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American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (Blu-ray Review)

American-Ninja-2Actor Michael Dudikoff reprises his role as the ninja-skilled Joe Armstrong in American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, the sequel to the phenomenally successful American Ninja.  American Ninja 2: The Confrontation, directed by Sam Firstenberg (American Ninja) from a screenplay by Gary Conway and James Booth (from a story by Conway based on the characters created by Gideon Amir and Avi Kleinberger), is produced by Yoram Globus and Menahem Golan.  The film once again stars Michael Dudikoff (Avenging Force) and Steve James (The Delta Force) while welcoming in Larry Poindexter (Body Chemistry 4: Full Exposure) and Gary Conway (I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, and also wrote American Ninja 2) as the films ultimate baddie, Leo “The Lion” Burke.

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Film 

Joining Joe Armstrong on a mission to the Caribbean in search of Marines, is old pal Curtis Jackson. Like Joe, Curtis promoted to the Army Rangers. Quicker than you can say déjà vu, Joe and Curtis are battling scientifically-engineered Super Ninjas in an attempt to bring down a dreaded drug lord known as The Lion.

American Ninja 2: The Confrontation is more like it.  While it maintains much of the collective from the first film in front of an behind the camera, there’s just a different energy to this one.  Maybe it was brought in by the new stunt coordinator.  It features a very free, loose vibe that permeates into plenty of silliness, fun and pretty much non-stop action.

Whereas the first one took itself really seriously, American Ninja 2 lightens up.  Its a film that enjoys its own one liners and isn’t afraid to pop some jokes into fights (Like a bowling ball strike sound when Jackson frees himself of a group of attackers).  The film actually has fight choreography this time and plays with expectation and loves using its environment.  A highlight is a mid-film bar fight that breaks rails, smashes tables and busts bottles all over the place.

Another thing is, its silly.  This isn’t a masterful action film.  While I praised some choreography just now, its not all executed very well.  Some of it is good, some of it has charm and some of it fails and provides a good laugh.  Not everyone in the film is Steve James or Michael Dudikoff.  There are guys who are slugs at this and move really slow, to which you can just see them counting off in their heads and trying to keep on task with which move or blow to take next.  When you blend up all that, and throw in many more explosions and sword fights, American Ninja 2 winds up being a winner.

Helping things along is the camaraderie of Joe and Curtis.  This was Michael Dudikoff and Steve James third film in a row together (They did Avenging Force between American Ninjas), and you can tell they just love working together.  James is allowed to go for it a bit more in this one and Joe isn’t so stiff and stoic here as he provides some smiles, jokes and a little glimmer to his eye.  Also, if you look at the more colorful supporting cast (Including a very Ben Affleck-like young Larry Poindexter), you can tell the idea from Firstenberg this time around was “Eff it, lets just have some fun”.

American Ninja was a bigger success and more praised than American Ninja 2.  However, as time would have it, the sequel is a much more enjoyable watch.  If you’re going to have your trashy, silly action movie, it needs to be over the top, cheesey, big and non-stop.  American Ninja 2: The Confrontation really is all of those things.  This is that fun beer, popcorn and friends movie to have one.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  I’m guessing if you’re reading these reviews one by one, you’re going to get tired of me mentioning that this is from likely the same master as the 88 Films UK release.  Its pretty much similarly detailed and as crisp as that one, yet just slightly darker in look.  Its going to be a matter for personal preference on who likes what better.  No matter, American Ninja 2 probably looks as good as its going to for the foreseeable future, and that’s just fine. 

Depth:  Once again, pretty average depth.  Movements are good and cinematic, and its free and loose enough, but could have been better.

Black Levels:  Blacks a deeper than the previous release of the film, but still a nice job in shading.  Some detail is lost in the dark and black colored surfaces, hair, clothing, but no crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Once again, its not that the film is devoid of color, but its heavy on more natural or “regular” looking colors.  Everything is represented quite well and more naturalistic.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain that consistency throughout the length of the film.  Close-ups fare best when it comes to more precise facial details like stubble, wrinkles, make-up and sweat.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is some grain as well as dirt/specs in some places.  Overall, a nice looking print.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Stereo DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Once again, I’m certain this is the same audio track that the last one had.  And its suits it pretty good as they are very similar in terms of quality.  Its a good stereo mix this time, featuring some good movement as well as volume placement.  A clean loose, action-friendly presentation.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clear, accurate and a good accompaniment to the music and effects in the film.

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Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director Sam Firstenberg – A new commentary recorded for the Olive Films release.

An American Ninja In Cape Town: The Making Of American Ninja 2 (HD, 16:53) – Featuring interviews with director Sam Firstenberg, actors Michael Dudikoff and Gary Conway, executive producer Avi Lerner and stunt coordinator BJ Davis.  One-upping 88 Films, Olive Films has their own retrospective here that is pretty comparable in quality to the one on the first film’s bonus material.  A nicely put together piece on this fun sequel.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:34) 

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Summary 

I much prefer this sequel to the original, as it seems to stand the test of time better.  Coming to Blu-ray in America it stands tall as well.  Olive Films provides a nice supplemental package as well as a rock solid transfer of the film in terms of good audio and solid picture.  They are also offering all the American Ninja films at kinda a steal price for pre-order right now.  If you’re a fan and don’t have the UK releases, this is an easy pick up for you.  Those already owning the 88 Films release may just want to see if you have a friend who will let you watch the bonus material so you can see it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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