When a main actor doesn’t come back for a continuation to their franchise, I always wonder exactly what happened. Did Dudikoff ask for too much money? Unlikely, as he’s back for part 4. Was he busy? I doubt it. My best bet is, Golan went to Globus, “you know, that main actor guy was showing dangerous signs of charisma in the last movie. Let’s replace him with someone even worse” (real, boring answer: Dudikoff didn’t want to film in South Africa due to apartheid. Good work Michael!).
Luckily, some traditions remain. The title is meaningless, and there’s plenty of technical incompetence for everyone to enjoy (a lot of people stare at the camera in this movie). Oh, and that “teach ninja skills to Westerners and die” philosophy has now turned into “literally everyone in the world is a ninja”.
The one unqualified good thing about this movie is the return of Steve James as Jackson, who had the physique, fighting skills and acting ability to anchor this franchise on his own. Aside from Carl Weathers, I can’t think of another black guy who got to star in his own action movies at the time, and it’s a shame, and especially a shame as Cannon Films never had a single black lead in any of their movies (apart from “Crack House”, which isn’t a good example). In this, while he’s got the same name as in the last two, he seems to be a different person; and no mention is made of the fact he used to be in the army or had a best friend who was also a ninja (in fact, no mention of Dudikoff at all) He’s just a guy at a martial arts tournament.
Anyway, James has to play second fiddle to David Bradley, the sort of generic action guy who got starring roles in movies thrown at him for a while there. He’s Sean Davidson, a karate champion who’s travelling to…who cares?…for a tournament. Jackson is there too, to take part in the sword portion of the tournament, and the two of them, along with comic relief Dexter, become friends immediately because that’s what you do in these movies.
For a film set at a karate tournament, you don’t really see a lot of it, but what you do see is lots and lots of ninjas, this time led by former child evangelist turned actor Marjoe Gortner (seriously, look his story up, he’s had a pretty weird life) as “The Cobra”. He’s trying to do some genetic experiments, in “we got the script for part 2, changed a few names and the number on the front, and just used it again” fashion; and he infects Sean with some virus or other. Our three heroes have to kick some ass to get the antidote, only it turns out at the end he didn’t need to bother due to NINJA MAGIC
The message of these films is, anyone who’s reasonably fit will be able to beat the snot out of any 5 ninja, really easily. Their training must be in something non fight related, because they’re complete cannon fodder here, not putting as much as a scratch on any of the main actors. Plus, the training Sean receives as the hands of his adoptive Japanese father is more karate than it is anything ninja-related – and how many ninja decide to supplement their day job with being a pro karate fighter? You see, these are the questions that you will find yourself asking during the course of this fine and exciting movie.
Most of the boring final fight sequence I spent wondering if this qualifies as an “unquel”. Despite a returning actor, and a similar generic action movie plot, there’s really nothing which ties this to the previous movies in the series, which were about a guy in the Army doing ninja things. I think it probably does.
And that’s how exciting this film was!
Rating: thumbs down
PS- Review site Dorkshelf did a whole article about this movie and the downfall of Cannon Studios which you should read – http://dorkshelf.com/2014/02/24/unsung-anniversaries-3-american-ninja-3-blood-hunt/