Donkey: If you’ve read much of this site, you know that whether you think it’s funny or not, it can truly be said that it takes a certain sense of humor to fight through the inevitable streams of tears and suicidal thoughts to laugh along with us on this epic journey of intense shittiness. But it’s not just movies that give us a good chuckle. Ironically shitty things can make us laugh from all kinds of places, and gifts have become another tradition among us. It began two years ago when amongst real gifts, I gave Blombo the truly legendary video game Sneak King. For those of you unfamiliar with it, it’s a video game for the Xbox 360 that was made for and distributed by Burger King, which cost me $4 with the purchase of a Whopper combo. And trust me, it was worth every penny and the inevitable heart failure that it cost me. The game stars their psychotically creepy mascot, charged with the mission of sneaking up and delivering hot tasty Burger King food to unsuspecting, yet hungry victims. If you’re wondering how long you could possibly hand out Whoppers before you questioned if there is a god, take comfort in the fact that you don’t just jump right in to handing out Whoppers. Oh hell no. You’ve got to earn your way to the Big Show, starting by dispensing hash browns and breakfast sandwiches. It might go without saying by now, but if you haven’t run out and bought this game by the time you’ve read this sentence, your life is not complete.
The tradition continued last year, as one of my Christmas gifts to Milobar again involved the Xbox 360. But for him, I managed to find something just as idiotic, while spending even less. While picking up a game for him that was actually good, I came across something that I had no choice but to buy: a wood panel system faceplate that was discounted down to a massive $1. You can’t put a price on the awesomeness that is having a video game system with fake wood paneling on the front, but if you had to, the price of $1 kicks it up to infinite sweetness. Needless to say, Milobar announced it as his favorite gift of the year.
Two weeks ago, the tradition came up once again without warning in the middle of a work day. You see, Milobar and I actually work at the same large corporation, and on this day he was apparently walking by a bookstore on a coffee break when he looked down at their discount table and saw a book that called out to him. It was marked at $5, making it a tempting purchase, but when he found out that it was actually discounted down to a single dollar, he couldn’t resist. He came back to work while I was in a meeting and left the book at my desk, waiting for me upon my return. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when I walked up, looked down at my keyboard, and found COACH: My World And Stay The Hell Out Of It: The Wit and Wisdom of Hayden Fox staring back at me. That’s right. Someone actually wrote a book about the sitcom Coach, starring Craig T Nelson. Not only did someone write a book about it, but it actually took three people to write this book, spouting the insanely terrible thoughts of a fictional character. While the gift itself is hilarious enough, actually reading it made it that much better. It only took me two diarrhea-filled trips to the toilet, which I suspect may have been caused by the reading material, to get through it. I could then say with absolute certainty that there hasn’t been a bigger waste of paper since the bible. But when I stopped and realized the truth of that statement, as in both cases I was reading the irrelevant words of a fictional character, whether it’s a coach on a football field or coach watching my every move from the clouds, I was led to a life changing revelation: this book is now my bible.
And it was only the power of my new holy text that got me through this week’s series of movies, my friends. But for the words of my new life coach, I may have been lost. Join me, as we live the pain again…
Donkey: This week we’re discussing all five American Ninja movies, simply because the alternative would be to spend five separate entries and therefore five consecutive weeks on the saga, which would result in a body of text that has killing power far more infinite than the famous video tape in The Ring. Quite frankly, that’s a fate that no one deserves. But it works out well that way, as all five movies share plots that are so goddamn similar that the production company should receive an official government grant for recycling. Simply put, every movie tells the story of our hero (either Joe, Sean, both of them, or some bizarre swapped version of them) as he battles an interchangeable villain who commands an army of ninjas, despite having nothing to do with ninjas, martial arts, or even being Asian himself. That villain is likely using biological research to either make money, conquer the world, or even just simply make more ninjas. It really doesn’t matter. Regardless, they’re an unspeakable evil that must be stopped, and only the power of questionable marital arts will do the trick.
Just as a disclaimer, the following discussion of all five movies is a lot like the series itself, which can described as nothing short of truly epic. So remember that even if it takes you an hour to read through it, that’s still nine hours of your life that we’re saving you from this bullshit. You’re welcome. Now let’s recount the horrors of our journey, while I lean on the wisdom of Sweet Hayden, praying that he’ll call the correct play to keep me safe from an offensive blitz…
The Case for Greatness (aka The Lowlights):
Donkey: Our truly epic saga begins with the original film, which has the noticeably distinct quality of a made-for-television movie. But that seems only appropriate as through the work of brilliant casting, it stars a made-for-television-infomercial actor, Michael Dudikoff, playing the title role of an American Ninja named Joe. He is a man of few words, but once he does open his mouth to reveal a remarkably high voice, we realize it’s probably for the best. Trained in the ancient arts of Ninjitsu by a reclusive Japanese soldier living in the jungle, he was given the single name of Joe because it was the only American name that that his sensei knew. But after years of being tutored in both deadly martial arts and the ultimate rimjob technique, an explosion separated the two and wiped out Joe’s memory, which makes sense since the only thing that might be more of an 80’s movie stereotype than ninjas is amnesia. After being found, brought back to civilization, and left to wander aimlessly through life, he was eventually criminally charged for nearly killing a man, quite likely after that man made fun of Joe’s feathered hair. As punishment, the judge decreed that he either be sent to jail, enlist in the army, or work as Jerry Seinfeld’s butler. Obviously being too pretty for prison and too dainty to clean a house, Joe chose the army. And as ridiculous as that premise for ending up in the army sounds, it’s even more ridiculous when his personnel file is later revealed to have his birth date, parents’ names, and next of kin all listed as “unknown”. I’m pretty sure that even under George Bush the Army wouldn’t let you in if they don’t at least know who the fuck you are. Otherwise a Russian spy could have just wandered up and asked to enlist, answering to his identity with, “Niet, comrade!”
We’re introduced to Joe in the opening scene of the movie as he stands by a military truck, away from his fellow soldiers who accidentally kicks their hacky sack near him. Being far too cool for school, he ignores their requests to pass it back and instead plays idly with a butterfly knife, which is exactly what I would call badass if I were six. They warn him that the Army is no place for loners, but that doesn’t occur to me as being a loner as much as it’s just being a dick.
Moments later the soldiers and Joe give up their stoner games and constipated posing, respectively, to form a convoy of trucks to escort expensive military gear and the Colonel’s modestly attractive daughter through the jungle. Of course they’re hijacked, first by rebel terrorists and then by ninjas. But when the villains try to prevent the Colonel’s daughter from escaping, Joe jumps into action, killing with a painfully unimpressive arsenal before escaping with the girl into the jungle.
Now that Joe has unleashed the full brunt of his full yawn-inducing force, news of his inadequacy ripples out in all directions. Back at Fort Smallcox, the Colonel is being briefed on the ambush when a black soldier named Jackson reveals that this was the work of ninjas. At the same time, the movie’s final boss character, an evil business man named Ortega, rebukes his Japanese head ninja, whom for lack of a better name we’ll simply call Hank, for allowing a truck to get away from their grasp, demanding that he kill the American Ninja that is responsible.
Once Joe finally delivers the daughter back to the military base, he’s treated like an AIDS dispensing leper by the Colonel and his fellow soldiers for playing hero and getting others killed, because apparently these soldiers aren’t actually expecting to ever have to fight anyone. I guess they just signed up to the corps for the gonorrhea. But more importantly, we learned a valuable lesson: never help a woman. If she’s in trouble, either join the rape line or stand back and give high fives to those who do, because only assholes try to help.
While Joe receives his morale flogging, Ortega shows off his completely autonomous plantation to the potential buyers of his hijacked military gear. After showing off the land, he moves to what every home should have: his ninja training facility. After watching over a hundred different colored ninjas work through exercises, Hank the Head Ninja or H2N if you will, disposes of six of his subordinates as a demo, killing the last one. Even if you have no sympathy for that faceless thug as a person, think of the ridiculous waste that is. They’ve already taken the time to train that guy, just to kill him for the sake of peacocking. The other point on interest described on the tour is his gardener, whom turns out to be Joe’s jungle sensei. Of course, no one knows that he’s a master ninja hiding amongst them, so it seems like an odd thing to point out. Here’s my ninja facility and, hey, there’s Pedro, my pool boy! Sweet, huh?
But now that we’ve met our hero, he needs the standard issue sidekick that comes with all 80′s action movies. But how do you give a friend to a loner? The answer comes when Joe’s hazing continues at the hands of0 Jackson, who calls him out in part for not being a team player, but mostly because his severe case of hat hair is making him cranky. It’s on! Once the fight starts, Joe disposes of Jackson with a couple really unimpressive throws before strangling him with a hose and then finishing the dueling stupidity off in grand fashion by putting a bucket on his head and motioning for Jackson to hit it with a stick. When the offer is obliged, Joe once again responds with a ridiculous throw. Easily beaten, Jackson then declares to everyone watching that hey, this Joe guy’s alright. The bond is now in place and continues to grow later while on trash duty, when Jackson insists that Joe had to be formally taught because he knows martial arts, so he therefore knows that Joe’s moves are “too perfect”. Fuck off. Were we watching the same fight? Joe finally reveals his story to Jackson, telling him of his amnesia. But just to make sure that no scene ends without a colon clenching groan, Joe sees the Colonel’s daughter in the distance and their eyes meet for a moment before Jackson makes fun of Joe for getting a boner.
