American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (Blu-ray Review)

American-Ninja-4American Ninja star Michael Dudikoff returns for the fourth installment in the popular martial-arts/action series,American Ninja 4: The Annihilation.  American Ninja 4: The Annihilation, directed by Cedric Sundstrom (American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt) from a screenplay by David Geeves based on the characters created by Gideon Amir and Avi Kleinberger, is produced by Christopher Pearce.  The film, along with the rest of the movies in the American Ninja franchise, will be release on Blu-ray (Making their American debut to the format) from Olive Films on August 23rd!



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Teamed with CIA operative Sean Davidson, Joe Armstrong is out to help foil the plans of Mulgrew, a terrorist hell-bent on annihilating New York City.

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, American Ninja 4: The Annihilation feels like “one last ride” for the American Ninja franchise.  Cannon Films was all but extinct at this point and wouldn’t be around much longer after this film.  Its the grand return of of Michael Dudikoff and the pairing of both stars of the series teaming up for one last mission.  Its not greatness, but its well and satisfying enough.

The story is told in an odd fashion.  I don’t know if it was made this way by design, by shooting schedules or by ego filling.  We start the film with Sean Davidson for the the first half and then bring on Joe Armstrong to come and save the day.  Its almost like we get one movie that works its way up until its third act and then passes the torch to a different movie that works its way to a third act that they both share.  Instead of teaming up Joe and Sean, the movie builds to that moment, saving it for the finale.

Sean’s story is much more “same ol same ol” for the franchise.  Joe’s side of the narrative is far more entertaining as it hits the crazy button a little.  Joe’s storyline takes an odd turn that sends him into Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome territory.  Its so strange and out of place that I welcome it.  The action frequency, weirdness, violence and overall feel of the film is much more in line with the second film.  This one doesn’t reach those heights, but is still quite entertaining for that reason.

Steve James missing from this film is a crying shame.  Its the one thing that holds this film back from ultimate satisfaction.  He was apparently in an early draft and the replaced with a different character because they didn’t want Jackson to have to choose a side between Joe and Sean (Joe…duhhhh!).  Instead we get a replacement character that is a weak ass bozo and and really adds nothing to the proceedings.

American Ninja 4 definitely steps it up from the previous film and gives one last decent adventure.  I guess the rule is, if Dudikoff is in it, you’re in a solid time.  This fourth entry may not be as good or competent a film as the first one, but I think its a more entertaining watch.  Its the longest of the bunch, but you need to pad it out because you’re fitting in two American Ninjas in one movie, right?  A nice little capper the series, I just wish Steve James was a part of it.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  For the 4th and final time; same master, picture is a bit darker.  Details are quite good on things like wet streets and battered/knicked/dirty surfaces.  American Ninja 4: The Annihilation looks better than it ever has.

Depth:  Matching the rest, you get a rather average look, with cinematic movements and good enough spacing in foreground/background and between people and objects.

Black Levels:  Once again, solid blacks, some detail lost in darker areas, but no big loss.  No crushing witness during this view.

Color Reproduction:  This is a bit more colorful than the other films, if not for the main reason than there are a lot of different looking ninja outfits in this one.  Its got that same South African look to the film, but luckily ninjas come in the form of red, blue and yellow to liven up the picture.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones take natural shape and maintain that look from scene to scene.  Close-ups provide the best gaze at facial detail with likes to stubble, cuts, bruises, sweat and wrinkles.

Noise/Artifacts:  Specs/dirt as well as some nice grain


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

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Once again, this is the same (or at least I’m pretty certain) 2.0 mix on the previous release.  Its good in delivering the action and having a healthy balance of score, effects and dialogue.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is loud, clear and features good diction.

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Last Tango In Lesotho: The Making Of American Ninja 4 (HD, 14:09) – Featuring interviews with director Cedric Sundstrom, executive producer Avi Lerner and actor Michael Dudikoff.  This very brief, very Sundstrom-heavy piece, is the weakest of the 4 retro docs, but still fun and informative.  I think Dudikoff might actually talk longer on the one for part 3, which is a movie he wasn’t even a part of.

“The Cobra Strikes” Music Video (HD, 4:15) – The song from the 3rd film with a montage of scenes from the series.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:22) – The up function on the remote is locked out when cursor is placed on this option.

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American Ninja 4 is the last “real” American Ninja film (The fifth was originally something else, then retitled for its release).  Olive Films has done a good job giving this a solid transfer and a nice bit of extras that’ll top the UK release of the film.  Seeing how they’ve treated this series, one gets the feeling that Olive Films has been listening to their criticisms in the past, taking notes and are now improving. Its exciting.



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a 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. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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