The Essentials: Michael Dudikoff at his best
I took it upon myself to write this post about my favorite Dudikoff films to date. It seemed like it would be an easy thing to do. I adored the hell out of several of his films as a kid and spent so much time in his movies that they invaded every part of my life; I dressed as a ninja multiple years for Halloween, I asked my barber to cut my hair like American Ninja hero Joe Armstrong, and I hand wrote marriage proposals to Judie Aronson and awkwardly crumbled them up when the thought of her refusal’s sting hit me.
Eventually reality would set in: I would never be a ninja, my hair just couldn’t hold that much volume, and Judie and I were never meant to be. The one thing that will never let me down, though, is when I’m transported back to my favorite Dudikoff films, fighting alongside Steve James against the real scum of the Earth. It’s something that deserves to be shared so check out this collection of The Essential Michael Dudikoff action films!
1) American Ninja 2: The Confrontation – While American Ninja introduced the character of Joe Armstrong and his ninja ass-kicking life it was the sequel released two years later that really hit its mark with me. Maybe it was the fact that Joe and Curtis Jackson were good buddies by this time and the chemistry was on point. It could be the supporting cast, who were both hilarious and actually provided some decent action of their own. It could have also been the hordes of ninjas that Joe and Jackson massacred with a variety of weapons. The action scenes were ramped up and Jackson wielded two of the thinnest and largest knives I’ve ever seen. I know that probably doesn’t sound cool when I describe it but believe me when I say that those blades were cool as hell!
2) Avenging Force – Avenging Force could have very easily been another adventure of Joe Armstrong and Curtis Jackson. In fact, I believe it was released overseas as American Ninja 2 before the sequel above was released. The one good thing that comes from it being its own film is that the characters are restricted to the backstories or the idea that none of the good guys can die. That provides a few twists tucked in with all of the white supremacists killing minorities and whatnot. Give me a story about some rich dudes hunting elite soldiers deep in the Louisiana bayou and I’m gonna get pretty excited. Avenging Force also continues (sort of) the story of Matt Hunter, the main character in the Chuck Norris-led Invasion USA.
3) American Ninja – The journey of Joe Armstrong in American Ninja isn’t one that is going to move you emotionally. He was an orphan kid raised and trained in the jungle by a former WW2 Japanese soldier in the ways of the ninja. One traumatic accident later and Joe’s memory is turned to shit and while he can’t remember what kind of cereal is his favorite he can remember 36 different ways of killing a man with his pinkie finger. There will never be enough ninja movies in this world and it was this flick that helped turn me into the incredible badass that I am today.
4) Virtual Assassin – Why do I like Virtual Assassin aka Cyberjack so much? It has to be because it is the most Die Hard of all of Dudi’s movies. That concept will probably work for the rest of time and it doesn’t fail here for Big Mike either. Brion James is the crazy-looking bad guy attempting to break into a facility which just so happens to employ Dudikoff’s custodial services. Suki Kaiser provides the eye candy and why I don’t really understand why they had to place this movie in the future, it definitely deserves to be on your “watch list”.
5) Platoon Leader – I wrote about this film not long ago and you can see after reading that post that I believed it to be one of Dudi’s better films. It is much different than the others on this list as well. You won’t see MD roundhouse kick anyone or slash away with a sword but you will get some legitimate Vietnam War action. One of the major strengths of the film is how straight it is played for a Cannon Films Production. I don’t remember one stunt man being lit on fire and that is pretty rare for a Cannon Film. Dudikoff plays the young platoon leader very well and Robert F. Lyons really shines as his number 2 Sgt. McNamara.
6) Soldier Boyz – It has actually been quite a few years since I’ve seen this film but I always had a soft spot in my heart for it. I loved the role that Dudikoff plays as the mentor ass-kicker trying to whip these inmates in shape in order to rescue some rich dudes daughter. One of the things that really stood out to me at a young age was just how many stereotypes they were able to shove into this film. Holy shit! Every single character is a walking bad joke. I was half expecting for the rescue team to have an accountant who would show up wearing a yamaka and thick-rimmed glasses. This is the type of movie that would have been perfect for Tiny Lister to show up in but he did a very similar film called Men of War with Dolph Lundgren. Soldier Boyz could easily be called a “poor man’s Dirty Dozen” and you wouldn’t be wrong. That doesn’t mean, however, that it isn’t all sorts of fun!
7) Chain of Command – The top 3 films on this list are far and away my favorite Dudikoff films but Chain of Command has some very special qualities to it. One of those special qualities comes in the form of Keren Tishman, who plays the female counterpart to Dudikoff’s Merrill Ross. Sexy, sassy, and open to showing some nips, Tishman brings out a different side to Dudi that we hadn’t really seen before in his films. Add that to the outrageously awesome hair that the bad guy sports and you’ll be putting all of those questions about why they named it “Chain of Command” on the back burner and just enjoying this quality action film.
8) The Shooter – If that last one was a change of pace for MD then The Shooter is like learning Mandarin Chinese. Dudi squeezed into some cowboy boots and buckled on his six shooter to play gunslinger Michael Atherton. He strolls into town, as most gunslingers are want to do, and is immediately smack dab in the middle of some no-good criminals and sheriff/mayoral power grabs. It’s not Tombstone and Atherton certainly isn’t John Wayne but it was a fun time watching an actor not known for this type of film tackle and hog-tie this sucker.