[REVIEW] American Ninja

American NinjaBefore we get too deeply into this review of American Ninja, there’s an interesting bit of trivia about the film I’d like to share. Cannon Group, which had experienced great success with it’s ninja “trilogy,” was looking for a new angle to keep the ninja train rolling. Shô Kosugi was apparently uninterested in prolonging his ninja-centric career for reasons I’ll never understand, and on top of that I suspect Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were interested in trying to expand into a broader audience of people who just couldn’t deal with an Asian lead actor. The latter was probably the bigger of the two influences, and I’d argue that even today we aren’t enlightened enough as a nation to accept a film driven by Asian actors unless that film is specifically foreign in setting or origin. I don’t get it, but there you are.

Anyway, Golan and Globus were brought the idea for American Ninja and immediately they had visions of dollar signs over their heads. An American ninja! Of course! Finally an excuse to have a white person don the shinobi shōzoku.

They attached Sam Firstenberg, who had directed two of the three ninja trilogy films, and immediately placed ads in the various trade publications announcing the movie. And here’s the interesting bit: when they placed those ads, they declared that Chuck Norris would essay the role of the titular American ninja. He was their bread-and-butter star, the poor man’s answer to Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course it would be him… right?

Continue reading [REVIEW] American Ninja

[REVIEW] Enter the Ninja

Enter the NinjaThe Cannon Group is responsible for a lot of terrible, terrible movies, as any student of ’80s cinema can attest. They specialized in schlock, and while they occasionally put together the odd prestige project, like Runaway Train, they primarily concerned themselves with turning out B-grade movies that would pop with teenagers and adults with the sensibilities of teenagers. I’ve reviewed a number of their films on this blog, and you’re welcome to search around to find them all.

For my money, outside of the Missing in Action movies with Chuck Norris, Cannon’s number one contribution to film was the ninja action film. Such a thing did not exist before Cannon came along, and to this day Cannon’s name is synonymous with the movies that defined the Ninja Era of the 1980s.

I’ve touched on this briefly with my review of Revenge of the Ninja, so you kind of know where I’m coming from. In that film, Shô Kosugi became the first Asian to star in a Hollywood production without a white co-star. Even Bruce Lee didn’t manage this feat. But Kosugi did not appear out of thin air. No, he made his first American appearance in this film, Enter the Ninja.

Continue reading [REVIEW] Enter the Ninja

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