The poster/cover-art for American Ninja 4: The Annihilation looks promising. Michael Dudikoff returns and he teams up with the star of the previous movie, David Bradley. That’s two American Ninjas for the price of one! They are positioned against a bright orange backdrop with the silhouette of a large city and ninjas. Certainly this movie will take place in a large city like New York.
The American Ninja 4 poster is a lie. The entire movie is shot in South Africa and it takes place in the same settings as the previous three movies. Most of the movie takes place in the jungle, wide plains and large mansions and compounds. The urban jungle is nowhere to be found. Say what you will about Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, at least it contains a scene taking place on Times Square. Dudikoff and Bradley don’t share a scene together until the last 20 minutes. They exchange about a handful of sentences. Then again, Joe was never that much of a talker.
As is the case with all of the American Ninja movies, the plot is fairly simple. A Delta Force unit is largely massacred by ninjas in an unnamed foreign country. The rest are captured and held hostage by Colonel Mulgrew (James Booth). Together with Sheikh Ali Maksood (Ron Smerczak), a Muslim militant, he plans to develop a suitcase nuke and bring it to New York. Sean (Bradley) and new character Carl Brackston (Dwayne Alexandre) are sent in to rescue the prisoners and defeat the terrorists.
But sadly their plans fail and both of them are caught together with busty Peace Corps nurse Sarah (Robin Stille). With no other options the U.S. military turns to Joe Armstrong (Dudikoff), now working as a teacher for the Peace Corps. While reluctant at first, the fact that his good friend Sean is about to be executed makes him take the job.
With a running time of 99 minutes American Ninja 4: The Annihilation is the longest American Ninja movie so far. That’s because it’s basically two movies in one. It isn’t until 44 minutes into the movie that Dudikoff is introduced in a way that is obviously inspired by Rambo III. Up until then this was Bradley’s movie, but once he gets caught he’s out of the picture for the next half our or so.
With the introduction of Dudikoff the movie basically resets itself. While the execution varies, he does the same thing we’ve seen Bradley do the previous 40 minutes. Receive a briefing, travel to the foreign country, meet up with Pango, fight ninjas etc. You don’t only get two ninjas for the price of one, you also get two movies for the price of one. Too bad it’s the basically same movie.
If you’ve seen the previous American Ninja movies, you’ve seen this one. Though the story isn’t a simple rehash of the previous three movies, there are plenty of similarities to be found. The movie still ends with climactic battle against an army of ninjas at the lair of the bad guy. As they all these movies do.
American Ninja 4 feels larger in scope than the previous movies. There is a scene in which Joe has to fight some rebels at their base. They all look like they were extras on Mad Max: The Road Warrior. This scene and these characters feel out of place, but at the same seem to perfectly fit in a franchise that also contains genetically engineered ninjas.
Over the course of the movies Dudikoff has improved as a martial artist. Together with his stunt double they sell the action scenes and the movie feels less like an R-rated A-team episode than the previous movies. Though there are certain moments that are so over the top I couldn’t help but laughing. At one point Dudikoff catches an arrow being shot at him with his mouth, then proceeds to jam it into the throat of a ninja that’s holding him. That’s some funny stuff.
The first American Ninja movie was fun little movie and all of the sequels so far tend to be fairly equal in quality. People really tend to hate on American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt, but I don’t think that movie is much worse than the other two sequels. American Ninja 4: The Annihilation is just another low budget entry in a franchise that was silly from day one.