As the Colonel’s daughter drives away from that mutual eye-fucking, she hatches herself a little scheme, demanding that Charlie, the driver and Joe’s platoon mate, turn the car around. As she begins to set it in motion, Jackson and Joe are cuddling like experimental high school girls when they are approached by Charlie, whom conspires with Jackson to send Joe for a surprise date. To get their in style, Joe borrows Jackson’s rad bike and jumps it over the base’s outer fence, landing in a way that ensured that the poor stuntman will never have children. Once Joe meets the Colonel’s daughter and realizes that he’s been set up, he reluctantly goes to dinner with her. But while they awkwardly avoid the reality that Joe wouldn’t know the first thing about being with a woman, Joe notices that his Sergeant and big boss Ortega are having dinner there as well. While I was hoping that it was a romantic evening for two, it turns out that the Sarge is actually crooked and Ortega demands that he kill Joe in retribution for his meddling.
The next morning the Sarge tries to do exactly that, assigning Joe to the motor pool where he is told to take a truck down to a dockside warehouse, which doesn’t seem like a suspicious assignment in the slightest. And of course, he goes there only to walk headlong into a trap filled with…bloodthirsty pirates! Nah, they’re still ninjas. He kills them one after the other without breaking his expression, let alone a sweat before heading back outside to discover that thieves are stealing his truck. After a disgustingly standard chase scene, Joe ends up under the moving truck and rides along as it’s taken to its destination, Ortega’s compound. Once inside, Joe learns that the cargo he was carrying, a really big gun, is set to trade hands with Ortega’s buyers tomorrow. He eventually escapes the compound and runs into the jungle while pursuing guards manage to somehow miss him with automatic weapons while firing from twenty feet away. But just as it seems like the villains might close the gap to the apparent two feet that they need to actually hit him, Joe finds his master, who shows Joe a secret escape path before he disappears. Seeing his prey escape once again, Ortega calls the Sarge, demanding that Joe must be killed immediately. So as soon as he gets back to base, Joe’s arrested. Enraged that his lifelong friend of ten minutes has been taken into custody, Jackson investigates to find out that Joe’s been charged with selling expensive military equipment. Not satisfied to leave things alone, Jackson tries and fails miserably to clear Joe’s name.
Deciding that night to take matters into his own hands, Hank the Head Ninja decides to dispose of Joe himself. Once he’s snuck up to the stockade, cut the power, and killed the guards, he then uses a flashbang to somehow open Joe’s cell door, but falls for the old pillow-under-the-sheets trick. Taking advantage of the distraction, Joe escapes outside and ends up fighting H2N in a car yard. But just as Hanky’s about to land the killing blow on Joe, more military guards show up in jeeps. Exposed, H2N flees while Joe sneaks back to Jackson for help.
Jackson agrees, of course, meeting Joe with a Jeep later, along with the Colonel’s daughter, where the two of them convince Joe to talk to her father. Joe relents, but the Colonel, of course, doesn’t believe them. He calls back to the base and moments later the military police show up with the Sarge. Not ready to go quietly, Joe dives out a window and gets to the jeep, taking off before anyone can catch him. They chase and shoot at him as he leads them to Ortega’s in another boring chase scene that has only one redeeming moment: after knocking the jeeps off the road one at a time until only the Sarge is following, Joe pushes him off the road like he did the others. But rather than just coming to a indignant rest in the ditch, the Sarge’s jeep goes down a five foot embankment, drives along flat land, and hits a tree gently, which for some reason causes it to fucking EXPLODE. Thank God I wasn’t drinking cream soda at the time that I saw this, or the combined assault on my hilarity and gag reflexes could have killed me.
Moments later when Ortega shows up at the Colonel’s home, he demands that the shipment be stopped, revealing that he’s every bit as corrupt as the Sarge. But while Ortega keeps the Colonel busy, denying his request, Hank breaks in and kidnaps the Colonel’s daughter.
Back at Ortega’s lair, Joe breaks in just to discover his old master. He takes Joe to his personal quarters where the master makes him remember everything, which of course happens through a series of flashbacks. The master then says that the time has come for Joe’s final lesson. First he shows Joe an arsenal, then talks about ninja magic, specifically the ability to seem invisible which causes fear and paralysis in your opponents. I smell badly executed and poorly executed special effects in our future!
Apparently taking the entire night to meditate and possibly run off a batch of baby batter, Joe wanders out of his master’s house in black ninja gear the next morning to start the final confrontation just in time to see a truck being backed up to the compound. The buyers arrive and the arrangements are made when suddenly Joe begins to fire arrows harmlessly in their direction from atop their cargo truck. Everyone opens fire on him immediately, but once again they manage to miss him with fully automatic assault rifles. After he flees from sight, they pull out the Colonel’s daughter and demand his surrender. Joe emerges in compliance, only to be surrounded by ninjas. Just then a smoke bomb goes off and suddenly he’s standing back to back with his master. With his sensei at his side, they’re sure to be unstoppable! Well, not so much. Of course, they kill every last ninja, but then his master disappears without warning. Just then Happy Hank the Ninja Master throws a knife at Joe, a smoke bomb goes off and the master appears in front of Joe just in time to be hit by the knife. So much for that reunion. Just then Jackson and soldiers show up as a ninja sounds the compound’s alarm. While ninjas and soldiers fight, Joe and H2N square off with one another in a battle featuring an outstanding moment where they’re both climbing ropes. Hungry Hungry Hank gets to the top of his first and shoots fire from his hands, burning Joe’s rope. So…ninjas can shoot fire? Fortunately Joe manages to grab the other side just before it snaps and saves himself from falling to his doom.
With all this commotion, the buyers try to leave and Ortega shoots them with absolutely no reprisal. I guess two criminals taking part in an illegal sale didn’t think to bring men of their own when going into a ninja training facility. The military then flood into the courtyard, so Ortega takes the Colonel’s daughter hostage himself and backs up towards the chopper. The Colonel tries to run up and stop him just for Ortega to shoot him dead. But before he can leave go, Ortega says to wait for the Hankster. Right about then, Mr. Hanky is shooting a fucking laser at Joe, which causes a pot to explode. And really, why not add a laser at this point? It fits, right? He and Joe finally face off for the last time in a fountain where H2N is eventually killed. Joe then runs up and grabs a bar at the front of the helicopter while it tries to leave. Ortega climbs out to try to shoot him, somehow failing to do so while Jackson pulls out the missile launcher they were trying to sell to the buyers. Joe finally reaches in and grabs the daughter, jumping down to the roof of Ortega’s compound just before Jackson shoots and blows up the helicopter. In his moment of glory, Joe then literally drops the Colonel’s daughter down three stories to Jackson’s waiting arms before he takes off his mask and looks dramatically into the distance for a minute before cutting to credits.
In the words of Hayden Fox, from the chapter on football: “Watching young cheerleaders grow is yet another satisfaction.” Amen, coach.
American Ninja II: The Confrontation
The second chapter in our five part series of pain sets the trend that will define the series, which is one of glaring contradiction. On the one hand, a very tired formula is established as the plots are so interchangeable that it’s hard to remember what movie you’re even watching, while at the same time continuity of some of the most basic concepts is very deliberately pissed on. That can be seen quite easily in this movie with Joe, our beloved American Ninja who in the last movie was known by the single name of “Joe” because he didn’t know his real name and that was the only American name that his sensei knew to give him. In this movie, he introduces himself as Joe Armstrong. So where did the Armstrong come from? Don’t bother to ask because the only answer that you’ll find is the laughing balls of Michael Dudikoff dangling in your face.
With that in mind, the film starts with three tragically dressed Marines on motorbikes racing along an island coastal highway like they’ve never heard of the concept of oncoming traffic before they eventually stop at a bar where two of the three are beaten by local thugs and dragged away by ninjas while the third man, named Taylor, watches. What a great start.
Now that the initial unpleasantness is out of the way, the awesome meter jumps several notches as our old friends Jackson and Joe arrive on a plane. From there they are driven to the local military base, which is basically a resort filled with surfers and chicks in bikinis. They’re taken inside and introduced to the commanding officer, a dude named Wild Bill who explains that they try to dress as little like Marines as possible because there are local factions out to get them. That’s funny, I didn’t think Marines would be scared of an island gang with a Napoleon complex, but once again that just goes to show that these movies think most military men are pussies. He goes on to explain that a kid working at the base had reported seeing guys in black pajamas, so like the Ghostbusters, these two have been called in to take care of yet another ninja infestation.
But now that they’ve arrived, it’s time to get down to some serious military business as our heroes are invited out for a little water skiing. They agree, of course, and take off with a small band of Marines in a speedboat driven by the nefarious Taylor. But after the group decides to head to an island where there are “a lot of babes”, and hopefully ones who don’t mind being hit on by men who have the vocabulary of a nine year old, they simply end up cruising along the water until everyone but Taylor is fast asleep. How far away was that fucking island? With no one looking, Taylor once again plays saboteur, pulling a fuse to kill the engine and beaching the boat on a small island. The others wake up and try to solve the problem for about two minutes before saying fuck it and deciding to go for a swim. They all head out except for Joe whom performs the very simple fix required on the boat before sitting and contemplating his next move. But the trap is sprung, so ninjas suddenly come running along the beach.
