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American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

AMERICAN NINJA 3: BLOOD HUNT (1989)

Starring: David Bradley, Steve James, Even J. Klisser, Marjoe Gortner, Michele Chan

Written By: Cedric Sundstrom, Gary Conway Directed By: Cedric Sundstrom

The Short Version

The “American Ninja” from the first two movies is gone.  Uh-oh.

The new guy has no screen presence.  Uh-oh.

Steve James still has to play second fiddle, and he doesn’t look happy.  Uh-oh.

There’s an annoying third guy, too.  Uh-oh.

American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt is one of the worst flicks from the Cannon catalog.  Uh-oh.


The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?

E-Z CHEEZ.

For when you don’t even try.


Pairs Well With...

KEYSTONE LIGHT.

Weak stuff.  You’ll need more than one (or two or three) to get through the movie.

“Can’t believe I’m looking for ninjas.”


Any savvy moviegoer who’s seen more than two or three flicks made by Cannon during the 1980s knows the score.  You walk into these movies expecting to snack on a cheese tray and nothing more.  Sometimes you get lucky and find that they decided to give you a burger or an extremely rare steak to go with it, but those things are never guaranteed.  And that’s fine; there’s nothing wrong with just a cheese tray if that’s all you’re looking for to start with.

With that said, when I press “play” for a Cannon flick, I do expect that cheese tray, and I expect the cheese to be tasty and the associated crackers to be if not fresh then at least not stale.  Mediocrity: it’s all I expect for dinner.

American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt can’t even live up to that softball standard.

The first sign of impending disaster is that Michael Dudikoff – y’know, The American Ninja, according to the first two flicks – is nowhere to be seen.  With the leading man gone for reasons unknown, one might think it logical for his partner from American Ninja and American Ninja 2, Steve James, to be promoted to lead dog status as the next American Ninja.  After all, the fans loved him, and he was always the more credible fighter anyway.  Unfortunately, in one of the crappiest moves ever made by an action franchise, Cannon decided to call in a new guy – a brand new guy with no previous starring role experience – and leave James to keep hanging as the second banana.  In terms of talent, story continuity, and fan acceptance, there was no reason whatsoever not to promote James.  What’s left?  I don’t usually pull out the race card, but in this case, I can’t help but notice that Cannon didn’t just bring in a brand new guy, but a brand new white guy.  Steve James, of course, is black.  You do the math.  Not cool, Cannon.  Not cool at all.

As for that new guy, David Bradely, the best thing I can say for him is that he’s not Lorenzo Lamas.  Sure, the guy’s got fighting chops, but he has slightly less screen charisma than a pothole.  His performance as an actor isn’t just dull; he seems to be actively afraid of being filmed, as though he thinks the camera’s going to spank him if he dares to act like the action hero he’s supposed to be.  If you thought Dudikoff was low key in the first two movies, he was a freakin’ disco gigolo compared to David Bradley.

Meanwhile, Steve James, who as noted was easily the best part of both of the first two American Ninja movies, seems to be actively annoyed to even be on the set for American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt.  (Gosh; I wonder why?)  With that said, he’s still a professional badass, and even though his usual charm is often overshadowed by unmasked irritation, he’s still the best thing about this movie, dealing out the best ass whooping and doing the best job overall as an actor.  (His delivery of his best line says it all: “You’re breathing my air,” though I suspect there was also some special zeal put into delivering his character’s constant complaints about having to deal with ninjas.)  Bonus for the “Shalom Y’all” t shirt he sports at the beginning of the movie; somehow, I suspect that was his own.

Out two heroes are backed up by a third wheel played by Evan J. Klisser whose sole purpose is apparently to be so annoying that the audience might become distracted enough to forget how boring the leading man is.  It’s a theory, anyway, especially since he’s no great shakes in a fight.

And what, you ask, is our trio of heroes up to in American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt?  Um, good question.  I’m pretty sure that this is one of those sequels that fits into the “we made it because we could” category, because Cannon and company sure didn’t put any effort into doing anything special with it.  The alleged plot is a partial rehash of American Ninja 2, with the standard “bogus tournament to lure the good guys in” trope tossed in for giggles.  The bad guys want a “superhuman specimen” so they can test a super virus of doom that’s supposed to be The Next Big Thing In Terrorism, guaranteed to make hijackings obsolete.  (I swear they actually say that.)  Oh, and the lab is guarded by an army of ninjas.  Double Bonus: the bad guys got the seed money for their Doom Lab by stealing the gate take from a martial arts tournament ten years prior… where thy gunned down our new American Ninja’s father in cold blood.

One drink is not enough to deal with this movie, folks.

Did I mention that some of the footage looks to have been recycled from the previous film, including – how dare they! – part of the Synchronized Ninja Dance?  Same thing with the music; it’s just a reroll of stuff that George S. Clinton did for Cannon already, mainly from Avenging Force.  Effort?  Anyone?

I guess that would have been too much to ask.

And what about that last refuge through which American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt might be saved, namely, the action?  It’s a mixed bag, really.  Some of the fighting’s really good, and there’s some standout novelty stuff to be enjoyed, as well.  The stunt guys either miss their fall down cues or obviously fall down even when they’re missed often even for the phenomenon to noticeable, but this is balanced out by moments such as a spectacular kick over a guard rail followed by a three-storey splat fall.  What might have been a decent enough tournament match toward the beginning is ruined by incredibly crappy play-by-play announcements, but that’s easy enough to block out after watching Steve James do his thing; take your pick between double scimitars or vest fu. 

What’s not so easy to block out are the nearly naked burly dudes with the mustard yellow banana hammocks hanging out in the bad guys’ lab, or the completely bizarre ninja-jedi-magic-cure-thing that serves as a needless moment of deus ex machina.  Oh, well…

So why, then, would anyone want to watch this movie?

If you’re a genre completist or a Cannon fan and the American Ninja franchise is next on your list, then I suppose you’re obliged to deal with the pain.  (I’m with you; I feel it.)  Otherwise, the only possible reason I can think of to subject yourself to this flick is if you’re planning to get drunk with some action fan friends and need something to lampoon between keg stands… though really, there are plenty of better candidates for that kind of fun out there; trust me.

Bottom line, American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt is easily one of the worst films in the entire Cannon catalog, and that’s saying a lot.  Unless you’re really dedicated to this franchise, there are better ways to spend your movie watching time.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, November, 2013


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


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