• American Ninja 2: The Confrontation

    Released By: Olive Films
    Released On: August 16, 2016.
    Director: Sam Firstenberg
    Cast: Michael Dudikoff, Steve James, Larry Poindexter, Gary Conway, Jeff Celentano
    Year: 1987
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    The Movie:

    Some wise person or people somewhere once said something like, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.", and it's a good rule to live by. Thankfully, Cannon seems to have taken that under advisement with American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, bringing back Director Sam Firstenberg, Michael Dudikoff, and Steve James to recreate the magic that made the first American Ninja film so good. Where's Patricia, the Colonel's daughter? Who cares?!! Joe T. Armstrong and Curtis Jackson are on a brand new mission, and they can't be getting bogged down by some past love interest, dammit.

    American Ninja 2 finds the heroes of the first film, now Sergeants in the Rangers, deployed to the Caribbean to assist in locating some kidnapped Marines. After getting off of the plane, Joe and Jackson quickly realize that this isn't going to be any ordinary detail when they're greeted by sun, fun, and their transport to the base; a party wagon driven by a very casual Sergeant Charlie McDonald. Jungle combat? Desert warfare? There's none to be found here, as Charlie takes the new arrivals on a tour of the topless (and bottomless!) beaches en route to the base, giving Jackson a chance to make his eyebrows go up and down in approval.

    Things are equally relaxed on the base, as Joe and Jackson are introduced to commanding officer Wild Bill, a Marine Captain who rocks a sleeveless Hawaiian shirt instead of dress blues and has a rebel attitude to match. Within seconds of the briefing, Joe and Curtis clue in as to why Washington has sent them to this tropical paradise; the missing Marines were last seen in the company of some black-clad martial artists! Wild Bill also warns them of certain left-wing elements that also pose a threat to military personnel, and Joe and Jackson decide to get right down to the business of investigating the disappearances by joining the other Marines on a boat cruise out to Mangrove Island to check out some bathing beauties.

    Unfortunately for the two Army men, there's a shady element in their midst in the form of Marine Tommy Taylor, a Jean-Claude Van Damme lookalike who is virtually undetectable as being shady despite bringing a shady element to everything he says and every facial expression that he makes. Feigning a breakdown of the boat which they can't seem to fix after washing up on the beach of Mangrove Island, he suggests that they ignore the peril of being washed up on a deserted island with a busted boat and no communication by instead going for a swim. Joe decides that he'll explore the island instead, finding rocks, sand, a few trees....and a pack of ninjas! No matter for the American Ninja, who easily takes on the first wave of attackers in his snug Body Glove wetsuit, and he's saved from a second wave of bad guys by the arrival of Jackson in his tiny red short shorts. Realizing that the odds are stacked against them, Joe and Jackson get the boat fixed, grab their fellow soldiers and speed away from the danger, while an ominous, black-clad figure watches from a tall rock.

    Back at the base, Joe confronts the shifty Tommy and finds out that a man named "The Lion" has kidnapped his wife and taken her to Blackbeard Island, using her as leverage to gather Marines for some nefarious purpose. Before Joe can do anything with the information, Taylor is killed, and the local police inspector has some questions for Armstrong, the last man to see him alive. Once again accused of a crime he did not commit, Joe and Jackson follow a string of clues that leads to the Governor's mansion, a sexy scientist's daughter, and a secret facility that breeds biologically enhanced super fighting ninja machines that are sure to cause a problem for the young heroes, especially when they realize that the men at the top....a powerful ninja named Tojo Ken, and The Lion, himself...have the Governor and local police in their back pocket.

    Will Jackson have the opportunity to raise and lower his eyebrows at any more bikinied beauties? Will Joe remember his magical hand symbols? Will he have the chance to again take off his mask in victory as he rests his gaze on the woman he loves who will certainly not be around for the sequel? Or will the hundreds of genetically-enhanced super-fighting machines get the best of The American Ninja(s)?

