Before 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?