, tire iron to the balls, impromptu mysterious ninja attack, falling palm tree, truck steering via chain rope, chain strangulation, multiple ninja death implements, guy stops an arrow with a broken shovel handle, shovel spade to the back, impromptu skirt altering, swimming, hidden jungle nakedness, clothes drying, multiple piss poor salutes, a big ass picture of Ronald Reagan, a ninja training flashback, a ninja training compound featuring ninjas wearing black, red, blue, and yellow outfits, neck breaking, an impromptu karate fight, a garden hose used as a weapon, a bucket trick, sweaty workouts, a red motorcycle, a slow motion motorcycle stunt, a lovely motorcycle ride, a surprise inspection, ninja ambush, sword fighting, guy stabbed through a big bag of rice, window breaking, net destruction, double sword to the gut, a nifty little fight on a motorcycle side pod, dockside market destruction, a nifty truck stunt, an obvious crash mat, a shirtless breakfast, ninja lock picking, a pillow ruse, ninja fight on top of tanks and trucks, multiple guys leaping through a window, impromptu jeep driver removal, exploding jeep, a neck injection, a massive punch to the face, kidnapping, serious ball kicking, compound infiltration, a ninja training flashback montage, an array of ninja weapons, some bullshit about “ninja magic,” arrow catching, ninja showdown, multiple stabbings and slashings, blade to the chest, multiple “ninja smoke” scenes, an impromptu run through a ninja obstacle course, ninja magic fire, ball grabbing, a ninja wrist gun, a ninja wrist laser, ninja sword fight in a pool, an exploding helicopter, and a sudden ending.

Kim Richards?: Almost.

Gratuitous: Michael Dudikoff, Michael Dudikoff fucking around with a butterfly knife, an Army sergeant with a big ass mustache, Michael Dudikoff doing karate, multiple ninja attacks, Tadashi Yamashita, a pissed off Army colonel, a big ass picture of Ronald Reagan, John Fujioka, a ninja training compound, a ninja named Black Star Ninja, Steve James, Michael Dudikoff fighting Steve James, Michael Dudikoff using a garden hose as a weapon, Steve James riding a red motorcycle, Michael Dudikoff riding a red motorcycle, Michael Dudikoff’s stunt double jumping a motorcycle over a wall in near slow motion, Michael Dudikoff hiding underneath a moving truck, a big ass picture of John Wayne, multiple sequences where Michael Dudikoff jumps out of the way, a massive punch to the face, “ninja magic,” arrow catching, a final ninja showdown, Steve James wearing a camouflage bandana, and a sudden ending.

Best lines: “The colonel! Shit!,” “What do you think I am, a jungle baby or something?,” “Don’t you touch my skirt!,” “Do you have a comb by any chance?,” “Just call me Joe,” “Have you ever heard of ninjitsu, sir?,” “Hey, Joe Hero, did you make out with the princess?,” “Bad ass? You know, everywhere you go there’s always someone who thinks they’re a bad ass!,” “Let’s go, bad ass. Let’s see what kind of stuff you’re made of,” “You may have kicked my ass but you didn’t make me blind,” “Oh my God!,” “Did you honestly expect me to believe this cock and bull story, private?,” “Fucking bastard!,” “American! What do you want?,” “Hang on, Jackson, I’m taking this bitch uptown!,” and “All right, now I gotcha!”

Rating: 10.0/10.0


Image Credit: MGM Home Entertainment


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Check out previous issues of From the B-Movie Vault!

From the B-Movie Vault: Phantasm and Phantasm II

From the B-Movie Vault: Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead and Phantasm IV: Oblivion

From the B-Movie Vault: Phantasm: Ravager and John Dies at the End

From the B-Movie Vault: Scanners

From the B-Movie Vault: Scanners II: The New Order and Scanners III: The Takeover

From the B-Movie Vault: Scanner Cop and Scanner Cop 2

From the B-Movie Vault: John Wick and John Wick: Chapter 2

From the B-Movie Vault: Silent Night, Deadly Night and Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2


The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #248: American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that doesn’t give a flying fuck what Buford Smith the Third thinks about anything (I just made that name and persona up and, trust me when I tell you, he’s a real jagoff), The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number two hundred and forty-eight, I take a look at the second movie in the American Ninja franchise, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, which came out in 1987 and stars Michael Dudikoff and the Steve James.