Without asking any questions, Joe runs straight into a group of boulders and starts to kick some ass, beating them off faster than a nickel hooker needing to feed a parking meter. Soon Jackson and the others come in from their swim and notice Joe’s not there, so Jackson immediately joins in the fight while the others stay in the boat, acting more like Girl Guides than Marines. The two greatest moments of this brawl come when Joe takes out a ninja perched twenty feet above him by throwing a stick at him, which barely hits the guy in the stomach and yet topples him like he’s been hit by a sniper rifle, and when another ninja fires an arrow at him, which he catches out of the midair. But despite their badassery, when reinforcements come, Joe and Jackson decide it’s time to split, running to the edge of a small cliff and jumping down into the waiting boat.
As our two heroes report back to Wild Bill, confirming that they’re got a ninja hive on their hands, Taylor gets on a phone and talks to someone whom declares that he wants Joe and Jackson dead. With those orders in mind, Taylor sneaks into Joe’s room and asks for help, giving him a place in town to meet him tomorrow.
The next day, Joe shows up at the bar as requested, in all his popped-collar-and-rolled-up-jean-jacket-sleaved glory. He beats on a the same group of thugs from the beginning of the film before going inside the surprisingly busy bar. I’m either grossly misinformed about the stigma of drinking at noon, or this island if filled with goddamn alcoholics. Joe meets Taylor in a room upstairs where Taylor confesses that he led them into that trap on the island but didn’t want to. He had no choice because the Lion has his wife; the Lion apparently being a millionaire who made his money on drugs and is doing biological research on Blackbeard Island. Joe then beats the shit out of the same thugs again who come wandering up to the room just before Taylor swears that he hears someone at the window, creeping over to it and stumbling back a few seconds later with a very loosely and shallowly impaled spear in his chest, possibly the dumbest fucking death by ninja method that I could imagine.
With nothing left to do, Joe returns to the base where the head of the local police listens as Joe recounts the story that Taylor had told him only to dismiss it as nonsense. And while I couldn’t blame anyone for not believing a thing Michael Dudikoff says, when Wild Bill suggests they investigate anyways, the cop declares that’s impossible, that he would need a special warrant to search Blackbeard Island. And the movie was so concerned with the cop delivering that speech in a way that isn’t completely obvious of his corruption that they completely missed an outstanding consistency flaw. The cop gets up and bids the men farewell, putting his hat on as he walks to the door. It then cuts to a shot of him putting his hat on again and opening the door to leave. I guess editing is either the most expensive part of a movie, or else this particular one was employing a goddamn chimp in that position. Once the cop is gone, Wild Bill exclaims that all this bullshit is really “getting on his tits” before telling Joe and Jackson that they’ll be coming with him to a reception at the Governor’s mansion tomorrow.
They arrive at that party the next day where Jackson tries his untalented hand at picking up a local chick exceptionally badly while Joe notices the arrival of the film’s two villains, Leo “The Lion” Burke and his henchman, Tojo. But right after they arrive, some random chick runs up and attacks the Lion, screaming that he’s a criminal, imploring someone to arrest him because he has her father. As she gets taken away, Wild Bill quietly dispatches Joe and Jackson to follow in his car. They do just that, ending up back to the same goddamn bar for a third time. In a sickening bout of déjà vu, Joe and Jackson go in to find themselves squared off against the same fucking thugs that Joe has beaten handily on his own twice already. And rather than do it a third time, Joe goes to rescue the girl, leaving Jackson to fight the whole gang. Thanks Joe, you fucker. But it’s no problem, as they all pile on Jackson just for him to toss them off with the sound of bowling pins being knocked down. Bowling is so ninja! The fight then goes way too long, ending with the girl running out a side door just as Tojo walks in. Joe and Jackson take a moment to glare at Tojo before trying to chase the girl, only to run outside and find Wild Bill’s car being picked apart by thieves. Defeated, they roll off with what’s left of it and return to the Governor’s mansion to pick up Wild Bill. After they leave, Tojo arrives and tells the Lion that the girl escaped because of the American Ninja. Unsurprised, Leo says that he knows what to do and makes it clear that he wants Joe taken alive.
After taking an hour or two to rest and wonder why he couldn’t have been trained by a rogue accountant in the jungle all those years ago, Joe asks the local kid on the base, Toto, for help either finding the mystery girl from the party or doing a cover version of Africa. Toto chooses the former, taking him to a back alley and pointing at a door. But as Joe discovers that the girl named Alicia, the daughter of the doctor that the Lion is forcing to work for him, is there and willing to take his usually ineffective help, the impossible happens and ninjas attack. Another extremely uninteresting brawl ensues, but at least it meets the standard of stupidity set when Joe catches a blowdart shot at Alicia in midair like it’s a goddamn paper airplane. Once the quota has been filled for ninjas that get knocked out with startling ease, another gaggle led by Tojo arrives. But since we all know by know that the formula doesn’t permit Joe to have his showdown with the head ninja until the end of the movie, no one is surprised when Toto pulls up in a truck, allowing Joe and Alicia to escape.
Once they’re in a truck and driving away, it should be fair to assume that the insanity would stop, right? If you said yes, you really haven’t been paying attention so far. After Joe introduces himself and explains that they need to get to Blackbeard Island, Alicia tells him to turn around as they’re going the wrong way. But instead of turning around like a normal person, he pulls a massive u-turn into a pile of garbage before peeling off. Whoa…easy there, asshole. You don’t have to get there in ten minutes. Now that they’re heading in the right direction, they see a ninja standing in their path. Happy to simply run him over, they keep driving as he jumps over their truck and lands in the back, punching out the back window and grabbing Joe. He ends up being knocked over the back only to hook the box of the truck with a grappling hook, and being dragging behind the truck on the road for a long, long time. But with either magic or the love of Jesus, that ninja somehow makes it onto the roof, punching out the windshield somehow before Joe hits the breaks and sends him flying. As they try to run him over again, he ends up on the goddamn hood. Fuck, this guy is way more impressive than Joe. Finally they jump out, leaving the ninja on the hood as the truck flies into a building and explodes. Joe, Alicia, and Toto all gather, totally unhurt from jumping out of a speeding truck, where Joe tells Toto to go back to find Jackson and tell him that they’ve gone ahead to the island. Once the kid leaves, Alicia advises that they’ll have to wait until after dark to sneak past the patrols.
While they pass the time, Alicia explains that her mother died of cancer, causing her father to abandon his research into new penis lengthening techniques to dedicate himself to finding a cure for cancer. He was making progress and governments were investing in his research when everyone suddenly withdrew their funds. I’m going to guess that it was because they found out that he was spending their money on a Pog collection since they never explain why. It was then that The Lion turned up and offered money, so her father took it in desperation. But instead of finding the cure for cancer, he ended up being used by the Lion to create…SUPER NINJAS! Wow.
Meanwhile in the Blackbeard Island Lab, the Lion gives a speech to a group of military allies about his success and before introducing his plan for protecting that success: a room full of super ninjas. But since we all know there’s no point in having a room full of ninjas if you don’t use it, he motions for them to give a demo. A group of ninjas gets up and does a really unimpressive kata before Tojo gets up and kills every last one of them. That’s goddamn ridiculous and even worse than the same scene in the first movie. At least in the last one they just killed one dude, whereas here Tojo’s killing dozens of his own men. And for what? To prove that the super ninjas are no match for a regular man, thus nullifying the entire idea of SUPER NINJAS? Bravo, douche bags. Anyways, at that point the Lion declares that Alicia’s father, Professor Sanborne, will show his allies how the ninjas are made.
As The League of Doom wanders to the lab for that exciting lecture, Joe and Alicia finally arrive on the island. The sneak up to the perimeter fence where Joe cuts his way through with a set of wirecutters, which seems very unninja-like to me. Moments later, two guard ninjas find the hole in the fence hole and investigate, only to have Joe kick their ass and drag them into the bushes where I’m assuming he rapes them.
Moments later, Joe and Alicia sneak there way into the lab in ninja outfits that they stole from Joe’s rape victims. They find their way to the Master Laboratory, which is clearly labeled with a brightly lit sign, and go inside just as the Lion and her father come in from another door. They follow them into a room filled with dudes in cryobeds, which I just can’t take seriously when one of the podmen has a mustache, where Professor Sanborne explains the process of making SUPER NINJAS with a little too much enthusiasm for a man who’s supposed to be an unwilling participant. Once he’s finished, they take him away while the Lion keeps yammering on about some bullshit. Joe and Alicia slip away to follow her father. Once Joe tickle fights his ninja transporters and frees him, The Professor tells them that there’s no time to lose, as the Lion is shipping five billion dollars worth of heroin to the US tomorrow. Wow, how completely off topic! The Professor then points Joe in the direction of the Marines captured at the beginning of the film. Seeing his chance for glory and more prison sex, Joe tells Alicia to take the Professor to the boat and leave if he’s not there in an hour. Once they leave, Joe decides it’s time to ladle out more bowls of piping hot crazy, so he sits down and meditates, having flashbacks of his origins from the first movie. The identical flashbacks recap his master’s speech on ninja magic that allows him to disappear, at the end of which a flashbang goes off in front of him for absolutely no reason before he finally rises and trots off. I think I just shit my pants.
