American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989)

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After two adventures with Michael Dudikoff as the American Ninja, Texas-based martial arts champion David Bradley takes center stage as a new Ninja with the series’ veteran Steve James assisting in his third and final adventure.

1979, Los Angeles. A robbery is about to go down where a scientist known as the Cobra plans to create a full lab to start up germ warfare. He is aided by his number one man, Andreas. The plan is to rob an arena where martial arts matches are being held. During the robbery attempt, teenager Sean witnesses his father’s death at the hands of Andreas. Sean’s father’s mentor Izumo takes the young boy back to Japan to teach him the art of Ninjitsu.

Ten years later, Sean has become an internationally ranked martial arts champion. Competing in a tournament in a small island nation, Sean runs into old friend Curtis Jackson, who is performing demonstrations at the tournament. They meet Dexter, a rabid fan of the duo. When Sean sees Izumo getting kidnapped by ninjas, he investigates. After beating up a few ninjas, Sean confesses to Jackson and Dexter that he is a Ninja, which doesn’t bode all too well with Jackson, considering his old Army buddy Joe was also a Ninja.

The man behind the conspiracy is none other than the Cobra, who has plans to create a Ninja army using germ warfare. The buyers want an example of a warrior worthy of being capable and find Sean as the one. When the Cobra injects Sean with a virus, Sean must now race through time to find the antidote. To help him are Jackson, Dexter, and the mysterious kunoichi Chan Lee.

After two adventures, original American Ninja Michael Dudikoff opted not to star in this third installment, which would have brought Joe Armstrong back with his good ol’ partner and buddy Curtis Jackson. This prompted screenwriter/director Cedric Sundstrom to rewrite certain areas and producers to cast a new lead. They found their man in a Texas-based karate expert named Brad Simpson, who would be known in the film world as David Bradley, most likely his middle name being David and with his first name Brad, extending it to Bradley.

For his film debut, Bradley makes quite a likable lead. Unlike Dudikoff’s introduction as a loner Army soldier, Bradley’s martial arts champion persona is well liked and popular as seen when he runs into avid fan and future ally Dexter. One could also wonder if Kurt McKinney, who had auditioned for the original film but lost out to Dudikoff, could have made the grade here as he was originally offered the role after his performance in the Hong Kong/U.S. crossover No Retreat, No Surrender. Bradley definitely does well in the action department courtesy of series fight choreographer Mike Stone, who is seen as the referee between Bradley and an uncredited John Barrett.

In terms of the villains, it seems like the screenwriters like using predatory animals for the names. In the previous installment, the villain was called The Lion. Ironically, the actor who played that character, Gary Conway, came up with the story for this installment. Here, the villain is the Cobra, played by former child evangelist Marjoe Gortner. The funny thing is, when he announces his proposal for his germ warfare army, he tends to pull the preacher act to a tee, making it quite laughable.

The late Steve James returns to true form as Curtis Jackson. Jackson does what he does best once again, bringing the comic relief with his outbursts and kicks butt while trying to get his player card on. However, what does help is his constant complaining about fighting Ninjas again and this is where Sundstrom showed he has not forgotten Dudikoff. A famous line Jackson says references his last two adventures with Joe: “I thought I was done with Ninjas when I left Joe in the Army”.

Mike Stone, the series’ veteran choreographer, once again does well handling the film’s action. He makes Bradley and James look impressive and even has Dexter kicking some butt. He even makes the wild card of the bunch, Chan Lee, look quite impressive in her fight scenes. Once again, Stone’s brand of action looks quite impressive for an 80’s American martial arts film.

In the end, despite Dudikoff’s absence, American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt is a decent sequel with a new likable lead actor in David Bradley, nice fights courtesy of Mike Stone and everyone’s favorite, Steve “Jackson” James.

WFG RATING: B

A Cannon Films presentation of a Breton Film production. Director: Cedric Sundstrom. Producer: Harry Alan Towers. Writer: Gary Conway; based on the characters created by Gideon Amir and Avi Kleinberger. Cinematography: George Bartels. Editing: Michael J. Duthie.

Cast: David Bradley, Steve James, Marjoe Gortner, Michelle Chan, Yehuda Efroni, Calvin Jung, Adrienne Pierce, Evan J. Klisser, Grant Preston, Mike Huff, Eckard Rabe, Stephen Webber.

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