American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt shakes up the franchise by introducing an entirely new lead. David Bradley takes over for Michael Dudikoff. Behind the camera Sam Firstenberg is replaced by Cedric Sundstrom who is also responsible for the next American Ninja movie. The only thing tying this movie to the previous two is Steve James’ Jackson. He has been bumped up to the top credit on the movie, yet still plays second fiddle to a white lead.
Bradley is Sean Davidson. At a young age he was witness to his father being gunned down at a karate tournament, He was taken in by his father’s trainer Izumo, who trains him in martial arts. Like Joe Armstrong, Sean is an American Ninja. The only difference being that Davidson is a far more skilled athlete than Dudikoff is, but he lacks the James Dean look.
Sean is competing in a tournament where he meets Jackson and another guy named Dexter in an unnamed Asian country. When Sean witnesses his mentor, who he hasn’t seen in ages, being abducted in broad daylight he immediately jumps into action. But keeping up with this franchise’s tradition, ninjas confront him at every turn.
It isn’t long before American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt feels like the previous two movies. Set in an unnamed Asian country and a plot revolving around a rich white guy with an army of ninjas this movie perfectly fits the American Ninja mold.
This time around the bad guy runs a laboratory where they’re developing drugs to battle diseases. Or that’s what the outside world is led to believe. In reality they are developing a form of biological warfare and selling it to a variety of typical movie terrorists. There are the classic Arab characters as well as a few African warlords among them. All easily identifiable by their stereotypical outfits.
For some reason the development of the biological weapon requires Sean, so they go to great lengths to get him at the facility. Using his mentor as bait is one of them.
If this sounds silly to you, it’s because it is. Much like the previous two movies American Ninja 3 is a movie that uses the bare minimum of what could be considered a plot to string a lot of action scenes involving ninjas together.
As a fighter Bradley is an improvement over Dudikoff and the fights scenes are much more dynamic than they were in both American Ninja and its sequel. James is still his reliable old self and has carved out his own signature style over the course of these movies. As soon as a fight starts you know that his jacket will go off and there is a hilarious scene in which he commands a ninja to die at the end of a fight and the guy just falls over. He is the best part of this movie and the only character who seems to be actually aware of the schlock he’s in.
But despite the elevated level of martial arts choreography the movie does become tedious long before the end credits. This is the third time the two heroes have to fight some rich guy with an army of ninjas. This time the ninjas aren’t genetically engineered, but there is a female ninja who has the ability to disguise herself and impersonate other people. A novelty at the time I guess and similar to the usage of masks in the Mission Impossible franchise.
American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt is a small step down from the previous two movies. Dudikoff’s screen presence is sorely missed since Bradley lacks a lot in that the department. James does his best and his Jackson is easily the best part of the movie. He certainly deserves the top billing in this movie. Too bad for him it just isn’t a better movie.