The Series Project: American Ninja (Part 2)

American Ninja V (dir. Bobby Gene Leonard, 1993)

American Ninja 5 posterAmerican Ninja V is a SINO (sequel in name only). It does star David Bradley, but he's no longer playing Sean. This time, he is playing Joe Kastle, a martial arts master who simply lives in Marina Del Rey, and trains with real-life martial arts expert Tadashi Yamashita. Not to slander the man, but Bradley's physique seems augmented to me. Although much of that visual effect may have been achieved with the buckets of grease he seems to be coated in. He's a hard worker, he can really do the splits, and he could easily kick my ass without breaking a sweat, but the early 1990s muscle-man fashions were very, very unfortunate.

Here's where the pain begins: Joe is asked to look after Hiro (Lee Reyes) the Game Gear playing 12-year-old adopted son of Joe's friend Tetsu (Pat Morita!). Hiro is a pretty insufferable character. He talks in that protracted hipster youth talk that was never hip, not even in 1993, and whines a lot about not being able to join in the ninja death games that he will eventually be witness to. His Game Gear is always in his hand, and he always wears his Miami Dolphins jacket. Hiro is obnoxious, obnoxious, obnoxious, and it's not a very large cognitive leap to link Hiro to the 3 Ninjas themselves.

American Ninja 5 Viper

The plot: An enterprising scientist named Dr. Strobel (Ron Ipale) has developed a new super pesticide that leaves no poison residue. An evil Central American dictator and evil rich plutocrat (sigh and double sigh) want to force Dr. Strobel to turn the pesticide into a nerve gas bomb. They coerce him by kidnapping his daughter Lisa (Anne Dupont), who just happens to be Joe's neighbor. Joe then bundles up with Hiro, and they go to rescue her. Along the way, Joe will train Hiro in ninja-ing.

There is also an evil super ninja named Viper (James Lew) who looks a lot like an Asian Dr. Strange, complete with a cape, huge collar, and red gloves. He – and indeed most of the ninjas in this film – only seem to have one trick: the smokebomb trick. They throw a pellet on the ground at their feet, a puff of smoke forms around them from the pellet, and they disappear. It's not as exciting as nunchaku or shuriken, but at least it's something. Viper – I will not hesitate to reveal – killed Hiro's real father. “You killed my father!” “I kill many fathers.” It's just what he does.

American Ninja 5 Hiro

This film is outright awful in every conceivable detail. The dialogue is clunky and awkward, the acting is pretty bad, and the pacing is way too slow for an exploitation movie; American Ninja V runs 102 minutes, which is an eternity in exploitation movie terms. Indeed, the film has a small piece of bad movie notoriety: It's listed in the Internet Movie Database's infamous Bottom 100. Ninja action is fine, but mix in comedy, and you've written your own death warrant. This film came at the height of an unfortunate trend of pairing action heroes with young kids. I can think of none of these that were good. Oh wait. Terminator 2 was good.