Michael Dudikoff returns in American Ninja 2: The Confrontation. New to Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber who has pulled out all the stops for the ‘80s Cannon Film Action Thriller.
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation is to the American Ninja series what Winter Soldier was to the Captain American trilogy. As I said in my review of the original American Ninja, and it’s equally applicable here;
Nothing said the 80’s and 90’s like non-Asian dudes doing martial arts films. Guys like Norris, Van Damne, Seagal, Wilson, and MICHAEL DUDIKOFF. Dudikoff was a guy who screamed 80’s the way that Neon and Jan Hammer screamed the 80’s. American Ninja is a time capsule of exactly what Middle America loved and wanted from its action films; white dudes taking care of business, backed up by a much more capable African American “sidekick”, add lots and lots of Uzis, explosions and most importantly NINJAS and MARTIAL ARTS!
You add the magic that was producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Producers of such B-Movie classics Firewalker, Sahara, Lifeforce, and The Stuff!!! As relics of a bygone era the series has the sort of clichéd story arcs people make jokes and punch lines about. The American Ninja series never winks though. Each of the films is earnest in the execution. There isn’t irony in these films. Golan and Globus made sure of that. More to the point, no one ever felt they were above the work.
American Ninja 2: The Confrontation takes all those strange storytelling mechanics and works it to an even greater (re: loonier) effect. It feels like the World Domination plan comes out of left field in the third act. Yes, there are subtle hints at it but so subtle I dare anyone to rewatch the sequel and tell me how we get from point A (thinking it’s just another drug-dealing baddie) to point Z (world domination plan that would make Shredder and the Foot Clan proud). The film is better off for it though. The insanity out of nowhere turn works for what you think is going to be the “same old story”.
Yes, it’s wildly ridiculous but that is the fun of The Confrontation and the entire series and just how much of a product of its time they are. Dudikoff and James are the centers of the series (with the exception of the third) and the chemistry they have is on par with the great “buddy cop” duos of the era. One just wishes Golan and Globus understood what they had in the duo and paired them together on everything they did before James’s untimely passing.
As it stands now American Ninja 2: The Confrontation is one of the high watermark of Cannon Films Action Extravaganzas!
Much like Kino’s work on the original American Ninja, the film appears to be a new Master/Transfer. The image is sharp with a beautiful grain structure. Cannon films often were never the best shot films but here the image photographed by Gideon Porath is colorful imagery that convincingly has South Africa playing the Caribbean. The resulting transfer is a beautiful representation of the film giving it the look of a freshly struck 35mm archival print.
They include the following;
- Audio Commentary by Director Sam Firstenberg and Stunt Coordinator BJ Davis
- Audio Commentary by Director Sam Firstenberg, Moderated by Filmmaker/Editor Elijah Drenner
- An American Ninja in Cape Town: The Making of American Ninja 2
- Theatrical Trailer
The first archival Audio Commentary by Director Sam Firstenberg and Stunt Coordinator BJ Davis begins with a discussion about filming in Cape Town South Africa and the opening sequence. Some of the details include how different it was when trying to cast stunt performers in South Africa; the reasons why Firstenberg did not direct the 3rd film and how Davis almost directed the film; the infamous cut to Dudikoff’s stand-in’s face – and how it occurred; the great white shark issues while filming on the South African coast; Dudikoff not being a martial artist and the skills sets he had that made him a great mimic; the various stunt performers – both famous and not so famous that populate the film throughout; the stunt work and set pieces – how they were directed, developed, and achieved; where they took inspiration from for the action scenes; and much more. Like the first commentary track, Firstenberg and Davis deliver a fascinating, informative, and entertaining commentary.
The second archival Audio Commentary by Director Sam Firstenberg, Moderated by Filmmaker/Editor Elijah Drenner is a continuation of their conversation on American Ninja. Some of the details include how he was offered Avenging Force in the wake of the success of American Ninja – because there was no sequel prepared for American Ninja; a nice side discussion about the production of Avenging Force – and his preference for that movie even though it was not as successful; filming in South Africa during the end of Apartheid – the reality of that situation; another discussion of the infamous cut to Dudikoff’s stand-in’s face – and how it occurred; the various cities and locations they used during the production; working with Gary Conway an actor and screenwriter – on development of American Ninja 2; the reasons why the Conway and not the original became attached rather than the original director; the original idea which was similar to the story for 3 Ninjas; how Avi Lerner began his relationship with Cannon Films with this film; a larger discussion about Lerner and his relationship with Golan and Globus; and much more. The sequel commentary track is as entertaining and fun as the first conversation between Drenner and Firstenberg with Drenner guiding the conversation to the areas that fans want to know about the production.
An American Ninja in Cape Town: The Making of American Ninja 2 (16:35) – a companion piece to the archival making-of featurette on American Ninja, is the same sort of detailed look at the sequel. Beginning with how Cannon brought the sequel together in the wake of the success of the original while Firstenberg and Dudikoff were filming Avenging Force and their excitement. Some of the details include Firstenberg finishing Avenging Force editing and going straight to American Ninja 2; the troubles they found in South Africa – the lack of experienced crews; the work of stunt performer/actor Mike Stone – who was of the only few key performers they brought; the way the film was developed – keeping the exact formula as the original; some entertaining anecdotes from the production; and much more. Like the first featurette, this is a great slickly produced making-of. Featuring interviews with with Actors Michael Dudikoff and Gary Conway; Executive Producer Avi Lerner; Stunt Coordinator BJ Davies; Director Sam Firstenberg; and others.
Rounding out the special features are trailers for American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1:34); American Ninja (1:50); Avenging Force (1:19); Platoon Leader (1:37); River of Death (2:05); Enter the Ninja (2:54); Revenge of the Ninja(1:42); The Challenge (2:14)
The Final Thought
As with American Ninja, delivered an excellent updated edition of American Ninja 2: The Confrontation. Highest recommendations!