One of the things I’ve learned while writing the Now the Hell Will Start screenplay is that it’s tough to make coincidences believable. They’re often necessary for the plot to move forward, alas, so you have to finesse them. You certainly don’t want audience members turning to each other to say, “Um, that wouldn’t happen in a million years.”
For this week’s Bad Movie Friday, I’d like to highlight a flick where the screenwriters definitely didn’t achieve even a scintilla of credibility: American Ninja. Now, I know what you’re thinking—”You’re actually trying to critique the logic in a Michael Dudikoff vehicle?” Okay, I hear ya—no one set out to make this thing into a mid-’80s version of Citizen Kane. But the coincidence at the heart of the movie still rankles, simply because it’s so entirely devoid of thought or care.
In a nutshell, Dudikoff plays a soldier who, as a child, was trained to be a ninja by a kindly old stranger. He is doing menial labor on an Army base when the colonel’s daughter is kidnapped by a gang of ninjas, who work for a local warlord. Complications ensue, but as you might guess, Dudikoff ends up going after the warlord and his ragtag, black-clad mercenaries (who are basically canon fodder, a la Imperial Stormtroopers).
And here’s where the coincidence kicks in: The warlord’s gardener just happens to be…the kindly old stranger who taught Dudikoff his ninja tricks.
This is the sort of smack-your-forehead coincidence that makes frickin’ Crash seem like a paragon of believability. That said, American Ninja could’ve been worse. Steve James turns in a classic sidekick performance, and Judie Aronson is delightfully over-the-top as the spoiled brat in distress. Plus, hey, the title doesn’t lie—no skimping on the ninjas here. If nothing else, it beats Death to Smoochy by a dozen lengths.