The movie takes a quick break from Joe, focusing on Jackson and the rest of the Marines as they show up and start killing anything that moves. But since that gets boring pretty damn fast, we turn back to something slightly less boring as Joe manages to free the hostage Marines. After introducing himself and leading them out of the cell, Joe turns to a door and asks where it goes. They tell him that it leads to The Arena, which you would think would not be a good place to go if you’re trying to sneak around. Instead he strolls in like a rubberhead, leading them through the darkness as if inviting the inevitable doom. And that’s exactly what comes a moment later when the lights suddenly turn on to reveal the Lion there with Alicia. At this point I can’t help but wonder, how long was The Lion going to just stand there in the dark? But while I ponder that, SUPER NINJAS begin to fill the Arena, attacking Joe and the Marines who manage to hold their own for a while, despite how fucking retarded that is when you consider that these are ordinary Marines who should be no match for SUPER NINJAS. The Marines finally begin to fall, leaving Joe to finish the last of the ninjas himself. Seeing his army defeated by one man, the Lion flees, leaving Tojo behind to kill Joe. Also remembering that he had a cake in the oven, the Professor tells Alicia that there’s something he must do alone and leaves as well.
As Jackson and the rest of the Marines fight their way into the lab with little resistance, The Lion runs to the lab to find Professor Sanborne already there, wiring his manpods to explode. The Lion tries to stop him, but Professor Sanborne blows the charges, engulfing them both in flames.
Back in the Arena, Joe and Tojo finally begin their duel. After a very stereotypical and unremarkable few minutes, Joe nearly defeats Tojo when suddenly Tojo whips out a shotgun and starts shooting at him, miraculously missing him from ten feet away. After he fires at nothing for a few minutes and running out of ammo and thoroughly wasting our time, Joe finally pops back up and the sword battle resumes. In an attempt to end it with some shred of drama, they stand off, posing at one another for ten goddamn minutes before they charge and take a single swipe. Clearly on the losing end of that even though we can’t really tell how or why, Tojo stumbles around to try to engage Joe one last time only to be cut down for good. With victory finally at hand, Joe takes off his mask and looks up at Alicia for an uncomfortably long time before the Marines finally make their way into the Arena. And since everything’s over and they can stop acting like pussies, the captives Marines that had fallen and left Joe to fight alone then get up off the floor and go join their comrades. The scene finally ends with Jackson giving Joe a thumbs up.
Despite the fact that the credits should already be rolling, allowing us to move on to something more interesting like inspecting our balls for tumors, the movie then takes us to a party scene where Jackson says good bye to the random chick that he was trying to bang way back at the beginning of the movie. At the same time, Toto reminds Joe that he still owes him five bucks for finding Alicia for him, prompting Joe to give Toto the gift of a Swiss Army knife. As he smiles at the fucking random gift, Joe, Jackson, and a bunch of kids begin walking towards a plane, heading God knows where.
And to quote the Sweet Hayden, from the chapter on love: “Luther loves animals too.” Bravo, coach. Your wisdom knows no bounds.
American Ninja III: Blood Hunt
Apparently we’re not the only ones who barely made it through the second chapter of the series alive, as the third installment is noticeably missing the sweet Michael Dudikoff, replacing him with a dude named David Bradley that I’ve never heard of before or since. Will Dudikoff’s absence kill the franchise, or prove to be its ticket to legitimacy? I’ll go ahead and blow the suspense by saying neither. It’s the same bucket of baboon shit, just with different flies circling it.
Our story begins with the origin of our new hero. Sometime in the part, two children who remind me far too much of the clothes that my parents made me wear in the 80′s, attend a kickboxing tournament, cheering from the stands. But unbeknownst to them, a car full of criminals heads to the stadium, looking for trouble. One of the kids, named Sean, heads back into the dressing rooms to see his father before he takes part in the main event, just as the criminals rush in and hold up the stadium’s back office, looking for a piece of the famously massive karate money. As they run from the office with their $35 prize, they run into Sean and briefly consider taking him hostage. As he leaps in to try to save his son, the criminals end up shooting Sean’s dad. They flee the scene immediately, leaving Sean to sit and watch his father’s body go cold, with that image burning into his mind, causing him to go on to become…Daredevil! Well, not quite. He’s actually he’s taken away by his father’s sensei, Izumo, to spend the rest of his childhood years learning the mystic martial arts in a montage that seems to take as many goddamn years to get through. Once it comes to an end, he’s truly become an American Ninja. With his task complete, Izumo sends Sean out into the world to fulfill his destiny. It sounds grand, but I’m willing to bet his destiny is to be a pastry chef running a failing bakery in southern Illinois.
With our protagonist now established, the movie turns its attention to its principal antagonists. We once again meet the two criminal masterminds who held up that karate tournament, Dr Saxon or “The Cobra” as his slow pitch team would call him, and General Andreas. From some lab somewhere on an island, because God knows we haven’t seen enough of those in these movies so far, The Cobra gives a lecture to terrorist leaders about scientifically focused terrorism. It sounds pretty fancy, but he gives no details whatsoever, so it’s pretty much a complete waste of time.
At the airport of that same island, the ninja hero Sean arrives and is met by our old friend, Jackson, whom apparently knows Sean even though they never say how. After the two of them meet and are joined by some obnoxious blonde guy named Dex, we discover that all kinds of martial artists are gathering on the island for a World Championship of Karate. Damn, I was hoping for Hyper Deathmatch Elimination Monopoly, myself.
While the three men leave the airport playing a fine game of grabass, a woman named Chan Lee watches them from afar before reporting back to Dr Saxon and General Andreas, pointing out Sean specifically as a possible test subject while handing them the issue of a karate magazine that he appears on the cover of. Nice.
Not fucking around with anything like character development, the movie jumps straight to the tournament, which is officially opened by General Andreas before proceeding into, what else, a shitty demonstration. Once it finally ends, Sean takes to the ring, facing off against a British champ. The match is short and as dull as the commentary that we’re forced to listen to as it plods along, eventually ending with a victory for Sean.
Apparently the tournament was one goddamn fight, as we’re then taken straight out into the street where Sean is walking with Jackson and Dex again. The find some women who look like they may have extremely low standards, so Dex tries to get them all laid, introducing Jackson as Powerhouse Jackson, quite possibly one of the greatest names I’ve ever heard. As they sit and talk to ladies at an outdoor cafe, Sean sees men in suits throw another into a car and take off in the background. Seeing as he’s just a karate champion and in no way affiliated with any police organization, Sean decides to pursue in a taxi for some goddamn reason, ending up in a hotel where he finds his sensei quietly sitting in one of the rooms. But before he can figure out what the hell’s going on, ninjas attack, keeping him busy while Izumo gets dragged away. He fights an endless stream of disposable ninjas, working his way through a factory, over a rooftop, and then out to random docks where two ninjas knock him into the water. After some ridiculous underwater fighting which somehow ends with Sean killing the two ninjas with mere punches, he makes his way back to Jackson and Dex. Recounting his tale and revealing to them that he’s a ninja, Jackson responds to the news of a ninja attack with, “not again”. Fuck, tell me about it, Jackson. After Sean declares that finding Master Izumo is more important to him than the tournament, Jackson and Dex agree to help him, forming an alliance more useless than cotton candy teaming up with delicious fudge to battle tooth decay.
As Chan Lee reports back to Dr Saxon with the news that Sean fell for the Master Izumo disguise, she explains that he was too good and got away. Dr Saxon tells her that he has every confidence in her and to keep trying. That’s surprisingly understanding for an evil fiend. Are you sure he’s not actually just a high school guidance counselor?
We join the Three Shitheads of Fortune again as they wander through a slum for no reason whatsoever where they’re ambushed by ninjas. Just before they spread out and begin their fighting, Jackson complains that he thought he’d stop having to fight ninjas after leaving Joe back in the army. Hey, nice shout out! And speaking of shout outs, as our heroes move to engage their enemies, they pass by graffiti on the wall that says, “Kilroy was here”. What? A fucking Styx reference? Are you kidding me? Granted it would be awesome if Powerhouse Jackson kicked everyone’s ass while singing Mr. Roboto, but otherwise that’s just insane. After another battle with the signature lack of finesse that we’ve come to expect from this series takes place, Dex spots a couple of ninjas fleeing the scene and running to a gated building marked East Bay Laboratories. Sean wearily moans that this is all too convenient. Actually, considering the story so far, I’d say it’s less convenient and more bullshit, myself.
To get help in the face of what he thinks is a larger conspiracy, Sean visits the Minister’s Secretary. The Minister of what, you ask? How about the Minister of Pants? Good enough. When Sean asks about Master Izumo, she assures him that no Japanese man has entered the country. So just to recap that statement, a World Karate tournament is being held on that island and not one Japanese guy showed up. Unconvinced, Sean says he has reason to believe that Izumo’s being held at East Bay Laboratories, but again she assures him that Dr Saxon is there doing the important work of manufacturing drugs before brushing him off, saying that she’s too busy too busy to deal with this. Sean finally leaves, but as he goes, it’s clear that while her mouth is telling him to leave, her eyes are begging him to tame her wild hair with his pug fugly charms.
As the three genital crab farms once again reunite on a beach, Sean informs them of his failure while we have to spend the entire shot staring at Jackson’s taint. Just to waste everyone’s time, Jackson decides to visit the local cops and plead a similar case about East Bay Labs, only to be similarly dismissed.
Speaking of East Bay Labs, we return there once again as Dr Saxon gives the second part in his fourteen part lecture on germ warfare while standing in front of five men on platforms who are wearing banana hammocks. He finishes his speech by asking for three more days, promising that he’ll eventually give a demonstration on the greatest advancement in scientific history. Trust me, folks, when I tell you that he will. Seriously.
