Ninjas Of The Caribbean! AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION Blu-ray Review

The first 4 American Ninja films, including American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, were released on Blu-ray from Olive Films on August 16th.

This article is the second entry in a series reviewing the new Blu-rays from Olive Films. You can catch Part 1 here!

A brooding loner, haunted by his past, assigned to a new station. A rocky start with a black coworker that transforms into a wonderful friendship and partnership. Give American Ninja credit for actually beating Shane Black to the punch, setting up a dynamic that was mirrored in Lethal Weapon. Both films launched successful franchises, fun throughout but peaking with their first sequels. And like the better known Lethal Weapon 2, Cannon Films’ American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, which preceded it by 2 years, has a blast with its characters, moving past the first film’s hurdles of brooding, self-discovery, and team-building, and opening up to a more gloriously fun, humor-filled, all-action outing. Army Rangers Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff) and Curtis Jackson (Steve James) are no longer new acquaintances, but a brotherhood of teamwork and butt-kicking.

Again helmed by director Sam Firstenberg, the sequel finds the pair assigned to a Marine base in the Caribbean, where things aren’t as happy and relaxed as the tropical paradise would appear. Marines have been disappearing and a local drug lord called The Lion (Gary Conway) seems to be behind the kidnappings. His operation is protected by an army of ninjas, because of course it is. Didn’t you see the title?

On that front, I think that we can all agree that the subtitle The Confrontation, which is so generic that it could be used for literally any action movie ever, is objectively awful. The worst. With just a bit of alliterative flair, we could have had The Caribbean Confrontation instead. Or just drop the “Confrontation” part altogether for the vastly superior Ninjas Of The Caribbean.

And of course there’s always American Ninja 2: Ninja Americaner, which is actually not out of the question — this is the director of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo we’re talking about, here.

But back to the movie.

Despite the initial reticence of the Marines who are annoyed at needing the help of two Army soldiers, Armstrong and Jackson ably prove their worth. The pair defend themselves against several attacks by both local tough guys and black-clad ninjas, and quickly uncover the mystery behind the missing Marines, implicating The Lion (who looks like a mix of Roger Corman and Michael Cimino) and the corrupt local government that shelters his activity.

And on that note, there are a lot of actors in this movie who look kind of like much better known actors. Keep an eye out for not Ryan Reynolds, not Bruce Willis, not Mel Brooks, and not Val Kilmer.

…and my personal favorite, “Not Michael Dudikoff”.

Turns out the Lion, with the coercive help of a captive scientist, is breeding an army of biologically modified super-ninjas, and the rash of kidnappings acquired him subjects to be illegally experimented upon. In a stunning sequence that repeats and one-ups the dumbest scene from American Ninja, The Lion shows off his super-ninjas to his investors by having them square off against their human ninja master (Mike Stone) — who promptly tears through them, meeting as effective a resistance as you might get from, say, a box of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. This makes absolutely no narrative sense at all, and is really just there to show the audience how tough the main heavy is — in absolutely the most nonsensical way imaginable.

Maybe it sounds like I’m being tough on the movie, which is actually so much fun from start to finish that these criticisms — while valid — barely register. The action rarely lets up, peppering in quick exposition between fights — island fight, bar fight, alley fight, moving truck fight…

And of course this all leads up to the final storming-the-drug-lord’s-compound fight, which actually consists of sub-fights like Steve James church foyer butterfly-sword fight and Dudikoff final boss fight.

Both Dudikoff and James are great in this sequel, which expands the role of Jackson into essentially a co-lead and showcases his great fighting skills and screen presence. Hilariously, there’s a scene in which the bad guys, having just fought the pair, theorize that Armstrong “could almost be a ninja”, even though Jackson is clearly the superior martial artist.

Combined with the lighter tone and a lot of laughs (both intentional and incidental) — not to mention the energetic score by George S. Clinton that incorporates steel drums and synth — American Ninja 2’s net effect is pure entertainment. I’m poking a lot of fun at it, but that’s only because it’s such a ridiculous blast.

The Package

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation arrives on Blu-ray as part of a wave of releases that includes the first 4 films of the series.

The discs come in flat-spined Blu-ray cases and share a similar design aesthetic such that they have a nice shelf presence together.

Special Features and Extras

An American Ninja In Cape Town (16:53)
 So named because the film was shot in South Africa, this making of doc features interviews with Dudikoff, director Sam Firstenberg, producer Avi Lerner, stunt coordinator BJ Davis, and actor Gary Conway.

Theatrical Trailer (1:34)

American Ninja 2 closes out the first wave of the franchise in style, landing a 1–2 punch with a high impact sequel. I can’t imagine not enjoying this film.

The series would continue, but with a new director and star, and the latter films are generally considered lesser entries by fans. Stay tuned for my thoughts coming soon on the American Ninja 3 & 4 Blu-rays.

A/V Out.

Further reading:
 Blu-ray Review of American Ninja
 Ed Travis extolling the virtues of American Ninja 2

Get it at Amazon:
 American Ninja — [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]
 American Ninja 2 — [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]
 American Ninja 3 — [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]
 American Ninja 4 — [Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]

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