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

Image Credit: Cannon Film

It’s been a little over a year since this column reviewed the first American Ninja flick, American Ninja (You obviously just read it, but, yes, originally, the reviews for parts 1 and 2 appeared a little over a year apart), so I figured it was time to once again delve into the 1980’s low budget action movie franchise that was both a video store given and a staple of Saturday afternoon TV for year and years and years. American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, directed by the great Sam Firstenberg (he also directed the first movie), doesn’t feel like it should be a sequel; it feels more like a second sequel (so, in essence, American Ninja 2 feels more like it should be American Ninja 3). It features the usual batch of badass characters from the first movie, but it’s also way too ambitious for its own good. It doesn’t have the necessary budget to fulfill its vision. It’s still a fun movie, though (it isn’t quite the same type of classic as the first one but it’s still a classic in its own right).

The movie stars Michael Dudikoff and Steve James as Joe Armstrong and Curtis Jackson, the same guys they played in the first American Ninja movie. This time, though, they’re pals right from the beginning, not to mention badass Army Rangers. They’re on special assignment, flying to an unnamed Caribbean island to help the U.S. embassy there figure out what the heck is happening to its contingent of U.S. Marines (Marines apparently guard U.S. embassies all over the world). The local Marine commander, Captain “Wild Bill” Woodward (Jeff Weston, although now he’s known as Jeff Celentano for some reason), isn’t too keen on having Army Rangers help him figure out where his Marines are disappearing to, but he doesn’t have much choice. His job, just like Armstrong and Jackson, is to follow orders.

Now, since this is an American Ninja movie, you just know that ninjas are going to figure into the plot somehow. As we see at the very beginning of the movie, a group of ninjas, in cahoots with a band of local bar thugs that sound like a cross between a 1980’s Australian thug movie cliché and a 1980’s South African thug movie cliché, are kidnapping the Marines for nefarious purposes. Tommy Taylor (Jonathan Pienaar), either a Marine or just a local that likes to hang out with the Marines, acts as the middleman for the ninjas. As they start their investigation, Tommy tries to get the ninjas to attack Armstrong and Jackson (it doesn’t go well for the ninjas). Armstrong immediately goes after Tommy, ducking ninjas and other bad guys while trying to find the truth. Who does Taylor work for? Where the hell are these ninjas from? Just what the hell is going on here?

It’s at this point in the story that we find out that the ninjas work for Leo “The Lion” Burke (Gary Conway), an international drug dealer and big local investor. The Lion has the local police in his back pocket and a world renowned scientist, Professor Sanborne (Ralph Draper), under lock and key. Professor Sanborne’s daughter, the spunky Alicia (Michelle Botes), has been trying to expose The Lion’s criminal work, but has been rebuffed time and time again by every authority on the island (you can’t go after Leo Burke! He’s rich and well respected for the love of God!). Luckily for Alicia, both Armstrong and Jackson believe her, and they promise her that they’ll get to the bottom of everything.

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation features a number of action and fight scenes that are more elaborate than the ones in the first movie but, for whatever reason, don’t come off as slick and polished as the action and fight scenes from the first movie. They’re still great and exciting, especially the fight sequence on the beach and the insane bar brawl that Armstrong and Jackson engage in, but there’s something a bit off about them. It all works, it’s all fun and exactly what you want for a sequel to American Ninja, but it doesn’t quite feel the same.