We return to our heroes again as they finally decide on a method of breaking in to the mysterious labs. They travel to a dump in the middle of nowhere, not bothering to explain how they know it’s there, where they break into a welded pile of various scrap metal that would be generous to describe as a shed and steal two powergliders. Moments later we see Sean and Dex flying in these things, as apparently that’s common knowledge that I’m just not aware of, while Jackson follows along beneath them in a truck. To add completely unnecessary drama, the fuel line on Dex’s powerglider bursts, forcing him to land. But since the road is too rough, he has no choice but to land on the back of the Jackson’s truck while he drives. Sean talks him through it, offering obvious and in no way helpful tips while Dex drops onto Jackson’s truck.
Flying on his own now, Sean breaks into the lab. He sneaks around until he finds everyone gathered for, what else, a fucking karate demonstration being put on by a room full of ninjas, highlighted by Chan Lee taking on a series of them. While that’s going on, Sean breaks in fights a series of ninja guards, only to be tased into unconsciousness. He awakens sometime later in the company of Dr Saxon who reveals that the tournament was a scam to draw him there, which seems absolutely unnecessarily elaborate for such a simple goal. Finally Sean’s taken away and put in the lab’s jail cell, a prerequisite of all labs.
As Sean sits in his cell while Jackson and Dex wait outside, he goes to his door to come face to face with Chan Lee. She tells Sean that his life is in terrible danger, which isn’t obvious from the fact that he’s sitting in a fucking cell, asking who else knows about Izumo. Sean tells her before asking what’s going on. She says that she doesn’t know, but that she’s going to find out. So she’s helped Dr Saxon build and train an army of ninjas only to now turn against him…why?
Moments later, Dr Saxon meets with the woman with whom Sean spoke earlier, the Secretary to the Minister. She attempts to bribes The Cobra, telling him that she knows something is going on here, so he offers her a well paid job to shut her up. She accepts the offer, thus giving me visions of extremely awkward office Christmas parties to come. But to avoid that, Dr Saxon makes arrangements for her to be killed, which are put into motion quite literally as she steps out of the building and drives away, only to be followed by a car with a man in plain clothes and a ninja in the front seats. A notably terrible and slow speed chase scene occurs, culminating with her knocking their car into a pile of barrels and crates that explodes as their car bursts out of them. The man and ninja jump out of the car just before it explodes, while the Secretary pulls off a fake face to reveal Chan Lee underneath.
Back at the labs, Sean is once again brought back to the lab where the five dudes are still standing motionless platforms on platforms while wearing tiny, tiny bikini briefs. But brief is also what his visit is, as Dr Saxon injects Sean with something and tells his men to get rid of him.
Outside, Dex and Jackson continue to stand around like jackasses when they’re approached by Chan Lee, who tells them that the time to act is now. She explains that The Cobra is holding Sean and is ready to kill him. She further explains that Sean will be injected with a virus to prove how deadly it is to General Andreas. So they trapped him with an elaborate plan just to kill him with a virus? That makes no goddamn sense, but whatever. Having heard enough, Jackson agrees to follow Chan Lee down to the docks just as Sean is being dropped off there. The three of them fight their way onto a ship to save him, making their way down into its depths where they find Sean and General Andreas waiting with a gun. Regaining consciousness, Sean kicks the gun out of his hands and kills him while having flashbacks of Andreas killing his father as a child. Now that he’s safe, they tell explain to Sean that has been injected with a virus and must get to the antidote. But he insists that he must find Izumo before that, prompting Chan Li to finally reveal to him that she was Izumo the whole time.
They sneak back to the labs together where she once again uses her ancient ninja ability called Insujitsu or some shit like that to enter the lab as the secretary. And just to be clear, this ancient ninja art of disguise involves fake rubber masks. That’s so ancient and powerful! While she makes her way in, Sean tells Dex that either he or Jackson has to kill him if he doesn’t get the vaccine in time. I’m going to guess that the virus that he’s been infected with will either turn him into a werewolf or Michael Dudikoff, either of which is a fate worse than death. Agreeing with me, Dex eventually nods in acknowledgement. They rejoin Jackson and proceed to break in, killing all kinds of ninjas and guards while Chan Lee continues to fight her way through the building.
After being informed of Chan Lee’s treachery and General Andreas’ death, Dr Saxon puts his ninjas on alert before heading to the room where, for fuck’s sake, there are still those same five dudes standing around in their underwear, only to discover Chan Lee trying to find the antidote or vaccine or whatever the hell it is, still disguised as the secretary. Saxon calls her out, so she finally pulls off the mask and confronts him, just in time for his assistant to shoot her.
Elsewhere in the lab, the Three Amigos continue to fight ninjas on their way inside. Jackson fights a group of ninjas with sword, clearly sharing our impatience for this whole ordeal to end as he shouts at the last ninja in his way to, “die already!” But while he battles boredom, the other two are shot at by two ninjas with bows and arrows. Sean catches the first two arrows out of mid air, throwing them back and killing the ninjas. But before his killing blow hits home, another arrow hits Dex in the chest, killing him instantly and giving him an exit from the movie every bit as meaningless as his role was in the first place. Meanwhile Jackson runs into Dr Saxon’s assistant as he tries to escape with the antidote. Naturally, Jackson takes it and kills him, heading off to meet Sean in the Five Penis Lab just as cops begin to show up and fight ninjas in the parking lot, adding that final ingredient of random stupidity to this ass flavored stew.
Speaking of the Five Penis Lab, Sean finally makes it there to find Chan Lee’s body. As he mourns for the person he knew for 12 seconds, Saxon walks in to gloat in victory. But Sean ignores him and rational logic, entering a state of power meditation while he hears his master’s voice and a light shines down on him. He gets up once he’s finished, apparently healed, and confronts Saxon again. But this time, Saxon is ready for him, showing off what has got to be the single greatest invention in scientific history. He hits a regular switch on a table which turns off the room’s lights. They turns back on a moment later, revealing that the five men in their underwear have been replaced by five ninjas in red outfits. That’s AWESOME! I need a ninja switch in my house. Of course, it’s all for naught as Sean disposes of them rather easily. He then turns to fight The Cobra as unexplained smoke starts to spill all over the floor. But seeing as how Dr Saxon got the nickname The Cobra even though he looks like the type of guy that couldn’t beat a teddy bear in a boxing match, he’s knocked out pretty damned fast. Just then Jackson runs in with the antidote, which Sean says he doesn’t need anymore. You know, I realize that you think your meditation was pretty badass, but you might want to take that just in case, shithead. After The Cobra gets up for the obligatory last rush only to be kicked back down, Sean and Jackson declare that it’s time to go home, walking out of the room arm in arm while Jackson tells Sean that if they’re going to continue to be friends, they need to fight other things because he’s fought ninjas way too long. Once again, asshole, you have no idea how right you are.
As the prophet Hayden Fox would say, in the chapter on sex: “Are you as sweaty as I am?” Your wisdom knows no bounds, coach.
American Ninja IV: The Annihilation
As we wonder how the hell anyone could justify making a fourth film in this series of cinematic shit stains, the answer comes in the casting, as this promises to be the greatest of them all by starring both the outstanding Michael Dudikoff and David Bradley. That’s right: both ninjas, together at last, giving us a reunion that nobody asked for! And once again the series revels in its inconsistency. In this movie Sean and Joe are somehow old friends, despite giving no background as to why that would be the case since it wasn’t even remotely hinted at in the last movie. And instead of being a random karate champion, Sean is now a CIA agent, like Joe, even though Joe wasn’t a fucking CIA agent the last time we saw him either. Goddamn, I’m surprised that they’re both not astronauts fighting ninjas in space.
This tale begins with a group of soldiers running through the woods while being stalked by ninjas. They end up fighting out in the open plain where the military men are killed one by one, which seems pretty ridiculous since ninjas shouldn’t be much of a threat in the open when pitted against automatic guns, before the four remaining men are captured while trying to get away in a boat.
From there we cut to a wedding where Sean is the best man as his friend Carl is about to get married. That’s right, Sean’s old buddy Carl! You know Carl, right? No, because he wasn’t in the last movie? Well shut up and go with it. But wouldn’t you know it, the whole thing has to come to a crashing halt when Sean and Carl’s beepers go off, calling them away to an emergency. They get back to a CIA office and are briefed on the situation. Colonel Mulgrew, a madman who hates Americans and has been helping a Sheik train his fighters develop a nuclear device small enough to carry in a suitcase. The CIA had sent in Delta Force commandos to wipe them out, but as we saw in the previous scene, they didn’t exactly succeed. The CIA then received tapes showing the dead and the only four remaining soldiers, explaining that they will be killed unless the US pays fifty million and releases the Sheik’s comrades from various jails. As they watch the tape, Sean recognizes that the ninjas known as the Japanese Red Faction Army are the ones holding the prisoners. Sure, I suppose that’s supposed to be impressive. Their boss explains that in a matter of days the media will get a hold of these developments which will force the president to pay or send in bombers and kill everything in that country. But before that happens, the two of them must try to save the hostages. They’ll be parachuted in before dawn and left to accomplish the mission on their own. Upon hearing this, Sean asks that Carl be excused and asks the boss to call Joe Armstrong instead of sending Carl. But Joe apparently already turned them down, choosing to remain in the Peace Corps and stay out of it. Damn! Does this mean that Michael Dudikoff isn’t in the movie, despite his face being plastered on its cover? Or does it mean that Sean is destined to fail and be captured himself, forcing Joe to change his mind? I don’t know about you, but I’m praying for the first option.
