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American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Larry Poindexter, Gary Conway, Michelle Botes, Jeff Celentano

Written By: Gary Conway (also story), James Booth Directed By: Sam Firstenberg

The Short Version

Cannon.  Golan-Globus.  You’ve been advised.

Plot?  It’s there, but you really don’t want to think about it.

Just watch the sometimes good/generally hilarious/always entertaining fights and be happy.

Synchronized ninja dance!

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation is a cheap, fun, silly action movie; have a beer and enjoy it.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Hell, yeah, the US Marine base is a nice big beach house!  Aren’t they all?

Pairs Well With...


The American Ninja of beers.  It is way better than this movie, but goes down just as smooth and easy.  Works for me.

“So there you are: the Super Ninja!  The Ultimate Fighting Machine!”

Just think: that’s some of the good dialogue.

Welcome to the high quality world of Cannon films and Golan-Globus productions.  Welcome to American Ninja 2: The Confrontation.

The original American Ninja was cheap, cheesy fun that used a balance between seriousness and silliness as a formula for low rent action success.  For the sequel, that formula has mutated into an attempt to balance the silly and the ludicrous while still keeping a grip on its low rent action credibility, and though it does feel dicey on occasion, American Ninja 2 manages to skate through as yet another cheesy success.

You’ll note that I did not say that the movie is good.  It is, in fact, quite bad.  However, it’s that extra special fun kind of bad that so many Golden Age action fans have learned to appreciate over time.

The plot is…  Okay, let’s not mince words here: the plot is dumb.  Alleged US Marines serving as alleged Embassy guards on a Pacific island are disappearing, and when the brass gets a tip that scary guys in black pajamas are responsible, they send in their Ninja Experts: US Army Rangers Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff, Virtual Assassin) and Curtis Jackson (Steve James, Avenging Force), aka The Guys From The First Movie.  Our heroes soon find that every authority figure on the island is part of a corrupt plot to help a drug lord called “The Lion” (Gary Conway, who wrote the screenplay) to create an unstoppable army of Super Ninjas through genetic engineering (and replacing muscle tissue with steel and all kinds of other loopy weirdness), thanks to a kidnapped scientist (Ralph Draper, Operation Hit Squad) who just wanted to cure cancer!  Can they stop this fiendish plot in time?

Try not to think too hard before guessing at the answer.  (Noticing that major elements of the framework bear an odd resemblance to the plot of the first film counts as “thinking too hard,” by the way.)

So, has it yet occurred to you that one of the only things dumber than the plot of this movie would be to try taking said plot and said movie seriously?  If not… what the hell’s wrong with you?  Go to the back of the class!

As for the rest of us… we get the synchronized ninja dance!  And stuff!

For most people who would even consider bothering with a flick called American Ninja 2, the most important component of that “and stuff” is going to be the combat, which is a lucky thing, because combat – or what passes for it – is the main commodity that this movie has for sale.

There are generally two ways to make martial arts combat into something fun and entertaining on film: go for quality, or go for laughs.  (Lucky bonus: unintentional laughs are just as good as and often better than intentional ones.)  American Ninja 2: The Confrontation goes for just enough quality to retain its dignity as a Golden Age Action Flick with the word “Ninja” in the title, and pays out with extreme generosity in the laughs department.  In terms of quality, Steve James is the standout, as usual.  His fighting moves look good, and his athleticism allows him to pull them off with style.  And though I don’t think anyone other than the characters he’s set against will ever legitimately mistake him for an “American Ninja” (which, by the way, our hero is called out loud on a ridiculous number of occasions), Michael Dudikoff holds his own more than adequately enough for audiences to suspend their disbelief.  This is a good thing, because nobody sober is ever going to believe these fights.

This isn’t to say that the fight choreography is bad or that the actors and extras and stunt people don’t pay attention to what the combat coordinator has to tell them, nor is it to say that the folks behind the camera miss out on showcasing the action.  On the contrary; the fights are beautifully crafted, variety laden, well planned, and well captured.  If more than twenty percent of the punches and kicks actually landed before their targets fell backwards and if the swords ever cut anything more than just air, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation might have been up for some of the most brutally awesome fight sequences ever.  But, since Golan-Globus Productions isn’t based out of Hong Kong and Cannon Films wasn’t about to throw a ton of money at post production, what the audience gets instead is an outstandingly choreographed Nerf fight.  If a fist shows up in the vague neighborhood of a face, heads turn and bodies fly.  If the flat of a sword whaps a guy in the back, he’s expected to go down as though his spine has been slashed and severed.  And on, and on, and on.  One might think this is a recipe for disaster, but surprise!  Thanks to the otherwise great fight choreography, it’s absolutely hilarious.  And you know what?  The guys in front of and behind the camera are all in on the joke.  Just look at Steve James in the barroom brawl where he takes down literally ten guys with a single move, accompanied by a post-prod drop of bowling pin sounds.  He’s laughing his ass off, and you should be, too.  So what if the “Super Ninjas” play more like the Keystone Ninjas?  This flick’s a party in a box!

This is why the otherwise asinine plot and at times moronic dialogue work: American Ninja 2: The Confrontation is cheap and cheesy and bad and it bloody well knows it, so the people involved play that up for all it’s worth while having just enough respect for the audience to keep it from crossing over to the realm of slap fight comedy.  In another director’s hands, things could have easily fallen apart, but Sam Firstenberg knows exactly when to say “stop.”

Fortunately, he waited to do so until after one of the most bizarrely cool scenes I think I’ve ever witnessed from a Golden Age action cheapie: the synchronized ninja dance.  In theory, the scene is supposed to be the Super Ninjas showcasing their talents for some dignitaries that “the Lion” has invited to his compound, but thanks in no small part to the addition of some high quality music from none other than George S. Clinton, it ends up coming across as a bizarre interpretative dance number that one really has to see for oneself to truly appreciate.  (Just try to keep your jaw from hitting the floor; don’t want to lose any beer, right?)  If nothing else about this movie worked, that sequence alone would make American Ninja 2 worth watching.

But hey, lucky for you, the rest of the flick is entertaining, too.  If you’re not admiring the combination of skill and hilarity that is the combat or the utter ludicrosity of the plot, there’s always the dumb dialogue and occasionally questionable acting to tide you over.  Whether they’re all meant to be there or not, the really are an endless number of laughs to be had with this movie.

Bottom line, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation is fun, and that’s all that really matters.  The plot’s a joke, but the fighting looks great… at least until the punches are supposed to land, and then it all becomes a party again.  Looking for some cheap entertainment to go with some cheeseburgers and beer?  You could do a whole lot worse than this.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2013

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


- copyright 2000-2016, Ziggy Berkeley and Cinema on the Rocks, all rights reserved.

Promotional/still images copyright their original authors. If you're going to drink, please do so legally and responsibly. Thanks.