By: John M Jerva
Welcome to FOOT FIST FRIDAYS! A weekly dose of fight action where the Action-Flix.com experts share their thoughts on some of the greatest scenes of fisticuffs in action cinema history!
This week, I delve into the 1987 martial arts classic American Ninja 2: The Confrontation directed by legendary filmmaker Sam Firstenberg and featuring the reurn of Michael Dudikoff as Army soldier and resident Ninja bad ass Joe Armstrong. The stakes are high and Armstrong must take on the most lethal Ninja assassin alive known as Tojo Ken played by stunt pro and martial arts master Mike Stone. Their epic clash is this week’s edition of Fist Foot Fridays!
Last week, I had the distinct honor of interviewing iconic 80’s and 90’s action director Sam Firstenberg for a second time on my little old site and while this time we talked about some of his action hits from the 90’s, it got me thinking of what was one of my most favorite films that he has done. It didn’t take long for me to think of the 1986 sequel American Ninja 2: The Confrontation which stars Michael Dudikoff and the late great Steve James as they return to take out more Ninjas who are this time super clones being regenerated in a lab from kidnapped American Marines.
Armstrong and Jackson arrive to a paradise island and immediately become thrust into a worldwide conspiracy where a madman known as The Lion is turning our servicemen into unstoppable Ninja killing machines. This is going to be one tough mission. For anyone else it would be suicide but for these two warriors, it’s just a Saturday afternoon.
I was born in 1972 and that means I was able to enjoy all the wonderful action hits that were coming out at the time and this was an era where more indie fare like AN2 was still being released in theaters nationawide. This film came out during the heyday of Cannon Films and it is by far superior to the original and I think the first film is a classic. In today’s times, these types of films would just go straight to DVD and at most get a limited theatrical release but back then, these films flooded the cinema market. I remember it like it was yesterday as my wonderful mom took me to see the film and just like the first one, Dudikoff was in top form and even though he didn’t know martial arts when he got the role originally, he definitely trained hard and looked the part of a Ninja master who just happens to be from America.
The second film is loaded with incredible action set pieces and the action is amped up to the 10th degree including the finale which sees Dudikoff’s Armstrong taking on an army of Ninja clones on his way to the eventual showdown with the best of the best in Tojo Ken played by veteran stuntman, fight coordinator and martial arts pro Mike Stone.
To make things even cooler, the entire fight takes place in an indoor arena where many have fallen before and here these two killing machines will go toe to toe and when the dust settles, only one will be left standing with his bloody sword in hand.
These days, fight choreography has certainly evolved and even though these films don’t look like newer ones, they still featured blistering choreography and the second film surpassed the first with its lightning paced thrills and unarmed and armed combat. Sure there were still firefights but it was all about the martial arts here and Dudikoff and Stone left it all on the battlegound with one of the best scrapes from that decade.
Firstenberg was a trend setter for modern day action directors and during this time frame, he owned the Ninja subgenre with this movie, the first American Ninja as well as Revenge Of The Ninja and Ninja 3: The Domination which featured Sho Kosugi. Firstenberg knew how to shoot action and you can see his flair in the works of those working in the industry today.
Now in the immortal words of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Destroyer, “Enough Talk!” It’s time to watch Armstrong and Tojo Ken center the ring in the epic and climatic match from American Ninja 2: The Confrontation!