    As with the first film in the series, anyone paying the price of admission to experience American Ninja 2: The Confrontation should show up with a serious case of belief suspension before rolling past the opening credits. If you thought that the plot holes and head-scratching moments in the original were something, well, you can load them up on the back of a really big truck and drive them right through the plot holes in this one with plenty of clearance. The premise is ridiculous, the majority of the film is pretty much a carbon copy of the first one, and, unlike the original, there are some seriously laughable performances to be found on display. The screenplay (co-written by Gary Conway, "The Lion", himself) is far less refined than American Ninja, and frequently slides way out of control.

    But wait! Like its predecessor, American Ninja 2 is a balls-out blast full of awesomeness. Sure, the "That Shit Would NEVER Happen" factor is amped up, but Conway, Firstenberg, and the rest have increased other aspects appropriately to compensate. First up, WAY more Steve James, a huge selling point. Jackson gets his fair share of screen time here, and always to fantastic results. The man loves a party, and that party definitely involves beating the holy hell out of a whole lot of bad guys, and giving the eyebrows to a whole lot of ladies. Doubling the James factor overshadows the lesser story and propels this sequel almost to the heights of the first. Secondly, a whole lot more ninjas. That's right, they've got a ninja FACTORY in this one, they're cranking them out in droves, and there's no shortage of action. There are so many ninjas, in fact, that they can create a ninja ladder to climb giant rocks, a feat that's sure to blow your mind.

    Of course, Director Sam Firstenberg is a HUGE part of why this sequel is so great, bringing his trademark style back to the big screen and essentially recreating the Cannon magic that he did in the first. The violence is still there, but on par with the disconnected from reality carnage that we saw in the first flick, and his eye for action and fast pacing keeps the film moving along rapidly for its 90 minute runtime. Familiarity helps here, and having worked with the two leads in American Ninja and Avenging Force, it's safe to say that Firstenberg knows exactly what he's doing, and it shows.


    Olive brings American Ninja 2 to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 transfer that has a few minor issues, but is still pretty great. Detail is there and there's a healthy amount of grain, definitely worthy of being called hi-def, but a few scenes are noticeably softer than others, and certain scenes look like they're a little darker...well, then i remember them, anyhow. Who knows. Dirt and debris do occasionally pop up, but black levels are good and the transfer is satisfying overall.

    An English DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack provides the audio with no issue, carrying dialogue, ninja noises, and the score appropriately. Balance is good and dynamic range is as it should be with no pops, crackles, or distortion.

    English subs are provided.

    First up in the extra features is An American Ninja In Cape Town: The Making of American Ninja 2 (16:53), a featurette newly created for this Olive release and featuring contributions from Sam Firstenberg, Michael Dudikoff, Writer/Cast Member Gary Conway, Executive Producer Avi Lerner, and Stunt Co-Ordinator BJ Davis. A number of topics are covered here, including the surprise success of the first film leading to Cannon commissioning a sequel while Firstenberg and Dudikoff/James were filming the amazing Avenging Force, as well as how Sam's original concept of having Armstrong and Jackson as civilians in America was stymied by the filming location of South Africa. Gary Conway discusses his original ideas for the script, Sam talks about recreating the formula of the first film, and they also touch on the Apartheid situation in South Africa at the time they shot the film.

    A feature-length commentary with Sam Firstenberg and an uncredited Elijah Drenner (also found on the first film's commentary, he is the producer of the Rumble In The Jungle making of) expands further on these topics, with Sam discussing Steve James' take on filming in a country where people of his skin colour who weren't tourists were treated as second-class citizens, the financial advantage of shooting in Cape Town, the mysterious Dudikoff double who shows up near the beginning of the film, and also talks a bit about Avenging Force! As always, Firstenberg is jovial and chatty, with Drenner occasionally prodding him for more information.

    A Trailer for the film rounds out the extras.

    The Final Word:

    A worthy followup to the first film, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation is not quite the powerhouse that the original was, but still essential cinema for fans of Cannon's unique brand of awesome.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. moviegeek86's Avatar
      moviegeek86 -
      I love the first two movies BUT if I had to pick a Firstenberg Ninja movie it would be "Revenge of the Ninja" and "Ninja III:The Domination"
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I love Revenge, but The Domination is one that I have zero affection for. I think Revenge and American Ninja tie for first in ninja flicks, but Avenging Force is my favourite Firstenberg.