We cut to the next morning where Sean and Carl parachute down to a glen of sparse trees only to find their contact is a young teenager. To make things complicated for no reason, they jump in his car and discover that it’s broken down. So they end up on a rickety bus where Carl and the kid argue about movies while Sean and the rest of us get a headache. Once they arrive in a small town, they go to a bar where Sean kicks everyone’s ass just to prove his identity. Impressed by people needlessly being hurt, the bartender takes them into the back where he briefs them on the situation, showing them the location of the fort, its bomb making facilities, and where the four American hostages should be held. But just as he finishes, Colonel Mulgrew and his men show up. Before they burst in, the bartender tells Sean and Carl to get to Sulpher Springs. Moments later the Colonel breaks in and kills the bartender just before Sean and Carl burst out of a closet and dive out the window.
With the kid somehow in tow, Sean and Carl run straight to a church where they’re lead into a mortuary to hide by a girl named Sarah. They hide themselves as corpses on slabs until eventually the pursuing soldiers leave. Once they have a moment to plot their next move, Sean and Carl are introduced to Sarah who immediately gets her panties wet when looking at Sean, thus proving that she hasn’t been laid in a long, long time. Despite Sean’s objections, she says that she must join them as Colonel Mulgrew will be after her now. Sean says that he’ll take her as far as Sulpher Springs, but that’s it. Back in some room, the Colonel interrogates people from the bar about the two Americans, killing them when they say they don’t know anything.
After a quick scene where Mulgrew interrogates and kills people from the bar while trying to ascertain the identities of Sean and Carl, we turn back to our heroes as an arrow hits a tree right by Sarah’s head, conveniently announcing trouble in a non-lethal way. Sean tells them to hide before meditating for a while, then examining his arsenal of ninja stars, a bow, and arrows while doing the splits. Right about now I really miss Van Damme. But now that they’ve not only announced their presence but also waited politely for Sean to prepare for a fight, ninjas flood into the forest. Sean kills several of them quietly before finally fighting a group of them while his three friends watch from a hiding spot, lending nothing more than moral support. But even they are eventually discovered. In an attempt to be of use, Carl fires his gun at the approaching ninjas, just to watch them dodge his bullet, Remo Williams style. As ninjas begin to surround the three of them, Sean joins them just in time to have a net thrown over them all.
Now that they’ve been rather quickly and easily captured, the movie switches over to the evil compound, panning up to a hillside shot where we see, fuck…what else but fucking ninjas giving a goddamn karate demonstration to the Colonel and the Sheik. The head ninja, a dude with a ridiculous tea bag strainer eye patch that they don’t even bother to introduce, leads his men through a bullshit obstacle course that kills several of them. Because as always, wasting your own men is just part of the retarded villain recipe. With the demonstration over, the newly acquired prisoners are led in. Sean is put into a circle of ninjas who take their turn beating him before he finally fights back, slapping them all around with ease before finally getting hit with a blowdart which knocks him out. They’re taken down to the basement where the other Americans are being held, where they’re eventually given a good whipping that Sean barely even notices. Goddamn it, if this movie is going to try to make him so badass, why didn’t he come alone?
With all hope seemingly lost, we return to our old best friend in the world, Joe, as he teaches a small class of young children. But before his lesson can begin, which will undoubtedly somehow make these kids stupider, he spots the CIA boss that had sent Sean and Carl to battle. He sends the kids outside before receiving the news that two more agents, including his friend Sean, have been captured. They need him now more than ever. With that simple premise put out, we shift to a goddamn Folgers commercial as Joe drinks some campfire coffee while pondering his dilemma. Of course he eventually he agrees or at least we assume that’s the case when we next see him getting off a plane. You never know. He might have just said fuck it and taken a vacation.
He’s met by the same young kid who was Sean’s contact, whom he tells to take him directly to Sulpher Springs. As they drive, the kid explains the situation to him, describing how Sulpher Springs used to be a penal colony, but since the new president was elected, the prisoners have taken over and become a haven for people who hate the Colonel. I disagree and think it’s just a group of shitty actors trying to recreate Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome, but we’ll go with that. But that’s quite enough exposition without anyone getting a punch in the jaw, so as the kid talks and they continue to drive out in the middle of nowhere, a ninja suddenly lands on the hood of the car. After Joe punches through the windshield to send the ninja flying, the kid eventually stops so that Joe can get out and finish the remaining attackers.
They reach Sulpher Springs moments later where Joe is once again forced to endure this movie’s standard of identification, fighting three at once to prove his worth. And after doing so rather easily, a black guy whom I guess is their leader calls down from a dilapidated shack to have his men stop, declaring that men like Joe are needed. Joe makes his way up to introduce himself before later sitting down with the camp’s leaders to explain that he needs to be taken to Colonel Mulgrew’s compound where they must create as many distractions as possible so that he can rescue the hostages. In response they explain that getting to the compound is supposed to be impossible, which makes no fucking sense at all, but continue to say that the British were rumored to have dug tunnels there years ago, one of which may still be open. But to verify that, they need to go steal the engineering plans from a local office. Are you kidding me? Plans like that are just sitting in some assholes filing cabinet down at the local planning office?
Just to make things as convenient as sickeningly possible, the next night a fancy party is being held at the government office where those plans are kept. As we arrive on the scene, The President of whatever country this is supposed to be is talking to the American ambassador as the Colonel and the Sheik pull up. When the two men join them, the American ambassador calls them scum. In response, the Colonel and the Sheik take him off alone to deliver the news that they have captured the other operatives and that the execution date is being pushed forward to tomorrow. And as they deliver this news, Joe is dropped off in the courtyard dressed as a priest, and a priest with Jeans beneath his robe, at that. Joe then breaks into the exact building required, goes to the exact room, and finds the exact the plans needed before running back outside to be picked up. But as miraculous as that accomplishment is, it’s matched only moments later when the Colonel discovers that Joe’s broken into the office and immediately ascertains that he was after the plans for the fort without so much as looking to see if they’re gone.
Back at Sulpher Springs, Joe and the leaders of the not-post-apocalyptic-future army sit and examine the plans, determining a single point of entry that the Colonel’s men didn’t block as they figured no one would be crazy enough to enter. With that declaration, for some reason the camera pans in on Joe as he looks straight at it, almost as if to question why the fuck anyone would still be watching at this point. And just to punch anyone in the balls who dared to avoid his warning, the next thing Joe does is fashion himself a sword. And not a dull, flimsy piece of shit you’d give your kids to play with, but an actual katana, apparently made from shit he found in their dump of a town. So it’s just that easy, huh?
The next morning Joe walks calmly out of Sulpher Springs before its inhabitants rally to go fight in his name. As the road warriors drive away in shitty vehicles with more than half of them running along behind, ensuring that most of them will be exhausted by the time they get there and completely useless in a fight, Colonel receives the news that Sulpher Springs, “are rioting everywhere”, which means little since we haven’t actually seen them doing anything besides walk out of town together. Meanwhile Joe prepares for his ascent to the fort and the fateful battle waiting there by dropping his shit out of sight down into a ditch and jumping in it before the film cuts and he jumps back out in his ninja suit. Awesome. And I thought Superman changing in a phone booth was stupid.
Preparing for the worst, the Colonel and his Sheik go down to the “lab” to collect their famous suitcase nuke. Their description of it as a “lab” might be a little too generous in this case, as it’s a single empty room with the suitcase sitting on a stand. And…that’s it. Regardless, the terrorists begin to take the hostages away for their execution, which for some reason involves changing them all into matching outfits. Apparently this is a prerequisite for execution at the hands of ninjas, so I guess the only stay of execution that you could hope for is if they forgot to get the dry cleaning done. Outside, the convoy of Sulpher Springs slowly rolls up the road to the fort, slowly making their way towards waiting ninjas and thus proving the statement that there’s no way to get into the fort is goddamn retarded. There’s a goddamn road. It might not be easy, but it counts. After several warnings to turn back, the people finally rush forward and their battle begins.
The third edge in our trident of awesome, Joe, continues his climb and finally makes it to the fort, sneaking in through a pipe that he simply rips the steel bars off of. But no sooner is he inside than the Colonel and the Sheik hear him walking through the tunnels. In a panic, they send the nuclear device to a helicopter, order that the executions move ahead to right fucking now, and send a group of ninjas down to face Joe. They soon discover that’s pretty much a death sentence, of course, and one that contains a single moment of unbridled awesomeness: as two ninjas grab either of his arms and hold him while a third shoots at him head on with a crossbow, Joe catches the quarrel in his mouth and whips his head around to stab it into one of the other ninjas before killing the other two. I think that just impregnated me with Michael Dudikoff’s baby.
Joe finally arrives in the basement where the hostages had been kept, finding only Sean still remaining there, or at least what he thinks is Sean. But of course when Joe unties him, Sean attacks him. They fight until Joe reluctantly puts a knife into Sean stomach, only for Joe to pull away a mask and reveal that it wasn’t Joe but some random dude. I’m sure that was supposed to be a truly great moment, making us think that the two superstars of karate were facing off, but since that ruse would be obvious to a Helen Keller, that was just stupid. Joe then makes his way upstairs, for some reason changing into a yellow ninja suit along the way. He arrives just as the terrorists begin the execution, starting with the first random commando who ends up fully engulfed in flames before Joe walks up and throws a couple of smoke bombs near Sean and the others, freeing them all. Sorry, fellah. I guess you should have found a way to live for five more minutes.
