The Conflagration

Ninjas alone weren’t enough to sell a movie by 1987. American Ninja 2 institutes the idea of “Super Ninjas,” genetically altered martial artist commandos who obey the rule of their drug lord. Know that before Sharknado dribbled into the pantheon of schlock cinema, someone pitched a movie about an island of drug protecting, genetically altered ninjas who fight the US Marine Corps. and lose.

So yes, American Ninja the franchise was DOA by the second movie of five.

Steve James takes a thicker chunk of this sequel’s screen time, a good thing as his blaxsploitation-like personality snugly fits into this beautiful nonsense. Michael Dudikoff’s purposefully flat, often stone-faced gestures bounce off American Ninja 2’s kookiness. Thus, the movie pulls a bit from buddy cop scenarios – comedic relief and the straight man – and injects a street smart kid. Temple of Doom’s influence, certainly.

American Ninja 2 chooses to mock its own weirdness.

It’s all cheese, but infectious cheese. Self-depreciating enough to earn a light reprieve, American Ninja 2 chooses to mock its own weirdness. With immediacy, the sheer happenstance which leads two soldiers into another battle with sword toting ninja douses itself in laughs. Disbelief on the part of a Marine Sargent acts as the logic anchor where otherwise, there would be none.

Entangling the military and ninjas for a second time, the series’ cultural appropriation goes further, manipulating ideology into this bizarre, certainly American bit of pop entertainment. Senseless and illogical, the film eradicates any existence of its Japanese lineage, as if the direct-to-video industry hadn’t done so already by 1987. Dudikoff is left slowly (slooowly) kicking and slashing supposed uber-ninjas embedded with power DNA (but lack proper defense). It’s hilarious.

Continuity isn’t important. Steve James’ Curtis Jackson became a super fighter during his movie off-season. Dudikoff’s Joe Armstrong let go of his amnesia, if not the quiet depression such a condition caused. Love interests reset, and news of the massacre from American Ninja never spread – Jackson and Armstrong are unknowns.

Critically lost is the zest, probably the soul of the first American Ninja. Maybe it was just the budget. American Ninja 2 notably shrivels. Fewer explosives and increasingly claustrophobic sets, each hosting rushed, lackadaisical choreography. Pure hooey in that earnest, harmless style video store shelves indirectly created.

American Ninja 2 Blu-ray screen shot 2


Contrast begins far too hot, bleaching the sky and motorcycle lights as they cruise an ocean side cliff. While reoccurring for an instance or two, the issue passes.

The concerns of a lower budget follow into the film stock, notably rougher with heavier grit. Olive’s Blu-ray encode handles the situation well enough. A solid green wall hanging in the third act introduces chroma noise, albeit minor. Print damage takes on various forms, generally inoffensive. Brief problems rise into a higher degree of impact, including severe vertical scratches for a handful of frames during a party.

Absent are modern color adjustments, leaving American Ninja 2 up and down in terms of saturation. Flesh tones waver between overly bright and flattened. Primaries hit their marks and then fade out in the next scene.

So too goes fine detail, dying out or gaining momentum scene-to-scene. It’s possible the crew used multiple film stocks. Some close-ups produce firm fidelity, if mirroring that of an older, less capable master.


Volume sits lower than usual for this one, maybe an attempt to blot out the heavy static evident in the opening scene. With even a slight volume adjustment, damage is clear.

Otherwise, the DTS-HD mono track will suffice. The disc lists stereo but directionality isn’t noted. Corny sound effects and a primarily synth-based score survive through the years leading to this Blu-ray. Any faults have no impact on dialog.


Director Sam Firstenberg takes up the task of a solo commentary. Those seeking something shorter can view the pleasing 17-minute featurette An American Ninja in Capetown.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

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Hokey, campy, and all manner of cheese, American Ninja 2 still has a spark for lovers of direct-to-VHS ninja cinema.

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Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process. Patreon supporters were able to access these screens early, view them as .pngs, and gain access to exclusives.

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