Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Ninjas and Coincidence

April 17th, 2009 · 8 Comments

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.


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8 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    These kinds of films are always a bit baffling, in as much as a whole bunch of people collectively decided that it was a good idea to invest time, energy and money into the endeavor. And that the work managed to proceed far enough that no one was willing to go against the flow and say “Um… this looks like a really terrible idea. Maybe we should rethink it.”

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    The top-credited writer, Paul de Mielche, does not appear to have any other screenplay credits to his name. However, he seems to have branched into books a few years after “American Ninja,” with this gem:


    Then again, perhaps there’s more than one Paul de Mielche out there. Seems unlikely, though.

  • Jordan

    That seems like an expensive way to find out that a writer can’t actually write. Maybe that’s part of what’s good about blogs. Provides a cheap proving ground.

    In addition, what are we going to do when the guy who does all of the movie preview voice-overs dies? The world will be a significantly less intense place.

  • Lennox

    Much like Ghost Dad, I loved American Ninja when I was a kid. I almost watched the link Brendan posted, just like I almost downloaded all the American Ninja movies to have a little revival. But while I want to watch these movies I feel hesitant because I don’t want to destroy my good feelings towards these works of.. uh.. whatever they are.

  • Tony Comstock


    I’m always encouraged by how generous audiences are, especially if you put a little effort in at the top to get them on your side.

  • keith

    Ah yes, thanks for the immediate transport to my pre-teen fascination with all things Ninja. While American Ninja was a top priority back then, it failed in its ability to wow a youthful me, unlike Enter the Ninja and the greatness that is Sho Kusugi. I am shamed to admit that I have to dogs…Golan and Globus…

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @keith: Glad I could guide you down memory lane. I also shouted out another Golan/Globus classic a few weeks back, as part of my series on Soviet-invasion flicks:


  • Feel the Chemistry

    […] quasi-legendary Sam Firstenberg (aka the man who gave birth to that cinematic abomination known as American Ninja). While Firstenberg may have some action chops, we feel like the clip above pretty much proves that […]