Movie Kumite: American Ninja vs. Enter the Ninja
Popularizing the ninja genre is one of the many things Cannon Films is famous for.
In this edition of Movie Kumite we pit two of Cannon Films’ ninja movies against one another. On one side, the movie that started it all Enter the Ninja. On the other, American Ninja. Both were the first films in their respective franchises but only one can win this ninja battle!
American Ninja was Michael Dudikoff’s first foray into the world of action cinema. And the man took the role of Joe Armstrong the American Ninja seriously. Dudikoff’s hard work and natural charisma endeared him to action movie fans and in one movie an action star was born.
On the flip side we have Franco Nero who played Cole in Enter the Ninja. Nero had come into the picture with years of experience in westerns, but he was just as much of a rookie to the martial arts genre as Dudikoff. And while both are portrayed as American ninjas in their respective films, Nero was actually an Italian Ninja, if you can even qualify him as a ninja at all. Cannon had to dub Nero’s voice so he sounded American. While having your voice dubbed can be a good thing if you are a bad guy (Darth Vader in Star Wars and Dante from our first ever Movie Kumite match come to mind) the dubbed voice did not do Nero any favors. Franco already looked out of place in this film and thanks to the dubbed voice he sounded out of place too. Not that it would have been any better if they used his actual voice. It is all just proof that while Nero brought same name value to the project, he was not the right man for this particular job.
The first point goes to Michael Dudikoff and American Ninja!
AMERICAN NINJA – 1 ENTER THE NINJA – 0
The hero battle was a little lopsided, but the competition was close in the villain department.
The Black Star Ninja is a great moniker and the man portraying him is an even greater bad guy. He works well with the powerful Victor Ortega. Ortega does his part, with members of the military on his payroll and being the kind of unscrupulous businessman you would expect in an action movie. Any action movie would greatly benefit from having this killer combination in their film.
But as great as they are, it is hard not see that the Enter the Ninja villains are just a little bit better. First if you are going to have an evil ninja in your movie, who better to have than the master himself, Sho Kosugi, in the role of Hasegawa. Kosugi is the closest thing to a real ninja that anybody has ever seen and lived to tell about it. Then you have the powerful businessman who hires Hasegawa to help him with his Cole problem, the late Christopher George.
If you like your villains over the top, Christopher George as Venarius is as over the top as you can get. The man has a swimming pool with bathing beauties in his office. He also has a man servant and a stooge with a hook on his hand. Combine all of these elements and Enter the Ninja squeaks by American Ninja in a close race.
AMERICAN NINJA – 1 ENTER THE NINJA – 1
This one may be a bit unfair to Enter the Ninja. We’ve gone on record many times on this site professing our love and devotion to the beautiful and talented Judie Aronson, who plays Patricia Hickock in American Ninja. She was easily one of the most beautiful women of the 1980’s action (and horror) genres.
And that’s not to say that Susan George, who plays Mary Ann in Enter the Ninja is some hideous woman. But to me she doesn’t put that twinkle in a man’s eye the way Judie does.
But looks aside, I want to analyze the actions of these ladies. Mary Ann is a married woman. She is in fact married to Cole’s old friend from the war, Frank. And while Frank has had his issues with drinking and has not been the most attentive husband on the planet, I’m not sure that justifies Mary Ann sleeping with Cole! That’s right, she sleeps with one of her husband’s best friends. That’s some ho-like action right there and seals the deal that Judie Aronson and American Ninja win another round!
AMERCIAN NINJA – 2 ENTER THE NINJA – 1
While ninjas have the ability to take out entire armies of men on their own, both films give our heroes some back up.
American Ninja can boast one of the best sidekicks of all time in the form of Curtis Jackson (Steve James). Jackson is good, really good. Good enough that they could have done a movie with Jackson as the main hero and I’d be all in on that one. I also like that this was a friendship that both Jackson and Armstrong earned. They didn’t click instantly, but through respect they became friends.
Armstrong is also aided by the man who trained him in the ways of the ninja, Shinyuki (John Fujioka).
If only Cole had that same kind of support. Cole is aided by his drunk friend Frank and a local con man who is always looking to make a buck appropriately named Dollars.
Chalk up another one for American Ninja!
AMERICAN NINJA – 3 ENTER THE NINJA – 1
As in every Movie Kumite match up, I like to turn things over to an impartial party so the outcomes of these matches are not solely determined by my personal preferences or whims. So I turn to IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes for their insight…
Enter the Ninja has an IMDB rating of 5.0. American Ninja has an IMDB rating of 5.3.
Enter the Ninja as an approval rating of 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. American Ninja has a 47% approval rating.
And this one is now all but over.
AMERICAN NINJA – 5 ENTER THE NINJA – 1
This round is not really needed, our winner has been determined. But I wanted to give Enter the Ninja a chance at not being the only movie to only score 1 point in the short history of our Movie Kumite feature.
And I have selected a category that is not opinion based. It is based on cold hard facts.
Ninjas are assassins, so it only makes sense that we’d incorporate kill count to determine who was a more effective ninja.
Cole had an impressive 26 kills in Enter the Ninja. Joe Armstrong edged him out however with 28 kills to his credit in American Ninja.
And that officially puts the final nail in Enter the Ninja’s coffin. Our definitive winner of this ninja battle is American Ninja!
FINAL SCORE: AMERICAN NINJA – 6 ENTER THE NINJA -1