Saturday 24 May 2014

IMDb Bottom 100 Review – Number 84 American Ninja V

Unlike Chaka Khan once sang, in her undoubtedly delightful song 'Through the fire'; “We're through before we start” tonight's movie wasn't through until the very last credit had rolled. It's weird, that Chaka might not ever even have made Through the Fire, if she had been watching tonight's movie before she went to the studio. Really makes you think doesn't it? Doesn't it? It doesn't? No, I suppose you're right. What it does make you, however, is happy. Happy that you have a Flying Spaghetti Monster given right to pick and chose the movies you want to watch, because that means you can, at all costs, avoid...

Joe Kastle with a K does... something that's apparently ninja-y. 

Usually Illuminati stick to controlling world wealth and power. But once in a blue moon they take time out of their no doubt busy schedules, to troll the little folk such as you and to a smaller extent me. That's why this review is now in it's 3rd incarnation. Yes that's right. They managed to somehow corrupt the previous two documents, and while I've since found a possible solution to that particular problem, I had already deleted the documents in anger. So, with plenty further ado, here is this week's motherhumping review for your asswiping pleasure. Enjoy it, or by Job I'll have you flogged to within an inch of your indisputably meaningful and all too pleasant existence.

Being held hostage doesn't have to a bad thing. Magazines and witty banter is also an option.

When I was a wee lad in Trinidad or where ever I grew up, I used to go about my business in the most usual of fashions. My business happened to be general awesomeness. Yes, I was that kid. During my stint as a kid, I also watched the usual slew of adolescent minded movies. Most of Arnold's movies were popular, Police Academy was amusing (they aren't now) and I also remember laughing so hard at Space Balls, I literally thought I was going to pass out. I watched it later, and it just wasn't quite as amusing. Growing up sucks! Thankfully I can still enjoy He-Man cartoons, so there we are... I win either way. After going through several re-watchings of Predator and Commando, some of my friends and I went through lots of the quasi-popular action movies too. Stuff like Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill movies. I remember, even at the time, thinking those movies were kind of stupid. But still, there was some weird magnetic quality to watching a big fat ex-Olympic swimmer hit dudes over the head with a meaty fist, while some younger dude cracked wise. Slightly higher on the entertainment value ladder were the American Ninja movies. The word ninja in the title gave these movies an edge, because ninja was super cool and many a day had been spent dreaming about being a ninja. What ninjas actually did was of no concern of mine. They had black garments, could throw everything at hand in a lethal way and their asskicking levels were off the proverbial hook. I suspect this, and ONLY this is what gave the American Ninja movies their limited, but undeniable, popularity.

Evil military leader dude talks to the main main villain, Clement von You-know-who. 

When I say 'the American Ninja movies' I of course refer to the first, second, third and fourth. This leads me rather neatly to the first point of interest in today's feature: It's not really an American Ninja movie at all. It's actually American Dragon. Partly to cash in on the American Ninja franchise's popularity, and partly (I'd like to believe) because somebody with half a brain thought American Dragon just sounded too damn stupid, the movie was subsequently relabeled as American Ninja V and entered into American Ninja canon. Sadly, the damage was already done at that time, and the movie, as opposed to the previous 4 movies, did not adhere to the strict American Ninja bylaws put forth in the great American Ninja manifest, uh, written in ancient times and, uh, preserved by being handed from American Ninja father to American Ninja son. No, American Dragoninja V was actually sort of an action comedy, whereas I-IV were all serious movies. Or as serious as a movie featuring Michael Dudikoff can be. They were action dramas, in any case, and the fifth movie just went and totally ruined everything those four movies stood for. Also, it didn't even have Michael Dudikoff in the cast, something that hadn't happened since as far back as American Ninja III. So we knew it was serious right from the words American Ninja V.

Joe Kastle with a K lays down some ground rules. 

