The first American Ninja (which I previously reviewed here) tapped into some childhood memories and gave me some nostalgia while watching it for the first time in 15+ years. For whatever reason American Ninja 2: The Confrontation did not evoke those same feelings. My guess is that even though I remember scenes from the American Ninja movies, I did not recognize the majority of this film. So, I have either never seen number 2, or it was completely forgettable; I’m hoping for the former but anticipating the latter.
For your listening pleasure…
The Movie Itself (3.5/5)
Our film opens on a tropical island as some Marines are just trying to relax and have a drink in the bar. The local gang apparently takes umbrage with that and decides to start a fight. One of the marines, Tommy, sneaks away from the fight and hides while his buddies are getting beat up. Once the others are down and out, Ninjas appear to carry off the unconscious Marines. Tommy is rewarded for a job well done… that traitor! Then once again we meet our titular heroes Joe Armstrong and Curtis Jackson, who have come to the island on a secret mission. They learn that men in strange black suits were last seen carrying away some of the missing marines. Apparently that description was enough to get on some higher ranked commander’s radar that knew Joe and Curtis would be the men for the job, with all of their previous ninja experience.
Tommy decides to take our heroes out for a little R&R to Mangrove Island where he states there are “wall to wall babes” and they are “all dying for it.” When questioned about his marriage we get the spectacular dialogue “just cause I am on a diet, it doesn’t mean I can’t look at the menu.” It’s probably safe to say that if you are reading this review you know what you are getting with a lot of these 80’s flicks, so I don’t have to go into the cheesy dialogue or visuals, because they should all be expected. Once they get to the island, and following a little clever sabotage by Tommy, Joe is left alone and ambushed by wanna-be members of the foot clan. There seems to be something different about these ninjas; I wonder what it could be.
Without wanting to spoil too much more I will just say, the rest of the story has lots of gratuitous action and even a little spy/subterfuge plot. If you read my review of the first film, you know I wasn’t thrilled with the action fight scenes compared to what you get in current movies in regards to intensity and fluidity. I will say this is a slight improvement; most of the hits actually seem to connect with their target. It still rarely seems to have the effect it is supposed to and comes off as cartoony and overtly fake. There once again is little to no blood until the final battle, so anyone looking for gratuitous violence should check elsewhere. Similar to the predecessor film, Steve James (Curtis) seems to steal the show in every scene he is in. He really cannot finish an action scene without his shirt intact. It is certainly a shame he passed away so young, I feel like he had such wonderful charisma that he could still be acting in movies today.
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation seems to flow better than the first. I feel that even though this film had its budget slashed compared to the first, The added experience of the cast and crew made for a better film. When you have the same actors, director, and important crew members all come together for a second time, everything seems to mesh better and feel more complete. Overall the film is more tongue and cheek; it doesn’t take itself overly serious, as evidenced by the sound effects and some of the ridiculous fight moves.
Visuals/Picture Quality (4/5)
Like the first film in the series, Olive used an existing MGM transfer for American Ninja 2: The Confrontation. Honestly it’s not much different than the first film. There is some nice grain and detail. The image is sharp and clear, colors look consistent even if nothing exactly “pops” and the final product looks how it was intended to, more or less. There is some slight artifact popping and a few of the darker night scenes can lose a little detail, but nothing ever grossly distracting. I’m sure this transfer can be redone and look even better if they wanted to spend the time and money. Who knows, maybe someday we will get a 4K UHD version of the American Ninja series. For those that are content with the Blu-ray and haven’t purchased the 88 films versions, you will be more than pleased with the visual upgrade this edition provides.
Score/Audio Quality (4/5)
I am sure everyone is listening to the provided music while reading along. The score is quintessential 80’s through and through. If you listened to just the music you would easily say that it is from an 80’s film… and that’s not a bad thing. It fits the time period and goes well with the visuals of the film. Even though there is only the single English 2.0, it still gets the job done. Dialogue is clear throughout the film and all the effects sound as intended. Most of the time that is over the top and a little more outlandish than would happen in real life, but it fits well with the quirkiness of the film. I think this could benefit from a redone 5.1 track, but I also acknowledge that this more than holds its own.
Special Features (2.5/5)
Audio Commentary with Director Sam Firstenberg and narrated by Elijah Drenner for Olive Films.
Like the first, this is a fascinating commentary with wonderful chemistry between the two. It probably helps that they just watched the first one together, but Elijah is on point with his questions. Sam discusses many different topics that cover almost every aspect of the film. I won’t detail too much because I would hope the reader gives it a shot, but they cover the South African Apartheid and how Steve James was received. He discusses Chuck Norris and the film Avenging Force which helped land both him and the two stars back for this American Ninja sequel. We also learn about the script; how Canon Films was sold a fraudulent one, and how the original screenwriter negotiated to become the movie villain. He even discusses Over the Top with Stallone and Kane Hodder’s role in the film before he was Jason Vorhees. They also go through a lot of the stunts and locations used throughout shooting. Finally, we get to learn a little bit more about Michael and Steve’s lives after the film and how much adoration Sam has for those two men.
An American Ninja in Cape Town (17 MIN)
Dirctor Sam Firstenberg, actors Michael Dudikoff and Gary Conway, executive producer Avi Lerner and stunt coordinator BJ Davis all have short interviews describing the production history. It’s an alright endeavor, although some of it is repeated from the commentary. I would have liked to see longer interviews and more interesting questions. Going through the trouble of getting the main star but only have him talking for a few minutes seems wasteful.
- Disc Art
- Non Eco-Case
- Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
- English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
- English SDH
Runtime 90 Mins
I’m still slightly torn on American Ninja 2: The Confrontation. I find it more enjoyable than the first, and if we are looking at 80’s action films it can certainly be a lot of fun. I think the violence and action choreography don’t hold up to martial arts films of today even though it was better than the original in this regard. The commentary and features compliment this release well, even though I think there should have been more since they had Michael Dudikoff on site. The sound and picture quality make this an attractive package for Blu-ray and the best way to watch the film currently. If you have a desire to watch some more 80’s action martial arts you will find some fun here.
Note: This Blu Ray was sent to us for review. This has not affected our judgement or editorial process in any way. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this process.