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Film / American Ninja

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The American Ninja series was five films, three of which starred Michael Dudikoff, which saw the title character White Ninja (aka Pvt. Joe T. Armstrong) raised up by a ninja clan, then somehow join the U.S. Army, then run into all sorts of situations requiring him to ninja the shit out of people. Every Ninja trope ever invented is played out multiple times.

The titles were:

  • American Ninja
  • American Ninja 2: The Confrontation
  • American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt
  • American Ninja 4: The Annihilation
  • American Ninja V

The last one (featuring Pat Morita) was not even going to be an American Ninja movie, but the producers decided to slap the title on it post production, even though it had one of the American Ninja series actors playing an entirely different character.

Tropes found in these films:

  • Action Dress Rip: Armstrong does that early in the 1st film. He rescues a young woman from kidnapping and needs her to move through jungle quickly. He breaks heels off her shoes, then cuts her tight skirt and ties the shreds to form less constricting shorts.
  • American Title: Obviously.
  • Arc Welding: The fourth film co-stars Joe Armstrong, hero of the first two movies, and Sean Davidson, his replacement from the third.
  • Arrow Catch:
    • The Black Star ninja in the first movie catches an arrow Joe fired at him in the first movie, prior to the final confrontation, and retaliates by snapping the arrow over his knee. Joe responds by snapping his bow, revealing his intent to fight fair and square.
    • Joe Armstrong himself does this in the second film.
  • Badass Preacher: Dudikoff's character in the fourth film.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Played straight throughout the entire series. Joe gets to slice up various enemies with his katana, while Curtis gets to wield twin Chinese daos in the third movie, yet none of their opponents leave behind glaring, bloody wounds. May be due to the films being made on No Budget.
    • Subverted in the second movie, when Joe and The Dragon faces off against each other, we get a close up on their katanas and there are slight traces of blood on them.
  • Bucket Helmet: Joe in the first film, wearing a bucket over his head while fighting Curtis Jackson.
  • Clone Army: Of cloned ninjas, in the third film.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Curtis Jackson in the third movie, which doesn't feature Joe for once.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In the first film, Sergeant Curtis Jackson and Joe become friends after Joe defeated him in a small fight, surrounded by their army colleagues.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: In the second movie, Joe and his girlfriend Alicia infiltrate Leo's hideout while disguised as ninjas after killing a couple of ninja mooks.
  • Evilutionary Biologist: The second film's main villain, Leo "The Lion" Burke, specializes in genetic manipulation to create his own army of artificial ninjas.
  • Expy: White Ninja is basically Snake Eyes, except he shown his face while unmasked.
  • Evil Brit: The Bad Guy of the fourth film.
  • Flashback — specifically the mid-battle kind. Dudikoff just loves to flash back to his training practicing slicing up watermelons before executing those moves on his human opponents.
  • French Jerk: The villain of the first movie.
  • Groin Attack: Curtis Jackson absolutely LOVES this trope, and does it every now and then whenever he's in a fight scene in any installment starring him.
    "How do you like that huh, little nuts?" - Jackson (First film, when squeezing a Giant Mook in the nads)
  • Highly-Visible Ninja: At least some of the ninjas have brains enough to use some degree of stealth, but the majority are less stealthy than the bikers the Big Bad hires as extra mooks!
  • In Name Only: American Ninja V has no connection to the prior films, as the film wasn't even intended to be a American Nina film to begin with.
  • Lighter and Softer: American Ninja V was the only film in the series to be rated PG-13, meaning that's all the R-rated violence in the prior films are all but completely toned down.
  • Men of Sherwood: The climax of the second movie have Joe being assisted by four Marines he released from a cell. Later on the Big Bad's hideout is raided by a ragtag bunch of trigger-happy mercs led by Jackson.
  • Military Salute: In one scene, Joe Armstrong gets a butt-chewing from his boss, an Army colonel. After being dismissed, he salutes in a limp-wristed way, with his hand curved instead of straight, almost dismissively. Any officer worth his salt would send him to the brig for disrespecting an officer.
  • McNinja: Joe Armstrong (from the first, second and fourth films) is an American G.I. who was adopted at birth by a ninja master and raised as one himself. His friend, Sean Davidson (from the third and fifth films) is also stated to be a ninja, who learned his skills from his father's friend and trainer, Izumo.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: In the first film's trailer, the film was called "American Warrior" but the title was changed to "American Ninja" by the time the film was released.
  • Railing Kill: Enforced hilariously. In the first movie there's a scene where Curtis Jackson guns down a couple of mooks on a balcony, and the second mook actually climbed over the balcony to fall across!
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: The Black Star Master ninja from the first film is the toughest of the bunch. Although as he's specifically a contractor hired to give ninja-style combat training to the villain's new private army rather than the master of an actual ninja clan, it's no surprise he's a lot better. (Whether his trainees are more loyal to him than their recruiter/employer is never quite addressed.)
  • Red Is Heroic: Joe and Sinyuki are differentiated from the gang of nameless ninja Mooks by Joe wearing a red belt, and his teacher wearing red pants with their uniforms.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt is this. Sean's been infected by a deadly virus and the plot of the movie is him and his friends battling to retrieve the cure. Ultimately, they fail (and one of them dies), but he's able to use his ninja powers to cure himself anyway.
  • Sparing the Final Mook: Jackson does this in the second film as the good guys are Storming the Castle. After defeating several other ninjas, Jackson takes on the last one from a group, and while he's winning the fight handily the ninja keeps getting up to continue the fight no matter what Jackson hits him with. Finally a tired and frustrated Jackson growls "Stay down!" when the ninja was about to get up for more. When the ninja complies, Jackson leaves him be and moves on, allowing the ninja to be one of the few mooks who survives the ending.
  • Stock Ninja Weaponry: The evil and good ninja alike all wield the entire list of these across all 5 films.
  • Technicolor Ninjas: The fourth film takes this to Mortal Kombat levels; with red, blue, yellow and standard black colored ninja.
    • The first film is one of the rare explainable cases: they're using bright red, yellow and blue outfits, but only on training courses where the ninja in different-colored outfits are clearly practicing different groups of activities. With everybody's faces still covered, the colors quite possibly help keep track of everybody to prevent recruits from slacking off or trading out of working on their weak areas. (It might have also helped while shooting those parts of the film.)
  • We Have Reserves:
    • The Black Star ninja have no qualms killing a random trainee in the first movie.
    • In the second, The Dragon slays nearly twenty of his own ninjas in a training scene without batting an eye.