Anyway, I'll dispense with the niceties, and head straight to the action here. Because boy is there plenty of that. Alright, there actually isn't, and that's kind of sad, because it was really the one thing American Ninja V could possibly end up having working to its advantage. It features David Bradley as Joe Kastle. Mr. Bradley had appeared in American Ninja 3 AND American Ninja 4, so he was by no means an American Ninja rookie. I like typing American Ninja by the way, if that wasn't apparent. It's got a nice ring to it. American Ninja. Right. So Joe Kastle is a dude with close to no interesting features. He's just a dude, that does martial arts stuff. He is training a kid, not his, but just a kid. The kid, of course, is Asian. I don't even know if that's of course, but it seems like it would make sense to have as many Asians in auxiliary roles in a martial arts film, to compensate for the rather ludicrous concept of an American dude mentoring anybody in martial arts. Joe Kastle loafs about aimlessly most of the time, but still manages to attract the attention of a woman named Lisa. Lisa and Joe are totally going on a date on her boat, when the villain with the super tacky name Viper turns up, and kidnaps Lisa. You see, the thing is that Viper really wants to exploit the sweet new nerve gas developed by Dr. Strobel, but Dr. Strobel is not playing by the rules. He refuses to let Viper do evil things with a nerve gas he totally developed to do good in the world. So Viper resorts to the tried and tested tactic of kidnapping the good Doc's daughter. Now Viper holds all the cards, but in his ecstatic victory rush, he forgot one thing: When Joe Kastle goes on a motherfucking date, he intends to finish that motherfucking date. And he doesn't take kindly to serpently named long haired katana wielding cock smugglers kidnapping his date right as Joe Kastle was about to do what Joe Kastle does best: make sweet moves on the honeys. Joe Kastle anchor's the fuck up and gets to [insert generic tropically themed island here] to a) kick Viper ass, b) Save and/or smooch Lisa and c) Save the world. In any order.

Never one to miss an opportunity to show off, Joe Kastle with a K shows off. 

What ensues is about an hour of slightly bewildered running around of several characters. Gas attacks, sword fights, fisticuffs and forced dialogue all intertwined seamfully. Nothing makes sense. I don't know if it ever made sense to anybody, but it doesn't make sense now. I mean overall, sure. Joe Kastle = good, Viper = bad and Lisa = woman. What more is there to know? But the story. The story just doesn't hold up in court. I know I shouldn't expect too much. And I don't. And yet... I still kind of do. I can't help it, you guys. When I sit down to watch a movie 102 minutes long with, what I can only assume is, a few hundred thousand dollars backing it, I damn well expect somebody somewhere to be able to churn out a script that makes sense. I mean how hard can it be? I make sense all the time. It's not always super easy, but I still manage it. It just doesn't make sense that they can't ever make sense in these movies. It's mostly the fact, that lots of things just happen without explanation. That's what gets me the most. The small scenes where something happens that isn't explained, and/or doesn't mean anything later on. Jeebus. Anyway, Joe Kastle saves the world, the kid looks up to him, Lisa falls in love with him and the Doc gets to keep his nerve gas for use in some cause for good later. That I'm sure he'll work out.

My. Miyagi be 'mirin 

While the story, directing, acting, set pieces, music, costumes, fight choreography and writing pretty much blow goats in this production, at least we are treated to a regular plethora of bit actors we may or may not know from elsewhere. I'll start you off with the most famous. The standard goto for wise elderly Asian mentor types, we've got Pat Morita of Karate Kid fame. I think the guy pretty much played Mr. Miyagi his whole life, complete with Asian accent and martial art references, which is tragically ironic seeing as he was born in California and, for all intensive porpoises (They should change the expression officially. I like intensive porpoises better anyway) Pat Morita is an American. But there we are. Viper is played by James Lew, also of California birth, and while I don't honestly remember him specifically in anything else, he's got plenty of credits to his name. 117 as it happens. Big name, apparently. And then there is Clement von Franckenstein. For that is indeed his name. Excuse me, I'm fibbing here. That's not his name. No, his name is actually Clement George Freiherr von und zu Franckenstein. Yeah bitch. This cool cat is the son of Sir Franckenstein, born in 1878, formerly ambassador in London to Austria. Fled to London when the Nazis took over Austria in 1938, became a naturalized British subject, was knighted in 1938, met and married a British girl, had Clement George, and died, with his wife, in a plane crash in 1953. If that isn't an interesting story, kindly fax me an explanation of what is. Why don't they make a movie about that, instead? Clement was raised by friends of his parents, got educated at Eton and went to Hollywood to make a name for himself in the less glamorous world of bit-acting. That's where the Cinderella story ends, as his presence in this piece of shit will attest to. Von Franckenstein, you poor sod, you should've chosen your path differently. But who am I to judge. Perhaps Clement is literally bathed in money and glamor and chicks. And I'm bathed in writing reviews of shitty sub-standard movies. You win this one, von Franckenstein, but you haven't seen the last of me yet! Next week I'll be back again, and where will you be? In American Ninja 6, that's where.  

Joe Kastle with a K falconpunches Viper.


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