American Ninja 4: The Annihilation

1991, Movie, R, 95 mins

Review

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Most certainly, the practice of martial arts is more rigorous than the mise en scene displayed in AMERICAN NINJA 4: THE ANNIHILATION would indicate. Indeed, any term denoting film structure hardly applies to this cinematic hash.

An Arab emir has financed a facility to train a ninja horde for a sinister mission. An Army Delta Force unit is decimated trying to penetrate and then flee the garrison--in an unnamed country--in which the sheik has stashed a portable nuclear bomb. Target: New York. Typically, two razor-sharp, indispensable but ill-equipped American intelligence agents, Sean (David Bradley) and Brackston (Dwayne Alexandre), parachute in for more furtive tactics, elude the psychotic security chief and his henchmen to race over hill, dale and corpses before their capture. A third man, Joe Armstrong (Michael Dukikoff), is then recruited. This super soldier, an nth degree black belt and Adonis look-alike, exhorts the local motley rebels to a diversionary attack. Armstrong then steals into the compound and engages the hapless enemy. As the title implies, they are wiped out.

AMERICAN NINJA 4 would be mildly diverting if it depicted combat with some dash and spirit; alas, it is a martial arts fest with a low degree of style. These sequences are lumbering and one-dimensional, as furious as a daily diet without sufficient fiber, less choreography than catatonia. Rehearsal of these gyrations must have lasted the length of a lens change. The gaffes--knockout kicks that land visibly shy of the target; supposedly elite, brutal ninja troops who collapse like incontinent straw men after one blow to the head or midsection--are not disguised by the rigid, conventional editing. The impressive athletic rhythm and hardcore resolve that the best martial arts films evince is conspicuous by its absence here.

Michael Dukikoff has generated an entire career appearing in rage-and-revenge movies. David Bradley seems to have been imported from Hunk Central. Dwayne Alexandre, the sole black cast member, speaks no more than six lines in the entire film. Robin Stille, as Sarah is a buxom, impractically clothed Peace Corps worker who provides our heroes with an escape route and the viewer with the obligatory Jiggle Factor. James Booth, as Mulgrew, is a Brit and a pathetic Gestapomeister. Ron Smerczak is the cabal's mastermind, a character whom one expects to be more frightful and evil than his absurd accent and dialogue credibly evoke.

AMERICAN NINJA 4 conveniently ignores the realities of both geography and diplomacy. What country or region are we in? What year is it? Why doesn't the US just wield its mighty saber and bomb the nuclear ninjas back to the stone age? What is more, a case can be made that this genre is passe; in 1991, anyway, with a tenuous peace at the implosion of the Soviet empire, the specter of international terrorism, be it KGB-inspired or Middle East-spawned, became a downgraded threat. In the resultant mood shift, vicarious slaughter may be less gratifying than it was in the darker ages of hostages and Rambo. Most important, it is difficult to perceive a challenge to--or an apocalypse for--the putative new world order given the prospect of such inept villains as those in this film. Such cartoonish dolts are best left, at last, on the trash heap of cinema history. (Violence, adult situations.) leave a comment

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American Ninja 4: The Annihilation
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