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Crap Film Club Review: American Ninja

Coming into this month’s film I was excited, having missed last month’s Llamageddon due to some real-world things. I was missing that excitement and dread I get when I watch one of these films, and that longing only increased after hearing what everyone said about Llamageddon on top of reading Sarah’s review of it. It’s safe to say that I was perhaps a little too excited for this one.

At the start, American Ninja seemed like the perfect crap film. An ’80s B-movie with a cast that no one had heard of and a budget of essentially nothing. All the ingredients to make the best crap film. But then why did I feel almost nothing when watching this film? Oh, sure there were moments when I laughed at the film’s ridiculous action or its strange and often confusing dialog, but for most of it I was just numbly sat there as the film washed over me.

American Ninja is your typical ’80s action flick about an orphaned martial artist who joins the army. For his first assignment he finds himself in the Philippines, where he encounters a secret cult of ninjas working with a corrupt army general and an illegal arms dealer to steal weapons from the U.S. army and sell them on the black market.

It’s a strange plot. To be honest, I had to google the synopsis to remind my self what happened as it was mostly very forgettable. The only stand out parts being the army of ninjas the bad guy uses and the final climatic battel between the U.S. army and said army of ninjas.

With it being an ’80s film there were some, shall we say, uncomfortable character traits. For instance, the main female protagonist is really only there to be a love interest to our protagonist; most of her lines are ether screams or about shopping. There’s the typical hard-as-nails black sergeant who becomes best friends with our protagonist over the course of one fight scene they have. And as for the Asian characters, well let’s just say I was surprised to see they where played by actual Asian actors and leave it at that, as I don’t think I’m he right person to be talking about representation in Hollywood.

As for the technical side of the film there’s not much to say. It’s all very bog-standard crap ’80s film. Messy editing and poor camera work means following the action from shot-to-shot and scene-to-scene is confusing and hard. The props are all made out of papermache and have all the weight and impact of a damp kitchen towel. And the explosions all appear to be cheap firecrackers from a local market. All this makes the fighting have the tension and threat of a school playground fight. On a slight positive, there is some good stunt work and every now and then you’ll go, “that was a cool shot,” but those moments are so few and far between that you’ll soon forget them as the film continues.

So, in conclusion American ninja is nothing special. It’s your typical bad ’80s action flick with all the bad acting, terrible writing, and awful fights and action scenes. And I suppose that’s the worst outcome for a crap film. It’s not so bad that you sit there laughing at every moment. The film just fell flat on it’s face, and when it tried to get up, smashed its head on a railing. It’s not that, “so-bad-it’s-good,” where you’re perplexed at the film maker’s decisions but at the same time impressed by how well it turned out. It’s just cheap and relatively inoffensive shlock, and if you find yourself bored then it’s not a bad way to kill 90 minutes if you have nothing better to do and want to see how just how bad cheap ’80s action movies can be. But there are better ways to kill time and better bad movies to use.

A tired yawn/10

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