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  American Ninja 4: The Annihilation Double DutyBuy this film here.
Year: 1990
Director: Cedric Sundstrom
Stars: Michael Dudikoff, David Bradley, James Booth, Dwayne Alexandre, Ken Gampu, Robin Stille, Frantz Dobrowsky, Ron Smerczak, Kely McClung, Jody Abrahams, Anthony Fridjhon, David Sherwood, Sean Kelly, Jamie Bartlett, Deon Stewardson, David Rees
Genre: Action, Adventure
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Joe Armstrong (David Bradley) is best man at the marriage of his friend Brackston (Dwayne Alexandre) and just as the vows are being taken, receives a call on his walkie-talkie from his chief at the C.I.A. to order them both to drop everything immediately and race over to his office for a new mission. The bride is none too pleased, but duty calls and soon they are being briefed by the boss who tells them a terrorist organisation in Africa led by a sheik, Maksood (Ron Smerczak) and his advisor and right arm Mulgrew (James Booth) are planning a devastating attack on New York City using a nuclear bomb they have devised that can fit inside a suitcase. There was a Delta Force team who tried to stop this, but failed miserably, so can this duo use a better approach to succeed?

The answer to that won’t be much of a surprise if you had seen the other entries in the American Ninja series, or indeed any action movie from the nineteen-eighties ever, but it wasn’t so much the destination that was the appeal in these, more the journey. That and seeing a collection of black-clad (and blue, yellow and red clad) ninjas getting bested in the arena of hand to hand combat, natch, but by this point in the franchise their parent studio Cannon had pretty much been run into the ground by their bosses Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, with help from the team they had assembled around them who with more ambition than skill managed to spend a load of money without seeing many returns on those investments.

This meant by 1990 Golan and Globus were booted out (and each producing their own Lambada movies which promptly flopped) and what was left attempted to salvage the company, therefore more American Ninja films, how could that possibly fail? They packed off their cast and crew to Lesotho and had them shoot part 4, all very well but the fact this was crafted somewhat, shall we say, haphazardly was plain to see, with only one impressive-looking view in the whole shebang, a helicopter shot of the ninjas training on the edge of a cliff that circled dozens of dressed up extras performing physical jerks in unison. Apart from that, it was the accustomed anonymous dusty countryside, lookalike functional buildings and the odd specifically designed set that the mayhem played out in front of.

That mayhem was to take the form of the two American Ninja stars, Michael Dudikoff (the original) and Bradley teaming up and taking on the villains together, but according to Bradley there was a snag: the Dude thought he was the best in the role and the one audiences wanted to see, so his idea was given preferential treatment, which was that Bradley would stage a mission, mess it up and Dudikoff would then swoop in to save the day for the last half of the movie. It’s unlikely there was anyone who preferred Bradley to his predecessor, but nevertheless with a sequence that sees them both beating each other up and Dudikoff emerging the victor, it appears some pandering to the star’s ego was going on - worry not, the Bradley combatant is a henchman wearing an uncannily lifelike mask.

So lifelike that it’s almost as if it were Bradley himself playing the imposter: the magic of the movies, there, folks. What was less lifelike was the manner in which the Dude insisted on giving way to his stunt double for the tricky stuff, merely because he would be wearing his ninja mask and therefore the star didn’t need to bother his arse with such unnecessary physicality. In light of the way he disables a foe by implementing Mr Spock’s Vulcan grip on his neck, it would seem to the more cynical viewer that nobody’s heart was in this very much, least of all Dudikoff, and that certainly showed in the finished product with punches stopping a foot away from their target and a generally shoddy air. Booth penned the script, as he had done for a few Cannon releases, for some reason giving himself an array of swear words to speak, turning the air blue when hardly anyone else did the same. Add in an anti-New York City Muslim terrorist stereotype in the shape of the sheik, and you had a dubious entertainment that limped along muttering, “Will this do?” Music by Nic tenBroek.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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