Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
As I have mentioned before, even though there are five of them, you just can't sit down and watch these American Ninja films back to back, because they will kill you. Literally. You need to let your brain settle and take time between viewings. So the first two American Ninja's were awful. As in awfully awesome! College courses should be offered on the awesomeness of American Ninja's I & II. American Ninja III… not so much. Just flat terrible on so many levels terribleness that a class could be offered on that as well. With that in mind, it took a little longer before I was prepared to load up 'American Ninja IV: The Annihilation', and it is still pretty bad, not coming anywhere near the magic of the first two films, but with the limited return of Michael Dudikoff, at least it's better than the previous movie in almost every conceivable way… except for one major one… that being the absence of the late Steve James. Booo American Ninja IV!

A group of ninja are chasing some soldiers through the jungle. For some reasons, while running, these soldiers keep looking to the sky, even though Ninja can't fly. That's probably why they got caught and slaughtered, except for a couple who will be held on retainer.

Back stateside, Sean Davidson (David Bradley) has been told by bossman that there is an evil villain that needs dealing with, and he's the only person who can handle this business. Him and his partner Brackston as played by Dwayne Alexandre. Sean doesn't want to take this punk along because he sucks, even though he's a good kid, but Sean knows full well that simply being black doesn't automatically turn somebody into the missing Sgt. Jackson whose absence is never explained. Mad love for Dwayne Alexandre, but alas, he's no Steve James. But then this side of Carl Weathers, who is? What Sean needs is Joe Armstrong on his team, but alas Joe is living the peaceful life teaching third world kids how to read. Which is a bit of a revelation because we truly didn't know that Joe, himself, knew how to read.
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Sean and Brackston make it to the drop site, beat up some people, and get the attention of today's villain, Mr. Mulgrew. Want to know what's better in this movie than ALL the American Ninja movies? That would be the presence of one James Booth as the villain Mr. Mulgrew. For the penultimate in James Booth Villainy you would have to track down a copy of 'Pray for Death' to see Limehouse Willie in action, but the late James Booth plays a villain so well, that we almost believe he was a terrible person in real life. What's Mr. Mulgrew's end game? You know… I don't really care. I'm sure it's blowing something up and getting a ransom or something, but it's kind of unimportant truth be told. I just know at the end of this he will need to be beat to death.

Sure enough, as feared, Sean gets captured but and it's basically all because of Brackston, and now he, Brackston and the pretty, super overdeveloped missionary they picked up (the late Robin Stille) are toast. I mean seriously, there is no way out. They are going to die for real. This kind of makes Sean Davidson the Worst American Ninja ever.

Fortunately Joe has finally gotten off his ass, at the 45 minute mark in this movie, and is in this jungle kicking ass and is getting around to rescuing the other lame American Ninja and stop Mulgrew from burning everybody to death. Even though he did allow that one guy to burn at the stake. I mean it would've been real easy to stop that. Oh well. Regardless, both American Ninja are unleashed, one will be kicking much ass and the other will have his hands completely full trying to fight a 75 year old British dude that has trouble standing up straight. Worst American Ninja Ever.

The problems with the previous movie are still here, such as a completely bland David Bradley, but a little less so time if only because his sidekick is even more lame than he is. Director Cedric Sundstrom was still fairly inept at his craft at this time, the action scenes are fairly awful, the pacing is wildly erratic, the story is almost impossible to follow, that is if you actually want to follow it which is not recommended, and the dialog is painful. And our two Ninja didn't actually fight on screen with each other until the end, and then that was only for a few seconds before the lame one ran off chasing after the 75 year old British guy. There was a scene where they actually faced off against each other… but we won't talk about that craziness.

BUT where Marjoe Gortner in American Ninja III was an abomination, James Booth in this one was a revelation. He was just awful in this movie. Any villain who knows full well that the priest roaming the grounds is a fake because he 'killed them all' is a pretty mean dude. And then when Dudikoff finally shows up, even though he had to deal with some odd Mad Max knock off side story in this movie, at least now we have a American Ninja movie that we somewhat recognize. And even the closing song is better in this one.

The magic is long gone, no denying that. No Curtis Armstrong, and the absence of the world's most incompetent kung fu action director in Sam Firstenberg is still sorely missed, but at least Dudikoff made it back one last time and we are happy for that. See you in about two years to close this thing out with American Ninja V: The Merciful End'.
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