Why ‘American Ninja 4’ (1991) is one of the best of the franchise!
Like so many of you out there, I grew up loving the American Ninja franchise. I have been revisiting each entry and have been enjoying every second of them. The American Ninja set of films epitomizes everything we hold so near and dear about the bygone era of 80s and 90s action.
American Ninja 4: The Annihilation Review
The 80s and 90s had no shortage of action heroes, but rarely did we get to see two of them join forces and that is what is so special about American Ninja 4. David Bradley reprises his role as Sean Davidson from the 3rd movie and then we have the original American Ninja Michael Dudikoff returning as Joe Armstrong.
I’ve seen a number of people say that this was a decidedly darker entry in the franchise, and while I do agree with that to some extent – there is still no shortage of fun to be had. The film starts off with a delta force unit being hunted down and captured. Davidson (Bradley) is now in the CIA and is called into action. The great James Booth (Avenging Force/Pray For Death/Brannigan) plays a the main bad guy. He is a former British soldier, now set on destroying New York with a nuclear attack. He has not only teamed up with an Arab terrorist (Ron Smerczak/Who Am I?), he also is secretly training his own army of ninjas at an old British fort. Yea, Booth is a busy guy with a lot of evil stuff going on.
Bradley and his CIA buddy Dwayne Alexandre (Red Sun Rising/Ring of Fire II) cross paths with Robin Stille (The Slumber Party Massacre), a Peace Corps Nurse. They gather information from some local operatives, all the while being pursued by crooked cops and ninjas alike. Bradley and company end up getting captured, but not before kicking a great amount of ass.
The original American Ninja is back!
This is where we see Dudikoff, now retired and working as a teacher. He is called back into action reluctantly, Rambo III style.
The first half of the film belongs to Bradley and Dudikoff doesn’t come in until the 2nd half. I’ve seen some fans say prefer one over the other, let me just say that I love ‘em both. There is room in the world for 2 American Ninjas, in my humble opinion. I’ve heard that Bradley wasn’t crazy about the idea of his character essentially having to be “saved” by Dudikoff, but they each have plenty of shining moments.
My favorite Bradley fight scene happens when he is brought in front of his captors for what they expect to be a beatdown, but he flips the script and takes out several of ‘em with a flury of awesome kicks. Other cool moments include a nice bar fight and when he goes into full on ninja mode, when he is surrounded in the woods.
Dudikoff enters the game late, but he gets more screen time than I originally remembered him getting. An awesome street fight where he ends up slicing up the enemy with a sword. He disguises himself as a Priest, blessing people as he takes them out. Then there is a fun fight scene where he takes on multiple prisoners at junkyard. Just a few awesome Dudi-moments! And that’s not even counting the finale…
One of the Most Ultimate Final Showdowns of the Series
The finale is as filled with just as much firepower and fisticuffs as you could ever hope for!
After much carnage has already gone down, Bradley goes after Booth and pretty much wipes the floor with him, eventually kicking him down onto a bunch of exploding briefcases. We get Dudikoff squaring off with the ‘Super Ninja’ played by real life world champion stickfighter, Kely McClung, who went on to an action movie career of his own.
There is an odd scene before all that goes down in the finale where Dudikoff first finds Bradley, or so we are made to believe is Bradley’s character. They end up in a fight with Dudi ending up killing him… only to pull a mask off and find out it wasn’t Bradley after all! Most weird and surprising moment of the film goes to that scene for sure.
Talking about the American Ninja franchise as a whole, it is hard to top the characters, story and charm of the original, but The Annihilation is not far behind! It just may achieve the most epic level when it comes to the action department. Kids these days can have their Avengers, this old school fan will take a Dudikoff/Bradley team-up any day!