By Jelani Harper,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Predictable martial arts movie not for kids.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Bad role models.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of death and fighting.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this movie is enshrouded in death. Violence breaks out roughly every 10 minutes, from regular duke-it-out escapades to high-tech rocket launchers and machine gun fire. There's a fair amount of cursing as well; although it doesn't occur regularly, it helped to earn the movie's "R" rating.
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Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
Mysterious drifter Joe (Michael Dudikoff) has joined up with Uncle Sam overseas, where his taciturn attitude and unique fighting skills make him an anomaly around the good ol' boys. He soon enough finds time to fall for the colonel's daughter while tipping off a sinister weapons-selling scam -- orchestrated by the army's big wigs and enforced by an unlimited supply of ninjas. But with a little help from his newfound friends, Joe is able to vanquish hundreds of would-be assassins and restore his country's good name--with the girl and all.
Is It Any Good?
Technically, AMERICAN NINJA would be considered an action/adventure flick, heavy on the drama with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure; but it's a bit more of a mess than that. The movie plays more like a comedy with its overabundance of senseless violence that swiftly goes from funny to hysterical with each new kick, thrust, and explosion. Add in a few noticeably un-Oscar worthy acting performances, some great stereotyping of cultures and characters, and good ol' fashioned American patriotism and you have a cutting edge martial arts cinema experience -- 20 years ago.
Aside from its 1985-esque stunts, cheesy scoring and odd slow-motion effects, NINJA has more plot than most of the movie's four other progenies. And when NINJA takes a break from all the Ninjitsu tossing violence, it actually touches on a few decent philosophical points. There are one-liners about controlling energy, freeing the mind of thought and enhancing the physical (and otherwise) senses, which of course is the essence of the martial arts depicted. But before the intellectual stimulation becomes too overbearing, lo and behold there's another body to bludgeon and cheap thrills to take its place. Bottom line: There is no reason for your kids to watch this.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the fantastic nature of the "action" (read violence). Basic, sensible observations such as, "There's no way all 50 of those guys could shoot at him and miss", or "Those 30 ninjas wouldn't really wait in line to get clobbered by those two guys" may aid to clear the line between entertainment and reality.
- In theaters: August 30, 1985
- On DVD or streaming: October 2, 2001
- Cast: Julie Aronson, Michael Dudikoff, Steve James
- Director: Sam Firstenberg
- Studio: MGM/UA
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence
- Last updated: December 10, 2022
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