And then there’s the big reveal: just what the heck is The Lion up to? The Lion, with the help of Professor Sanborne, is creating super ninjas. Why? I’m going to assume that The Lion wants the super ninjas so he can somehow make more money as an international drug runner. The Lion could also be interested in just taking over the island, creating his own tiny nation that can also function as a defacto, official/unofficial drug running capital of the world. The movie never tries to make The Lion’s motives clear beyond simply creating the super ninjas, which is just weird and maybe a little too science fiction.

I mean, creating super ninjas for nefarious purposes is a cool idea for a movie, but you have to make the super ninja creating operation look credible and futuristic. American Ninja 2 doesn’t seem to have the money or the interest in doing any of that. The “super ninja lab” looks like a bunch of naked men standing behind clear glass shower stalls. There’s nothing “gee whiz” about any of it. And Ralph Draper, as Professor Sanborne, is just terrible. He isn’t the least bit sympathetic, and it’s hard to believe that he had the skills or the mental abilities to create the program that then created the super ninjas. Am I supposed to find him credible because he has a British accent?

The final battle is phenomenal, as we see Armstrong and Jackson and the Marines take on the ninjas. There are explosions, gun battles, and several ninja sword fighting sequences that showcase just what director Firstenberg and company can do. And they do quite a bit. Again, it’s all phenomenal stuff.

Dudikoff and James do their usual excellent job. They both come off as real badasses, even when they’re not going full bore ninja in the movie’s various fights. Larry Poindexter, as Sgt. Charlie McDonald, provides a bit of comic relief as the smart ass Marine that sort of teams up with Armstrong and Jackson during their investigation. The big bar fight in the middle of the movie is Poindexter’s highlight. And Jeff Weston is unintentionally hilarious as Wild Bill. His “tits” line is a 1980’s classic. His stilted acting is a hoot, too.

Gary Conway, who also came up with the story for the movie and co-wrote the screenplay, isn’t very good as the international criminal Leo “The Lion” Burke. He tries very hard to be a scumbag but he’s just too bland to get the job done. Mike Stone does a good job as the lead bad guy ninja Tojo Ken. He has a nifty scar on his face, and he doesn’t look ridiculous in his ninja garb. That’s always a plus in a ninja movie. And Bill Curry, as Inspector Singh, is slimy as hell. He probably should have been the movie’s main villain. He’s that good.

It’s not as good as the first one, but American Ninja 2: The Confrontation is still worth checking out. It’s a classic in its own way. There are ninjas in it, and ninjas are always fun. The world would be a much better place if we had more ninja movies like American Ninja 2: The Confrontation.

See American Ninja 2: The Confrontation as soon as you can. See it, see it, see it.

And be on the lookout for the third American Ninja movie, which I will hopefully get to before 2014. That’s the plan, anyway. Ha. (And I did! I originally reviewed American Ninja 3: Bloodhunt in early December of 2013. So booyah for me, I guess).

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 87 (that’s what claims. It’s a plausible number).

Explosions: Several.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: Guys riding motorcycles like idiots (they’re going way too fast and they’re close to the edge of several cliffs. What the hell is wrong with these guys?), beer drinking, a bar fight, ninjas, hot babes in bikinis, the beach, a little punk kid with a funny hat, “left wing elements,” attempted water skiing, alleged engine failure, ninja attack, a human ladder, spear throwing, spear to the chest, attempted strangulation, multiple arrows to the back, wood sword fighting, wood sword throwing, hook on a stick attack, serious wrist breaking, net attack, water to the face, sword breaking, arrow catching, another bar fight, leaping side kick over a banister, spear to the gut, a sort of car chase, yet another bar fight, Marine dress blues destruction, a nasty “guys falling on a table and breaking it” scene, fist crushing, a massive palm thrust to the face, car stripping, another ninja attack, neck breaking, massive leg breaking, poison dart catching, ninja star to the forehead, a great “ninja on fire” gag, small wooden stick fighting, a ninja jumps over a truck, a ninja that refuses to die, wild flipping truck with huge explosion, a ninja skills demonstration, more arrow throwing, a knife that doubles as bolt cutters, yet another ninja attack, throat slitting, dart to the head, little knife to the throat, disguises, meditation, talk of “ninja magic,” sword stealing, a big ass ninja fight, grenade attack, flying ninja, a siege, wide blade knives, a wicked back flip, neck breaking via boot to the neck, ninja with a shotgun, gut slashing, a Swiss army knife, and the promise of a third American Ninja movie.

