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  American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt Punching Above Its WeightBuy this film here.
Year: 1989
Director: Cedric Sundstrom
Stars: David Bradley, Steve James, Marjoe Gortner, Michele B. Chan, Yehuda Efroni, Calvin Jung, Adrienne Pierce, Evan J. Klisser, Grant Preston, Mike Huff, Alan Swerdlow, Thapelo Mofokeng, Eckard Rabe, Stephen Webber, Kevin Friedlander, George Wong
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: When Sean Davidson (David Bradley) was a child, his father was a competitor in martial arts contests, and it was at one such occasion he saw something that would stay with him for the rest of his life. He had gone to check on his father backstage while they waited for his bout to come up, and as he did so a criminal gang led by a man they called The Cobra (Marjoe Gortner) burst into the office and helped themselves to the cash, holding the staff at gunpoint. When Sean's dad attempted to stop their getaway, one of their number, the international terrorist General Andreas (Yehuda Efroni) shot him dead right in front of his son, then made his getaway. There was only one thing to do: train as his beloved parent had.

I know what you're thinking, what was an international terrorist doing taking their pick of some low rent fighting tournament's cash? That is never explained, but we do jump to ten years later after a brief interlude under the credits where Bradley is being trained by his alarmingly bearded mentor to find our hero in another tournament that looks a bit better attended and marginally more lavish. Another thing you might be pondering was where was our old pal Michael Dudikoff, surely there was one American Ninja and he was it? Well, Mike had fallen out with Cannon and opted to appear in River of Death, which did for his career what it did for the other cast members in it, absolutely nothing, it flopped.

Of course, by this time the Go-Go Boys Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus had been booted off the studio for running it into the ground, but that didn't mean Cannon were going to give up what they were best known for, and nor did it mean there wasn't going to be a dodgy producer on board, step forward Harry Alan Towers who took the reins this time around. And he guided those reins, as was his wont, to Apartheid-era South Africa where there were enough tax breaks from the fascist government to make it an attractive proposition to moviemakers seeking to cut costs. Quite what perennial action flick sidekick Steve James - he was back as Curtis Jackson, no he didn't rap in it - thought of all this went unrecorded.

Was he at least nervous being a person of colour in a country where that meant you were a second class citizen (at best)? If there were any behind the scenes tensions, they didn't show as James was professional to the last, and only bolstered the feeling that he, not Dudikoff or Bradley, should have been the American Ninja. As for Bradley, unlike his predecessor he was an actual martial artist and you assumed he wouldn't have needed to fall back on the use of a stunt double for most of his physical sequences, though if anything he was even less charismatic than the Dude, fine if you wanted to watch a rather anonymous man pretend to beat up other men in black pyjamas and balaclavas, but a bit of an ordeal otherwise. Wasn't there some Cannon lunacy at all?

There was a bit, most notably when Sean tries to rescue his kidnapped mentor, which would appear to be the main point of his personal vendetta against The Cobra, he apparently forgot completely about him by the end of the movie, like a gentleman of a certain age walking into a room and wondering why he wanted to be there in the first place. Is the mentor still trapped inside the Cobra complex, pondering his fate? We'll never know. What we do know is that if you're standing around in your underpants for an entire film you will be rewarded with a natty red jumpsuit to wear for the grand finale, as the motionless chaps do in The Cobra's main laboratory while he works on a deadly form of germ warfare. Then there's the lady ninja (Michele B. Chan) who has the power of disguise, that is being played by a different actress who pretends to peel her mask off and reveal that she is not white but of Chinese extraction. Naturally all this progresses at playground level, though it was fun to see James knock a ninja over by yelling "DIE!" at him. Otherwise, the writing was on the wall for Cannon.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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