American Ninja V (1993)

Humiliated and marginalized by the real American Ninja Michael Dudikoff in American Ninja 4: The Annihilation, replacement American Ninja David Bradley chases a measure of redemption in this, the final movie in the American Ninja franchise.

That American Ninja V has nothing to do with the franchise is really for the best since Bradley is further embarrassed by being teamed with a mouthy child sidekick named Hiro who lugs his gigantic handheld gaming device, the Stone Age Era Sega Game Gear, all the way to Venezuela to tag along with Bradley on a mission long on gargantuan coincidence, woeful attempts at buddy comedy and short on anything to justify the movie’s intense ninja training-like 100 minute running time.

That this film shares zero continuity or connection to the previous four is because it was apparently made as American Dragons and wasn’t supposed to be part of the American Ninja franchise. Changing the title to capitalize on the American Ninja series of films somehow manages to come off as a dimwitted move since no one really was really demanding another movie after the stitched together and botched Michael Dudikoff/David Bradley non-team-up affair of American Ninja 4, but also at the same time serves only to tarnish the serious and brutal reputation of that same film series!

American Ninja movies were always about bad asses (Dudikoff) and their lackluster replacements (Bradley) not saying much and constantly beating up a variety of stunt men dressed in a rainbow of ninja costumes. Every so often there was a kid to help out, but he was only there to provide a ride or bit of information to move the plot along and the Dude never engaged in heart to heart talks about school and ninja training and the like. In American Ninja V though it’s more like David Bradley is American Ninja Big Brother!

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So it is that they bicker, the kid spends half the movie saving Bradley, the other half being trained on the job as a ninja by Bradley and culminates in the little twerp somehow flying an airplane and learning the ninja disappearing trick (accompanied by totally inappropriate wacky sound effect) to harass Bradley who is trying to have a date with the girl he just spent the whole movie trying to save!

That laundry list of lameness doesn’t even begin to describe the story which is an example of the “it’s an impossibly small world solely because it heightens dramatic effect and gives everyone a reason to do the dumb stuff they do” school of writing.

Bad guys in Venezuela are forcing a doctor to make an insecticide which will also kill people and kidnap his daughter in America to ensure his cooperation. The daughter just happens to be doing work on Joe Kastle’s boat and he and her have a dinner date that night.

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Joe is an American Ninja who runs a gym and that very same day before the date, his old master (Pat Morita!) drops by and uses all his ninja powers to force Joe to babysit his pre-teen douche bag grand nephew, Hiro.

Hiro is the last of some ninja clan because years ago his father was killed by evil super ninja The Viper who uses poison spikes! The Viper just happens to be the head ninja muscle for the bad guys down in Venezuela and is sent up to kidnap the daughter. The collision of all this back story and happenstance sends everyone down to Venezuela for the rest of the movie.

There are plenty of ninja attacks and lots of people in ninja bathrobes get kicked in the head, but it’s all horribly dragged down by Bradley having to nursemaid this kid. At one point he and the kid tune into their ninja mega powers and conjure up Pat Morita who gives both of them advice on how to be better ninjas (Hiro needs to listen to Kastle, Kastle needs to forget about his little brother whom he trained, but got killed in a fight) and this leads to a dull montage of Kastle teaching Hiro various ninja poses.

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The Viper is supposed to be most evil ninja on the planet, but he dressed like some ponce going to a costume party with his red outfit, black cape, and gaudy medallion he stole from Hiro’s dad. When he ends up falling out of the airplane because his cape is on fire, your reaction is “duh – that’s what you get for trying to fight wearing a cape, dumb ass!”

There are a few moments of probably unintended hilarity such as when David Bradley catches on fire and has to dive into the ocean and when Bradley helps rescue an adorable puppy from the deadly insecticide. I also chuckled when the suitcase insecticide bomb (don’t ask) on board the airplane gets activated by Bradley when he falls on it and he desperately tries to figure out how to disarm it before pouring water on it, when there was a button on the case that was clearly marked “on/off”!

The very definition of ignominious for all involved including the American Ninja series as a whole. Most tellingly of all, Bradley’s career incomprehensibly takes a turn for the better with his very next movie, Cyborg Cop!

© 2013 MonsterHunter

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