Once they’re free and the final battle begins. The Colonel and the Sheik order the dude with the tea strainer over his eye to kill the infidels, which translates to ninjas slowly walking towards the hostages as Joe and Sean have them all slowly walk back into a cell and close the door behind them. But just as we think that means that Joe has done all this just to give up without a fight, the people of Sulpher Springs suddenly arrive, fighting in full force. Joe and the others then come back out to join in the fighting, while the Sheik runs to the helicopter with the nuke in it to get the hell out of Dodge. But as it begins to fly away, Carl shoots it from the courtyard with a grenade launcher and blows it up, resulting in a truly outstanding shot where they clearly blew up a model that’s hanging from a string. Thinking that he’s going to taste some passable ass before he dies, the Colonel then grabs Sarah and drags her away somewhere quiet while she calls for Sean, who pursues them into a dark room. Meanwhile Joe faces off with the tea strainer eye patch wearing ninja just before Sean finds Sarah on the floor, unconscious. He runs up to her as a shot hits a crate just above his head. So this means that Colonel Mulgrew set a trap, Sean fell for it perfectly, and he still managed to miss. Well done. He deserves to die, which is exactly what happens when he and Sean begin a private battle while Sulpher Springs residents circle around Joe and cheering him on in his simultaneous fight. Sean beats the Colonel to death just as Joe kicks the head ninja down onto a pile of crates and throws a grenade down on him, blowing the whole thing back to hell. Now that’s two times the action! And since that action’s tedious bullshit, that means it’s two times zero equaling infinite sadness. Then movie then makes what appears to be a botched cut back outside in a way that seems like we just missed a couple of minutes of the movie, as Joe gives the yellow ninja suit has was wearing to the kid. Was that suit supposed to have meant something to Joe? Was it his? I thought he just took it from a dude that he killed. Sean walks outside with Sarah just as Joe is making his way towards the front gates and leaving for home. With all the drama that he can muster, Joe looks back and tells Sean that he can find him at the school. He walks away and the credits roll. Really? That’s it?
To quote Hayden Fox from the chapter on friends and family: “This is a picture of Zwieback toast.” It sure is, coach. It sure is.
American Ninja V
By now we didn’t think we could possibly take any more. Ninjas in suits that matched all the colors of the rainbow haunted our dreams. The producers of the final picture in this epic opus must have felt the same way, because for the last film they completely fuck with our heads for no discernable reason. David Bradley, whom we know and love as Sean in the previous films, makes his return playing a character named…Joe? Your assumption might be the same as ours, that they have cast him to play Michael Dudikoff’s role, hoping that we wouldn’t notice. But as you’ll soon discover, as we did, he doesn’t have anywhere near the same backstory. So is this a new character? Did he just change his name? Why call this the fifth fucking movie if it ignores the first four? Is that burning toast I smell?
This thrilling adventure begins with Joe, or as I insist of calling him, SeanJoe, and a random dude training. And man, are they doing a lot of training. With apples, too. That’s so ninja! It then cuts to SeanJoe returning home to his boat at the docks where he finds some random chick named Lisa working on his boat. They discover that she has varnished his boat by accident, which means that he can’t stay there for two days while it dries. To make it up to him, Lisa invites him back to dinner while he awkwardly bumbles his way off the boat like a thirty five year old virgin.
And as we all know by know, once you get a peek at the hero, you must introduce the villain. After his bald mustachioed henchman, whom we’ll call Evil Ghandi, arrives at Glock Chemicals and demands that the resident doctor tests his new pesticide on a puppy, the doctor storms out and finds the film’s evil mastermind, Mr. Glock, who is meeting with a clearly evil General. They argue over the use of his research, as the doctor insists it is only meant to use it for insects. Glock insists he means nothing more than that before ordering Evil Ghandi to take the doctor back to the lab. Once he’s gone, the General then tells Glock that he has two days to produce the gas or his army will use his hotel as target practice. Once the General leaves and Glock is finally alone, he screams for the Viper. Suddenly there’s a flash and an Asian dude appears, warping out of nowhere to a sound effect that would be deemed too shitty for public access television. Glock sends the Viper to America to find the doctor’s daughter to help convince him to finish his work.
Back in America, SeanJoe and the same dude from the opening credits are sparring in a gym when Pat Morita, or Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid as he will be forever known, comes in to remind SeanJoe that he’s supposed to be housesitting for him this weekend. But unbeknownst to SeanJoe, he’s also supposed to be babysitting Mr. Miyagi’s grandnephew Hiro, the last of his ninja line. Miyagi-san asks SeanJoe if he would consider taking Hiro as his student, but SeanJoe refuses, saying he doesn’t teach kids. Satisfied that he’s at least managed to saddle someone else with his idiot nephew, Mr. Miyagi then warps out of the room immediately after saying goodbye. Hiro asks how he did that, to which SeanJoe replies, “ninja magic.” So yes, in this movies, ninjas just warp around everywhere at will, paying little attention to who they do it in front of, and yet haven’t been tracked down like E.T. for scientific research. Sure, that’s plausible.
Now that our Cop and a Half style buddy action-comedy has been set up, SeanJoe and Hiro roll away in his truck as Hiro repeatedly mentions how he’s now noticing girls and doesn’t know what it means. I swear that if SeanJoe explains to him what a boner is, I’m turning this off right now. SeanJoe ends up having his dinner that night with Hiro along for the ride, when Lisa reveals that she made the mistake with the varnish on purpose to meet SeanJoe. Portraying David Bradley and Michael Dudikoff as heartthrobs might be the biggest stretch to logic these movies make, and they love to do it. As dinner ends, Lisa goes to the kitchen to fetch dessert when the Viper shows up to snatch her. Moments later, SeanJoe and Hiro notice the Viper walking away with her and run after them. They’re greeted by ninjas, of course, who spit on regular weapons in favor of the more badass flaming arrow and a flaming set of nunchuks to try to stop him, and yet they are defeated just as easily. The Viper loads Lisa onto an ambulance which SeanJoe tries unsuccessfully to jump on while Hiro grabs SeanJoe’s truck and takes off, with SeanJoe jumping in the back before eventually makes his way from the box to the passenger seat. They follow the ambulance to a waiting plane where they load Lisa onboard, apparently not noticing that they were followed rather noisily for the entire drive. SeanJoe and Hiro then stow away in the cargo section just before the ship takes off, which then features a way, way too long shot of SeanJoe just sitting there, hopefully reflecting on what a failure his life has become.
The plane arrives in Venezuela where Lisa is turned over to Evil Ghandi as SeanJoe and Hiro sneak off the plane only for SeanJoe to end up being arrested. But as he rots alone in jail, SeanJoe receives a visit from Hiro, who reassures him through his prison cell window that leads to street level that he’s going to find a way to free him. Shit, you could pass him a weapon through the bars. I’m pretty sure even a South American jail wouldn’t be stupid enough to have a window from a prison cell to the street outside.
As we turn back to Glock, he explains to the doctor that the consequences will be severe if he doesn’t cooperate, bringing Lisa on the scene. Horrified, the doctor takes his daughter aside and explains that his formula will kill insects and leave no toxic residue, as desired, but it will kill humans in high enough concentrations. But the doctor goes on to declare that he’ll find a way to cause the whole thing to backfire and kill them all before he complies with Glock’s demands, somehow forgetting that Glock and his men are only about five feet away and he’s not whispering. Fuck…
The movie catches up with our heroes moments later as SeanJoe is transported from the jail in a van, being moved to God knows where. We get a nice long scene where Hiro chases after the van while background music plays that is far too whimsical for this movie. I feel like I’m watching a village celebration scene in a Zelda game. Eventually Hiro gets beside the van and purposely wipes out, which causes the van to stop and the only two guards inside it to get out and see if he’s okay. But while they’re looking for the kid in the gathered crowd, Hiro sneaks around and steals the van. Thinking that all is safe, Hiro drives for a while until Evil Ghandi and a random thug ram the van off the road using a jeep. After taking the kid out, hanging him by the jacket on a nearby tree, and unloading their Uzis into the side of the van, they open the back door to make sure that SeanJoe is dead. When they look in, SeanJoe’s not there as is shown in a shot of the van which is clearly empty. But how did he get out? As they ponder that, he suddenly he is, jumping out to attack them. Where did he come from, since the van was empty? Don’t ask. And just to spice things up, he starts to talk in a shitty Elvis impersonation while kicking ass. But as SeanJoe goes to get the kid down, the Viper suddenly warps onto the top of the van, summoning ninjas who also come out of nowhere. So…did they warp too? What the fuck is going on? As SeanJoe fights a group of them, others come and carry Hiro off into the hills. SeanJoe naturally ends up chasing after them, fighting more ninjas before coming to a goddamn random obstacle course featuring swinging sacks filled with knives. Was that already there? Is that common in Venezuela unbeknownst to me? Regardless, he finally rescues Hiro and they escape.
