American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1990)

American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1990)-*1\2

Directed by: Cedric Sundstrom

Starring: Michael Dudikoff, David Bradley, Dwayne Alexander, Robin Stille, and James Booth

“I told you last time it was the last time.”

 When the evil Mulgrew (Booth) and his Japanese “Red Faction Army” (actually a bunch of ninjas) plan to take over the world, Sean Davidson (Bradley) snaps into action to stop their nefarious plan. Even though he’s working with compatriots Carl (Alexandre) and local doctor Sarah (Stille), Mulgrew still seems to have the upper hand. To get out of this jam, they call in the REAL American Ninja, Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff). He was off working in the peace corps (funny, that doesn’t sound like the Joe Armstrong we know and love), but you know what they say, if you want something done right...call in the American Ninja. Now with the power of Armstrong on their side, they can’t lose...or can they?

At this point, the American Ninja franchise was on life support. Part 3 was a slog, so Cannon must have figured, let’s get the same director and do it again. Bad idea. It feels more like a Nu-Image movie, and the fact that Avi Lerner and some other future Nu-Image people were working behind the camera shows this must have been their training ground, which is unfortunate, but explains a lot. 

One of the things they did right was get James Booth as the main baddie. Recall that this is none other than Limehouse Willie himself. But since Cannon recycles plots all the time, what they should have done is dispense with all the nonsense herein (like extra characters named Pongo and the pseudo-Mad Max trappings and all that) and do a remake of Pray For Death (1985), but with Dudikoff in the Sho Kosugi role. Then we’d have something. But by now it was the 90’s, and things were on the downswing. This movie feels like a cash-in with very little, if any heart behind it. Even Dudikoff doesn’t show up until 44 minutes into the movie, and he was probably prodded into it.

The connection between Davidson and Armstrong in the movie is done with the most slender thread imaginable, to the point of it being laughable: “they’re friends”, we’re told. Okay. How come we never heard about this so-called “friendship” before? Just this one throwaway utterance is supposed to explain why Armstrong would come to Lesotho, Africa and save the day. We’ve heard of bad writing, but that’s just childishly pathetic. 

And it’s bad enough that Steve James isn’t in this movie - the supposed main star is David Bradley, who has so little screen presence, he’s more like a blank face than an actual actor. If he didn’t have eyes, a nose and a mouth, and instead just had a big question mark on his face, no one would notice. Plus he makes a lot of silly noises when fighting, and he’s almost certainly wearing “guyliner” in some scenes, which is not manly. Did Cannon REALLY THINK Bradley was better than Dudikoff? It shows that maybe this series deserved to go down the tubes, because of poor decision making.

In the action department, there are some decent battles, a bit of jungle action in the beginning, and maybe a couple of exploding guard towers/falls and possibly a heli as well. Plus there’s the Prerequisite Torture, but it’s really hard to care about the characters, except for Dudikoff. There’s the time-honored ninja training camp, featuring the al-Qaida monkey bars, and Mortal Kombat-style obstacles.  

But on the bright side, at one point, in order to change clothes from his street gear to full-blown ninja, Dudikoff jumps into what can only be described as a “Ninja Hole”. When he jumps in, he’s classic Dudikoff. A split second later when he jumps out, he’s all Ninja’d out. We liked the Ninja Hole. Maybe it’s near the Ninja Cave from Cannon’s Ninja III: The Domination (1984). If there are spots on earth where people can instantaneously turn into ninjas, we want to know about them.

As happened with American Ninja 3, not to mention a lot of other movies, the song here is better than the movie. Eddie Ray Wolfe’s “Fight Fire With Fire” is great and should have featured in the movie itself, not just the credits. Chalk it up to another bad decision. In all truth, there is very little “Annihilation” in this movie. Despite the presence of Dudikoff, we’re sorry to report this is a dud.

Also check out reviews from our buddies, The Video Vaccum and DTVC! 

Comeuppance Review by: Ty and Brett


venom said...

I thought this one was actually better then part 3, I love almost anything Avi lerner puts his hands on, so i'm a bit biased in that regard I suppose. Sure they could've better explained how Dudikoff and Bradley knew each other, but that was only a minor issue for me, I don't think Bardley was THAT bad, problem was unlike Dudikoff he had no experience prior to getting a lead role, so he looked "lost" at times, but his acting significantly improved in films like Cyborg Cop, Cyborg Soldier.

Ty said...

Venom: Agree about Bradley's acting, it did improve over time.

Chris: Haha! That is really funny.

Ingo-Hellford667 Movie Reviews said...

I like the first two and thats it.
I dont plan to watch part 3 or 4 ever again...

Ty said...

Totally agree! The 1st two are really good. 3, 4 and 5 are pretty bad. Especially Part 5 with the annoying little kid. Haha.

Ingo-Hellford667 Movie Reviews said...

I forgot about part 5..in germany its called american ninja 5, while all other 4 films ran under the title american fighter...well, the first 2 and thats it.

Ty said...

Ah i see. That is good you forgot about the 5th one! Haha. Very unmemorable.

Jack Thursby said...

Yeah, I'd place this slightly above part 3. It's good to see Dudikoff back even if he does look like half asleep for most of movie. And Bradley is a bit more engaging compared to the previous entry.

Still not enough action but some little bits are entertaining. Dudikoff catching an arrow in his teeth and stabbing someone in the neck with it was pretty cool.

Also, 'Fire with Fire' is a great little tune. Got that on my ipod (ripped from DVD).

Ty said...

Happy you agree! Totally forgot about the bit with arrow.

Also that is super cool you have Fire with Fire on your Ipod!

Action aficionado said...

This is definitely in "so bad it's good" territory.

If I remember correctly, there is a British bad guy, an Arab sheikh bad guy, and a bunch of evil ninjas commanded by a weird one-eyed guy wearing a strange hood/helmet.

Rarely will you find a movie that combines international terrorism, ninjas, British accents, African silver mines and mad pseudo-religious speeches by the sheikh/mullah character...

The action was also decent.

Ty said...

There were some decent moments. Definitely needed more Dudikoff! Haha.