“The Ultimate American Fighting Machine is Back!”
Directed by Sam Firstenberger
Starring Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Larry Poindexter, Gary Conway and some women
When the Marines guarding the US Embassy on a small, Caribbean island start disappearing, Washington dispatches Ranger Sergeants Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff) and Curtis Jackson (James) to investigate. Cue Army vs. Marines shenanigans of an extremely low grade. This step seems prescient, when an ambush on an R&R party is launched by ninja.
With the aid of Marine Sergeant Charlie McDonald (Poindexter), the two Rangers follow the trail back to a drug dealer known as the Lion (Conway) and his organisation, who have decided to branch out by creating unstoppable ninja clones from the DNA of the kidnapped Marines or something. Falsely accused of murder, again, Joe teams up with Alicia Sanborn (Michelle Botes), the daughter of a scientist forced to conduct the work on the ninjas, to infiltrate Blackbeard Island. The Lion holds a big demonstration to sell the clone ninja concept to the governor of a small island and his chief of police, but Jackson and the Marines arrive to bring two-fisted American justice to the cartel, while Joe defeats the Lion’s senior ninja dude.
The Marines throw a party, and before heading off into the sunset, Joe stands arm in arm with Alicia and Curtis canoodles a nameless beauty, just in case with thought they might not be straight what with the bromance and the subtext.
What’s wrong with it?
Once more, Steve James is not getting his props. It’s all ‘starring Michael Dudikoff’, but James gets as many scenes, including a fight in which his borrowed Marine uniform gets ripped to shreds, piece by piece
A certain amount of the ‘drama’ in this film really needs you to be into the interservice rivalry scene.
The bad guy’s plot is ludicrous. Why does he need a ninja army if he’s already brokering multi-million dollar drug deals. That was a lot of money in those days, but apparently the extra cheddar from selling supersoldiers to a small Caribbean island is worth the investment involved.
In addition to the ninja, our heroes get into a fight with a local gang who just keep coming, however much they get beaten up.
Seriously; an army of genetically enhanced ninja clones. It’s like DNA was a hot topic or something.
The ninja demonstration is just baffling. The Lion is all ‘Here are my super ninjas. Watch as they get murderised by a regular ninja.’ Allegedly the next gen model will have the strength of a ten ton crane, but they get blowed up by science dad.
The female ‘characters’ in the film are barely worthy of the descriptor. Also, no mention is made of what happened to Patricia in the two years where our heroes were joining the Rangers and both getting promoted to sergeant, despite Joe being a green recruit in the first movie and a grade and a half below Curtis.
What’s right with it?
You know how I complained about the slow open in American Ninja? Well, for this outing we start with Marines getting kidnapped, then we’ve got about ten minutes of other Marines being slackers and laughing at the Rangers in their funny uniforms, and then Dudikoff and James are pummeling ninja in their swimwear (how the ninja got into their swimwear, I’ll never know.)
Dudikoff is much better this time out, both as an actor and a fighter, although James is still the star.
At one point, Joe tears a man’s face off with the man’s own fingers. You don’t see that sort of brutality in light-hearted action movies these days.
How bad is it really?
Oh, sweet Christmas it is a glorious mess. It rivals Buckaroo Banzai in its unadulterated eightiesness, and has just enough of the right sort of humour not to become unbearable.
Best bit (if such there is)?
During the bar fight, while half of the gang are working their tactics on Joe (“You took us all at once. Now let’s see how you handle us one at a time!“) the other half surround an increasingly enthusiastic Curtis, who goads them to attack and takes hit after hit which serve only to shred his (borrowed) uniform.
What’s up with…?
- How does the villain’s plan make any kind of sense?
- Why demonstrate your superninja by having them killed?
- Do you not know how DNA works at all?
Production values – Vastly improved martial arts and the absence of the ninja vanish make for a more convincing show. On the down side, I liked the ninja vanish. 8
Dialogue and performances – Again, a massive improvement on American Ninja, with Dudikoff both emoting and throwing a convincing punch, sometimes at the same time! 10
Plot and execution – The plot is ridiculous, but fun and pacey, and isn’t that the main thing? 10
Randomness – And now I will kill my own men! 9
Waste of potential – Honestly, it is such an improvement over American Ninja that, although not good by a long shout, it kind of seems it if you have them close together. 6