The best low budget action movie tag team of the mid to late 1980s, Michael “The Dude” Dudikoff and Steve “Died Way Too Young From Cancer” James are back in this follow up to the annoyingly routine original American Ninja. And they deliver the American Ninja movie that every American can be proud of!
Gone is the Dude’s young pouty expressions that seemed more at home on a male model trying to sell me some piss-smelling cologne that plagued his performance in American Ninja. Though only two years removed from the first film, the sequel gives us the Dude we all know and love.
He’s all kick ass and kick ass hair and if he still doesn’t demonstrate much more than a workmanlike performance, he at least seems much more at ease in front of the camera instead of playing his Joe Armstrong character as a series of brooding bad boy poses like the in the original. Besides, he can afford to take a serious, all business tone because Steve James is having enough fun for both of them!
Steve really makes the most of his scenes as the Dude’s partner in delivering ass whippings, going through his fight scenes with so much enthusiasm it was like he was doing his impression of guy in an old school kung fu movie! He’s grunting and howling, making faces and holding fight poses as if it was 1973 and he was on set in Hong Kong! Even better is when he takes part in the invasion of Blackbeard Island wearing a leather vest, no shirt and a headband! I wondered if he got into the mission briefing late and thought they were invading Fire Island!
Wait – invasion of Blackbeard Island? Well sure, it’s all well and good if the Dude and Steve are in top form, but if there isn’t anything awesome for them to do, then what’s the point, right?
Enter the Lion! Who lives on Blackbeard Island! Where he is biologically engineering an army of super ninjas! And kidnapping US Marines to use as his test subjects! Dang that’s a mission for the Avengers! Or the American Ninja!
The Dude is now is a Sergeant along with Steve and they’ve been dispatched to the island where the Marines guarding the embassy there are disappearing. Despite the fact they are Army Rangers, they’ve been sent due to the Marine CO’s description of events to his superiors which indicates ninjas might be involved! The Dude and Steve are now the military’s designated ninja troubleshooters! And in no time at all, a traitorous Marine is trying to maroon them on an island full of ninjas!
The Dude’s investigation, which consists of getting into bar fights at the same bar a couple of times, leads him to hook up with a woman whose father is a scientist working for the Lion. Since they have to wait until dark for the Dude and this woman to invade the island by themselves(!), they pass the time with a little exposition about how her father was researching a cure for cancer, the Lion paid him a lot of money, and suddenly his cancer research turned into some sort of genetic engineering of super ninjas! And he has to help them or they will hurt her!
As is to be expected, the Dude is nonplussed by the prospect of mad scientist shenanigans and the distinct possibility of facing hundreds of ninjas and armed guards. He just cuts his way through a couple of fences, beats up a pair of ninjas and steals their clothes so that he and the woman can mingle in disguise!
Meanwhile back at the embassy, Wild Bill (as the CO is called) is launching an unofficial invasion using about twenty guys and two rubber rafts. The invasion itself is an orgy of violence sure to leave the viewer pleasingly exhausted, but lays bare the unfortunate reality of ninjas – they don’t do so well against grenades and heavy weapons!
With the American Ninja himself being less morose and more likable this time around (he even ends up smiling and winking at a little kid at the end of the movie), the familiar (to cut-rate action movie fans) Philippine locations switched for less familiar South African locations, the over-the-top evil genius experimenting on people story, and all manner of stunt work (a ninja is dragged by a truck for miles!), American Ninja 2 easily realizes the potential in engagingly silly martial arts entertainment promised by its predecessor. The American Ninja’s toughest mission yet is still ahead of him as the Dude’s rumored refusal to shoot another movie in South Africa has him sitting out American Ninja 3: Bloodhunt!
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