I was kinda excited to see American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (or as excited as one can be to see a movie called American Ninja 4: The Annihilation) because it promised the on screen pairing of the original American Ninja, Michael Dudikoff and his replacement from Part 3, David Bradley. The problem is; it takes 45 minutes for Dudikoff to show up. What’s worse is that he and Bradley don’t appear on screen together until about the 80 minute mark.
The plot has a bunch of Red Ninjas kidnapping a team of Delta Forcers on an island owned by an evil British colonel and a demented sheik. American Ninja Sean (Bradley) gets sent in to rescue them but he too gets captured. Then it’s up to American Ninja Joe (Dudikoff) to get off his ass (he’s been spending his days in the Peace Corps) and rescue the guys who were sent in to rescue the guys.
American Ninja 4 has all the obligatory fight scenes you’d come to expect from the series, just on a smaller scale and budget. There is plenty of Ninja-starring, karate chopping, and the ever popular arrow catching. (A one point, Dudikoff even catches one with his teeth!) This one also incorporates some new stuff like bullet dodging (long before Neo made it chic), but it doesn’t stray too far from the beaten path. We also get to see such sights as commandos in combat fatigues going up against an army of Ninjas and a pretty good bar fight in which a tubby guy gets kicked onto a pool table that collapses. My favorite part had to be the funny Ninja training sequence in which a Ninja falls gonads first onto a beam lined with broken glass.
I’m proud to say that Dudikoff has come a long way from the first American Ninja movie. In that film, he was totally unconvincing in his fight scenes, but here he is quite good. His roadside Ninja swordfight is done relatively stuntman free and he actually looks like he knows how to use a katana for once. He also gets a good fight scene where he battles several Road Warrior rejects in a gravel pit. Dudikoff even manages to play a never-before-seen humorous side to his character during the part where he disguises himself as a priest to gain entrance into the villain’s secret lair. I also dug the end scene where he casually tossed a grenade on his fallen enemy, effectively turning him into yesterday’s lasagna.
American Ninja 4 is not great by any stretch of the imagination but it’s competently done and immensely watchable. Although it loses major points for not having Dudikoff show up until the second half and giving Bradley very little to do (he’s tied up for most the movie) it’s much better than the previous installment. Had the filmmakers chose to really make Dudikoff and Bradley a team instead of having them only say ten words to each other throughout the whole movie; American Ninja 4 could’ve easily been the best film of the series. If you’re in desperate need of a 99 minute low budget Ninja fix, you can certainly do a lot worse.
The villain gets all the best lines of the movie. Just before he executes somebody he says, “Tell my friend the Devil, I’m not ready to come home yet!” His funniest line is when he gets in Bradley’s face and yells, “You American fuck! I’ll teach you a lesson you won’t forget for the rest of your life; which I’m happy to say won’t be very long!”