American Ninja 4: Annihilation (1990)

Country: United States
Director: Cedric Sundstrom
Starring: Michael Dudikoff, David Bradley, James Booth, Dwayne Alexandre, Robin Stille, Ken Gampu, Jody Abrahams, Franz Dobrowsky
Writer: David Geeves (James Booth)
Music: NictenBroek

Sheik Ali Maksood (Ron Smerczak) has a grudge against the West. He also has a nuclear device that will fit into a suitcase (which he allegedly intends to set off in New York). The US President sends a team of Delta Force soldiers, to the un-named African country, where Maksood is hiding out, to retrieve the weapon.

However, what the Americans don’t realise, is that Maksood also has a army of Ninja training at his secret base. The ninja surround the Delta Force team, picking them off one by one, until only four remain. They are captured, and a video tape is send to the US, saying unless the government pays a 50 million dollar ransom, the soldiers will be killed.

A rescue mission is launched and G-6 agent, Sean Davidson (David Bradley – the ninja from American Ninja 3), and his sidekick Carl Brackston (Dwayne Alexandre) are sent to the un-named African country to rescue them. They parachute in and meet their contact, who happens to be a boy named Pongo (Jody Abrahams).

Maksood’s chief of security is a mad sadist, named Mulgrew (James Booth – who also worked on the script under the name David Geeves). Mulgrew hears about Davidson and Brackston, and goes searching for them (with the aid of an army). In a small village, our heroes are given shelter by a WHO nurse named Sarah (Robin Stille). Mulgrew’s search proves fruitless.

American Ninja 4

Michael Dudikoff is Joe Armstrong - American Ninja #1

But of course, Maksood also has an army of ninjas on hand, and they quickly track down our heroes. A fight ensues, with American Ninja, Davidson, killing many of the attacking ninja. But he can’t hold them all off. Davidson, Brackston and Sarah are captured and taken to Maksood’s fortress. However, Pongo manages to flee.

At the fortress ninja training is taking place, and it is revealed that Maksood has a whole variety of different colour coded ninja – red, blue, yellow, black… and my favourite the white nuclear ninjas.

American Ninja 4

David Bradley is Sean Davidson - American Ninja #2

So with Davidson’s capture, what will G-6 (and for that matter, the American government) do? They call on Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff – the star of the first two American Ninja films). Armstrong has retired from the ninja trade, and now works for the Peace Corps as a teacher. He just wants to be left alone. But once he hears how his friend, Davidson, has been captured, he has little choice but to go in and rescue him.

American Ninja 4

Evil Ninja have the American Ninja surrounded

But even the original American Ninja needs some help, so, with the aid of Pongo, he teams up with a gang of outcast rebels, who look like rejects from the Mad Max 2 – The Road Warrior. They storm Maksood’s fortress and much ninja mayhem ensues.

American Ninja 4

One of the numerous 'falling ninja' in American Ninja 4

The first American Ninja was only a B-Grade, low budget affair – albeit hugely enjoyable (I like the second film best). Applying the law of diminishing returns (and therefore diminishing budgets), then it is fair to say that American Ninja 4 probably had less that a shoe-string budget. But most of that non-budget is up on the screen to be seen – mostly ninja uniforms, haircare product and explosions.

American Ninja 4

White 'Nuclear Ninja' load the atomic device on a helicopter

It is interesting to see both American Ninja together in the one film. David Bradley as Sean Davidson is clearly the superior martial artist – his fight scenes are more convincing than Dudikoff’s. However, Dudikoff, as Joe Armstrong, has the screen presence that Bradley lacks, and the film feels more alive in the second half when he is on screen.

The film isn’t high art and never tries to be. It simply tries to deliver a modicum of martial art entertainment and generally it succeeds (well, at least for undemanding viewers – and I guess I am one of those).

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