Well, that was a strange little series.
David Bradley, star of AN 3 and 4, filmed another, unrelated film about a guy and some ninja shenanigans. Cannon, never ones to pass up an opportunity to make a quick buck, renamed it “American Ninja 5” but didn’t do anything a person might expect, like changing the name of the main character or having it make any sense in terms of the four films that preceded it. That’s how we like em at the ISCFC! Anyway, that makes the American Ninja series perhaps the only example of the same film series having two parts that didn’t tie in to the rest, or each other. Congratulations!
Bradley is Joe (a different Joe to the one Dudikoff played in 1, 2 and 4), who’s training at Pat Morita’s gym! Morita, clearly doing this as a favour to someone, pops up at the beginning to ask Joe to look after his great-nephew Hiro, a sullen 13 year old, then sods off til the last two minutes. As well as having this annoying kid in tow, Joe meets a beautiful woman sort of by accident, only she’s the daughter of some scientist who’s being held by an evil crime fellow, and the crime fellow has a super-powerful ninja as his main enforcer…
In a bit of a coincidence, Tadashi Yamashita, the guy who played the bad guy from AN1 is here, as Pat Morita’s assistant trainer, but his credit is as himself? It’s a puzzler, as he doesn’t seem to be that famous. To increase your confused frown as the film goes on, Hiro is played by Lee Reyes, a genuine junior karate champion, and he did most of his own choreography. He’s one of those style of characters that films occasionally fall in love with – the extremely annoying precocious pre-teen who can do everything better than the adult cast. The scene where he’s walking through a city somewhere in Venezuela, crying and begging for random strangers to take him to the American embassy, is a low point even for this series. Anyway, clearly Cannon thought he was a star in the making, although they would seem to have been very badly mistaken on that.
David Bradley learned how to act in the intervening years, and is a decently funny, credible actor in this one. He’s no longer got that rabbit-in-the-headlights look when it comes to being the lead guy in a movie; which makes his seeming complete disappearance from cinema in 1997 slightly sadder than it would have been if you’d only seen AN3.
What did we learn with this movie? Well, we learn that baddies sometimes have their offices, complete with computers and all sorts, just in the open air, near the pool of some hotel. We learn that ninja-ism is hereditary, and you just need to unlock the potential with a short montage. We also learn that if you get bored of being the legal guardian of a kid, you can just fob him off at a moment’s notice on one of your work colleagues while you go on holiday. These are some important lessons, I think you’ll agree.
Although this film was clearly sorry to see us viewers go, feeling like it lasted for 4 hours, this is the end of the series. Cannon Films are now the subject of a couple of different documentaries which I’ll try and review for you soon; and the world is a bit sadder for having fewer racist lunatics making cheap crappy films to fill up video shops.
Rating: thumbs down