Kim Richards?: None.

Gratuitous: Guys riding on motorcycles like idiots, beer drinking, several bar fights, ninjas, ninja attacks, Michael Dudikoff and Steve James, Michael Dudikoff and Steve James playing Army Rangers, hot babes in bikinis, animosity between the Army and the Marines, “left wing elements,” a guy that is supposed to be Michael Dudikoff but clearly isn’t, engine failure, a beach ninja attack, a human ladder, a bunch of stuff about “Blackbeard Island,” Michael Dudikoff and Steve James disguised as Marines, a great “ninja on fire” gag, a ninja that refuses to die, a ninja skills demonstration, ninjas wearing colored sashes, a bunch of hooey about genetic engineering, talk of “ninja magic,” flying ninja, ninja with a shotgun, a Swiss army knife, and the promise of a third American Ninja movie.

Best lines: “Come on, guys, you’re going to love this place,” “We’re Marines, not tourists. Bug off,” “I don’t think I’m going to like it here, buddy,” “Our fan club is beginning to grow,” “The U.S. Marines strike again,” “Ninja? What the hell are ninja?,” “I mean, what is this? Ninjas? Drug pushers? My men getting kidnapped and murdered? This is really beginning to get on my tits!,” “It’s that damn American ninja! He fights like a tiger!,” “The Super Ninja- the ultimate fighting machine!,” “I think the professor needs his vitamins. Take him away,” “Finish off that sonofabitch! Finish him off once and for all!,” and “Merry Christmas!”

Rating: 8.5/10.0


Image Credit: MGM Home Entertainment


Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.

American Ninja

Michael Dudikoff– Private Joe Armstrong
Steve James– Corporal Curtis Jackson
Judie Aronson– Patricia Hickock
Guich Koock– Colonel William T. Hickock
John Fujioka– Shinyuki
Don Stewart– Victor Ortega
John LaMotta– Master Sergeant Rinaldo
Tadashi Yamashita– Black Star Ninja
Phil Brock– Private Charley Madison

Directed by Sam Firstenberg
Screenplay by Paul De Mielche, based on a story by Avi Kleinberger, Gideon Amir, and James R. Silke

Distributed by Cannon Film Distributors, MGM/UA Home Entertainment, MGM Home Entertainment, Viacom, Alpha Video Distributors, and Olive Films

Rated R for violence and language
Runtime– 95 minutes

Buy it here or here


American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

Michael Dudikoff– Sgt. Joe Armstrong
Steve James– Sgt. Curtis Jackson
Jeff Weston– Captain “Wild Bill” Woodward
Michelle Botes– Alicia Sanborn
Gary Conway– Leo “The Lion” Burke
Larry Poindexter– Sgt. Charlie McDonald
Mike Stone– Tojo Ken
Jonathan Pienaar– Tommy Taylor
Bill Curry– Inspector Singh
Len Sparrowhawk– Pat McCarthy
Dennis Folbigge– Sir Cloudsly Smith
Ralph Draper– Professor Sanborne
Elmo Fillis– Toto

Directed by Sam Firstenberg
Screenplay by Gary Conway and James Booth, based on a story by Gary Conway and characters created by Gideon Amir and Avi Kleinberger

Distributed by Cannon Film Distribution, MGM Home Entertainment, Media Home Entertainment, Image Entertainment, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Viacom, TGG Direct, Alpha Video Distributors, and Olive Films

Rated R for violence and language
Runtime– 90 minutes

Buy it here or here