What Not To Watch: American Commando Ninja
As time marches on I guess it is only natural for a person to look back on their earlier years with great fondness. The good ol’ days if you will.
As an action movie fanatic it would be very easy for me to make the blanket statement that the action movies of the 1980’s were the greatest action movies of all-time and no matter how hard movies try, no matter the size of their budget that no action movie made today could even come close to those that were being produced in the 1980’s. I could even take it a step further and say that even the worst 80’s actioner is still better than most of what is being released today… I could do that, but I won’t because that’s a damn lie. And here’s the movie that proves that not everything was better in the 1980’s…
- Golden Years: While American Commando Ninja may have been released in 1988, the same year as movies like Die Hard, Bloodsport, Above the Law and Action Jackson, it will never be regarded as an action classic. I’m sure the mashed up title of the movie was supposed to make an unsuspecting public believe it was going to be an action classic injecting over the top Arnold like action with the martial artistry of a Michael Dudikoff film, but the title actually makes about as much sense as the rest of the movie, since there is not an American to be found in the film, not to mention the total lack of commandos. There is however a ninja… a ninja named David. David is described by his sensei as very good… that’s right American Commando Ninja does not need a ninja master, it just needed a very good ninja. David the Ninja is given his assignment, he has to go to Taiwan (where the movie was filmed) to find a scientist named Tanaka. Tanaka developed a germ warfare weapon during World War II and now he is being sought after by various nefarious groups for his secret formula. Tanaka must have been the Doogie Howser of Japan, because based on his looks, he would have been a kid during World War II.
- Fashion: I would be willing to bet that American Commando Ninja has made quite a few “Worst” lists in its time. I know it would join Zardoz on my list of worst dressed movie characters of all-time. First of all, David the Ninja is often wearing some very non-ninja like clothing in the movie. Brightly colored shirts and pants and those multi-colored jams shorts that were all the rage in the late 80’s… can you picture Sho Kosugi wearing any of that?!? And let’s not forget the lovely ladies of American Commando Ninja. Both women, who are helping their bad guy uncle get the formula from Tanaka, have their own unique style, one wears bedazzled clothes, the other had on Confederate flag shorts during her first appearance in the film. And I’m guessing a yellow shirt with black accents would not be my first choice if I had a pair of Confederate flag shorts on.
- Heroes: At one point in the movie David the Ninja encounters a practitioner of “Hocus Pocus”. (He can shoot fire out of his fingertips!) The two go head to head in what could be described as a very good scene, at least the best scene in this piece of crap movie. The fight stops after David removes his ninja mask and says to his foe, “I really appreciate your bravery. You are quite a guy.” And just like that the foes are friends. If only all conflict could end so peacefully. We find out “Hocus Pocus” guy is named Larry Chan and it isn’t long before Larry and David go out on a man date and go over their strategy to retrieve Tanaka’s formula before it gets into the wrong hands. And this is when I was really wishing that this movie never got into my hands. Speaking of hands, David and Larry share a really awkward and prolonged handshake at the end of the movie.
- Where Are We Now?: Given the simplistic plot of American Commando Ninja, you would think it would be relatively easy to follow, but it is not. The movie is all over the place. Tanaka is either getting his ass kicked or tortured by one of the characters for the entire movie. I can’t even remember what happens to him at the end. He may still be in that 55 gallon drum of water that the uncle put him in. And speaking of the uncle, I’m not sure he was actually the uncle of the two sisters in the movie. I’m not even sure they were sisters. The one who wore the Confederate flag shorts had an English accent. And why was the Russian guy always laughing. And was he even Russian? He didn’t sound Russian and his goon had on a yellow sport coat from the Sonny Crockett collection. And why did David wear his ninja gear at times and then other times he would just fight in his lime green pants!? This may be one of those movies that was designed to be watched while intoxicated.
I can’t help but think garbage movies like this are what cut the career of Sho Kosugi short here in the United States. American Commando Ninja is a horrible representation of the ninja genre and really tarnishes the work that Kosugi did to popularize ninja movies in the 1980’s. In general, it is a black eye on 1980’s action movies and I’m thankful they never made a sequel titled Avenging Terminator Force.
So unless you are a fan of really terrible movies or you want to go into this movie with the mindset that it is a comedy (it may very well be funnier than 1988’s Caddyshack II), you really should NOT watch American Commando Ninja. But for those of you who are not going to heed my advice, here are some things to look and listen for…
- Religious Advice: “I told you never trust a scientist.” – The Uncle
- Man vs. Furniture: A frustrated Tanaka beats up a chair early on in the film. He doesn’t just kick it, he really works this chair over for a few minutes.
- Disturbing Quote #1: “Where are the dancing boys?” – Larry
- Which Came First?: Our first look at Tanaka has him coming down an escalator at the airport. I couldn’t help but recall another 1988 film, Rain Man, while watching.
- Disturbing Quote #2: “Do you know what it is like to eat another human being?” – The Uncle