American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987)

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After Sho Kosugi’s ninja films for Cannon, Michael Dudikoff became the American Ninja. In this sequel, Dudikoff and cohort Steve James return as Armstrong and Jackson. This time, the story begins its cliche in the use of germ warfare to create a Ninja army in what would be a central theme to the next two films (including this installment).

On a remote island in the Caribbean, a group of Marines head to a bar but are confronted by a local biker gang. The gang prove to be too much for the Marines, who are knocked out cold. Suddenly, the Marines are kidnapped by a band of ninjas. This is the latest in a series of disappearances on the island involving military personnel. As a result, the commanding officer, “Wild Bill” has asked the U.S. government to send two of its best men.

Enter Army Rangers Joe Armstrong and Curtis Jackson. They learn about the mission at hand and learn a local boy, Toto, had witnessed the attack. When Toto mentions “men in black suits”, it is no surprise that Joe and Curtis know exactly what they are dealing with. As Joe and Curtis dig deeper into the mission, they learn of a highly respected drug dealer named “The Lion”. When Joe suspects a traitor and reveals him as one of the local Marines, he learns that a young woman who crashed a party held by The Lion was kidnapped.

When “Wild Bill” allows the Army Rangers to rescue the girl, Alicia, Joe makes the rescue while Curtis uses more diversionary tactics. It is there where Joe learns the true story. Alicia’s father was a scientist who had created new medicine that had the potential to cure cancer. However, when Burke, who is the Lion, bought the laboratory, he stole the medicine and decided to use it to create a new serum to create an army of super ninjas. With Jackson and the Marines setting up a plan, Joe must rely on his ninjitsu skills to take down the Lion and face the super ninja Tojo Ken in the ultimate showdown.

The 1985 film American Ninja set a new standard in Cannon’s action repertoire. While Franco Nero played an American ninja in Enter the Ninja, that film mainly showcased Japanese-born action star Sho Kosugi. When Kosugi’s contract with Cannon expired, American Ninja was released and was a hit film for the producing cousins of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. With that, this sequel was released two years later. Not only does Michael Dudikoff and Steve James return, but director Sam Firstenberg, who helmed Kosugi’s Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, and the original American Ninja returns as well.

While the on-screen duo of Dudikoff and Jackson have improved since the original film, the central theme begins what would be a virtual thread in not only this film, but the next two installments as well. Written by Gary Conway, who doubled as the film’s primary villain, the script involves taking modern medicine and using it for evil purposes to create a “super ninja”. Not only would the central theme be used, but the names of the villains in this and in the third installment would be that of nicknames representing predatory animals. In this case, Conway’s character would be known as “The Lion”.

Fight choreographer Mike Stone did quite well in extensive training Dudikoff in martial arts. Here, Dudikoff’s fight scenes seem a little improved. This is notable in a chase scene on the streets of the island, where Dudikoff not only uses jujitsu-like throws, but even manages to do a few jumping kicks. Granted, this isn’t the style of kicking seen in Hong Kong or even today’s American martial arts films. However, for 1980’s action, Dudikoff doesn’t look bad. James, on the other hand, once again pulls off his best impersonation of crossing Blaxploitation with Rambo in the film’s climatic battle yet in other action scenes, impresses with his brand of action.

Stone himself gets in on the action as Tojo Ken, Lion’s super ninja henchman. For their climatic fight, Dudikoff was doubled this time by Ed Anders, a martial artist and stuntman who had worked alongside as a member of Sho Kosugi’s stunt team in the early Ninja days.

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation is definitely for hardcore fans of 1980’s action films. Dudikoff and James once again bring out some great action and the director makes use of some nice visuals in South Africa. The only flaw is the clichéd script, which will practically be reused again for the next installment.

WFG RATING: B

A Cannon Films production. Director: Sam Firstenberg. Producers: Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Writers: Gary Conway and James Booth; based on the characters created by Gideon Amir and Avi Kleinberger. Cinematography: Gideon Porath. Editing: Michael J. Duthie.

Cast: Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Gary Conway, Larry Poindexter, Jeff Weston, Jonathan Pienaar, Mike Stone, Michelle Botes, Elmo Fillis, Len Sparrowhawk.

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