As they walk back down by random docks, they try to figure out the connection between all the events they’ve been a witness to, which is theoretically impossible considering how much of it was bullshit. Suddenly Evil Ghandi and the same thug pull up in the same Jeep again, firing an Uzi at them before tossing a grenade. With his pants on fire, SeanJoe dives into the ocean just as the Viper appears. Having hid behind some crates safely, Hiro believes SeanJoe to be dead and starts to bawl like a baby. Minutes later he ends up wandering the streets alone, trying to trade away his Sega GameGear in return for the directions to the American Embassy. But not even kids in the third world are dumb enough to accept a GameGear. Meanwhile SeanJoe meditates on a rooftop conveniently just above Hiro, praying to Mr. Miyagi to give him strength before his flex-praying eventually destroys the shackles on his arms. Down below, Hiro finds a group of men playing a back alley game of dice. He decides that’s a great place to stop, trying to blend in when some dude comes up and calls Hiro a thief, threatening to take a finger with a knife. Suddenly SeanJoe appears in a shirt that looks like a test for color blindness and grabs the knife away. Our two heroes then run up to a rooftop where SeanJoe uses the knife to cut a live power line, which I’m pretty sure would execute him, before once again saying in an Elvis voice, “Let’s swing”. They use the power line to swing down to the street leaving the men behind to laugh as they crash into a fish kiosk.
As they walk away from the experience smelling like a hobo’s ballsack, SeanJoe has the nerve to tell Hiro that he needs a steady hand, guidance, and to be back in school. The conversation then gets confusing and retarded, which is not surprising but highly fucking boring. But it soon ends when the Viper warps onto the scene again, along with another group of ninjas. An epic battle of four seconds then takes place before they’re all disposed of by SeanJoe, before our heroes walk around a corner and find the Viper with yet another group of ninjas. To make this just as stupid as it is not exciting, this fight involves SeanJoe kicking some ass while Hiro aims his GameGear at them from a distance, pretending to fire it like a gun while it makes shitty fake machine gun sounds. Much to my applause, the Viper then punches Hiro to the ground, standing over him while Hiro has a flashback of the Viper killing his father in a sword duel and taking a medallion from around his father’s neck. As the vision comes to an end, SeanJoe flies in and knocks the Viper back, fighting with him for a minute before the Viper does a back flip and warps away. But just before this scene is a complete waste of time, SeanJoe then puts a random ninja in a headlock and demands to know where Lisa is, getting the information he needs before snapping the ninja’s neck.
Later SeanJoe wakes Hiro up in a different location, assuring him that everything is alright before Hiro begins to confess to hiding while the Viper killed his father, crying that he’s a coward. Again, he begs for SeanJoe to teach him Ninjitsu so that he can redeem his honor. But again SeanJoe refuses, prompting Hiro to say that he knows about SeanJoe’s younger brother who was killed in a fight. Hiro assures SeanJoe that it wasn’t his fault, but SeanJoe says that he was his sensei, so he was responsible. Shaking his head, Hiro assures him that he couldn’t have stopped his brother anymore than SeanJoe can stop him.
Apparently that five second reassurance was all SeanJoe needed, as it jumps straight to lesson one of Hiro’s ninja training, which the Nine Levels of Power configuration, a method of holding your hands together while meditating. As they begin to meditate, smoke billows in and Miyagi-san suddenly appears. He congratulates SeanJoe on reaching the boy in a way no one else could before telling Hiro that he carries a burden too heavy for a young boy. Mr. Miyagi asks him to think back to the teaching that he’s suppressing which results in a series of flashbacks of Hiro as a toddler training with his father on a beach. Miyagi-san then says to SeanJoe that he must also let go of his pain when some dude, whom I guess is supposed to be SeanJoe’s little brother, walks up and smiles like a dillhole before walking away again. Um…okay. Miyagi-san then warns them to be weary of the evil samurai known as the Viper, banished from Japan for his treachery, before wandering back into the smoke and disappearing. That might have been useful to hear before they had already run into the Viper twice, Miyagi-san, but thanks for the memories. With that initial mindfuck out of the way, it’s time to kick the training into high gear as we see SeanJoe and Hiro practicing kicks in front of the sunset. You know, there’s shit to get done, assholes. Lisa could be dying as you do the goddamn splits. This might not be the best time for a beginner’s ninja class.
Now that the preparation is done, SeanJoe and Hiro decide it’s finally time for action. They head to Glock’s hotel where the security is so tight that henchmen are playing cards while ninjas lounge around. The two of them break in after stealing two ninjas’ outfits, using such ancient ninja techniques as pushing Hiro down a hallway on a room service cart while he kicks passing ninjas in the face before eventually freeing Lisa and escaping down a rope to the courtyard below. The rope gives out and they fall the last two stories, landing in a shallow pool, but hey, they’re fine. They run out the front of the hotel with a ton of ninjas in pursuit, eventually getting a cab and taking off to the American embassy. As they ride in the cab, Lisa explains the situation with her father’s new pesticide and the whole affair surrounding it to our two heroes. SeanJoe decides to drop Hiro off at the embassy to get help before leaving for Glock Labs, not knowing that the ambassador is actually n Glock’s pocket, right next to his Tic-Tacs and signed, wallet-sized picture of John Ratzenberger.
Back at his lab, Glock comes to check on the doctor’s progress, which is considerable as he’s not only created a weaponized version of the gas, but also constructed a briefcase to carry it. Glock demands a demonstration, bringing the puppy in again as an adorable subject whom I would kill every asshole in this movie to save. The doctor complies, but instead tries to set off the gas with Glock in the room there with him. But his attempt is unsuccessful, of course, which results only in Glock declaring that they will test the gas on him alone.
As our focus turns to the outside of the building, SeanJoe and Lisa sneak up to the lab just in time to see the ambassador pull up to the front doors with Hiro in tow. As Hiro is taken into a warehouse area to await his fate, he starts to meditate to pass the time while Lisa and SeanJoe begin to slowly fight their way inside. SeanJoe eventually makes his way to the warehouse and saves Hiro only moments before the ambassador, Glock, and the Viper walk in. A random thug drags Lisa away as ninjas assemble for the showdown, one of whom pops out of a box that was in the room. Wait…was he there the whole time, just waiting for the off-chance that a fight will break out in there? Anyways, the grand battle begins, which is actually no larger in scale than any other fight in the film thus far. But while it’s going on, Lisa knocks out the thug holding her and hurries off to find her father. With the standard fodder soon out of the way, SeanJoe and Hiro then face off against the Viper, who immediately disposes of Hiro before moving on to SeanJoe. After a few minutes, the Viper appears to be beating him, so Glock and the ambassador decide that leaving is a smarter choice than seeing the fight through to conclusion and making sure that their irritant meets his end. For some reason at that point the Viper then turns his attention to beating on Hiro again, giving SeanJoe a chance to get back up. The Viper leaves the kid and faces SeanJoe again, only for the battle to turn in SeanJoe’s favor as he finishes with a spectacular JCVD signature jumping splits kick.
While this epic battle is going on, Lisa manages to find her father and the puppy, rushing in to save them just before Evil Ghandi walks in to stop her. He laughs maniacally while Glock and the ambassador arrive just in time to see the bomb’s countdown comes to an end, releasing the deadly gas. But just then, SeanJoe kicks his way in opens the door to the test chamber, passing the doctor and Lisa gas masks while leaving Evil Ghandi, Glock, and the ambassador to fight over two masks remaining.
As all three men die of the gas after discovering that the two remaining masks were actually broken, our heroes run outside just in time to see a plane leaving on the lab’s runway. Bursting into action, SeanJoe runs up and jumps into the back of the plane just before it takes off, finding Hiro in the back and the Viper flying it. Setting it to auto-pilot, the Viper moves to the back to fight them again, while SeanJoe notices a suitcase beside him has a counter that’s counting down. As and the Viper grapple, Hiro moves up to the front to fly the plane. He eventually turns around to use a slingshot, hitting the Viper with his father’s pendant just as SeanJoe throws a small flaming bundle. The Viper falls out of the plane engulfed in flaming, begging the question of why he’s not just warping down to the water to save himself. But it doesn’t matter now, as SeanJoe douses the ticking briefcase in water, which apparently defeats it the bombs inside. He joins Hiro in the cockpit where the two of them laughs at how retarded this whole thing has been before deciding it’s time to go home.
For one last kick in the face, the movie turns back to Lisa’s boat in America, where all the characters are sitting together when Miyagi-san shows up just to remind us that he actually collected a paycheck for this bullshit. He sits down and plays some GameGear while SeanJoe and Lisa move to the back for some private time. But just as they move to make out, Hiro warps in, silently begging for a freaky ninja three-way. SeanJoe tells him to fuck off so that he can get some, crushing the dream and causing Hiro to warp away. As the two finally kiss, this very painful adventure officially ends.
We leave on the immortal words of Coach Hayden, as he decrees in the chapter on life: “This is a much more confusing game than football.” Truer words have never been said, coach. Dauber be praised.
Donkey: As you no doubt know by now, to truly evaluate any film in this series, you have to evaluate them as a whole, as the larger context truly points out how insane the parts are. First, there is absolutely no continuity between films, which is nothing short of award worthy. Did the screenwriters of the successive sequels not even bother to watch the movies that came before it? The fact that this series can have Sean go from being a random karate champion to a CIA agent, and then have him suddenly go by the name of Joe in the last fucking movie without a single word of explanation as to why he’s using Michael Dudikoff’s character’s name, all with a straight face, is nothing short of astounding. And how can you possibly justify making five goddamn movies in the series when all of them are nearly identical, especially when not a single one of them is worth telling? Sweet Hayden, I have to give this entire series four generic ninjas out of five completely inexplicable Elvis impersonations.
What We Learned:
Donkey: Apparently no one in the 80′s knew what a ninja really was. It’s a fucking assassin, people, not just some asshole who knows karate. So American or otherwise, putting on black pajamas, taking three karate classes down at the local community center, and wandering around to help solve problems does not make you a fucking ninja.
And wait a minute…I fucking hate Coach. This book is still hilarious, though.