American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt took things in a pretty different direction. Director Sam Firstenberg and leading man Michael Dudikoff did not return for this third entry in the series, but co-star Steve James did and this time he shared the spotlight with David Bradley (in his first starring role). So yeah, different director, different star. It makes sense then that the movie would have a different tone.
The film starts off a bit like Enter The Dragon in that somewhere in the tropics on a remote island, a martial arts tournament in which only the best of the best can compete is being held. Representing the good ol' U.S. of A are Sean Davidson (David Bradley) and Curtis Jackson (Steve James). Never short on confidence, Curtis figures they're a shoe in for the win, but before they can settle all of that, trouble is afoot! As the tournament begins, Sean and Curtis wind up getting into a brawl with a gang of ninjas, which is pretty much a telltale sign that something bad is happening.
As it turns out, a man known only as The Cobra (played by Marjoe Gortner of all people) leads a local crime ring. In order to expand his operations he's working on a top secret virus that, when unleashed on the unsuspecting public, will allow him to… control stuff he doesn't already control. Those ninjas that Sean and Curtis got into the scrap with are in The Cobra's employ, as is a beautiful female ninja named Chan Lee (Michelle B. Chan), but they're only the tip of the iceberg. The local authorities know that The Cobra controls the purse strings around town, so they're not going to do anything to stop this crazed madman from unleashing his deadly work! That leaves Curtis and Sean to deal with things their way.
David Bradly is not a bad choice to replace Dudikoff in this third film, but the fact of the matter is that he's just not Dudikoff. The chemistry that existed between Dudikoff and James that made the first two movies so much fun is missing here. Having said that, Bradley handles himself with a lot more panache in the fight scenes that Dudikoff was ever able to and he's possibly a better actor when it comes to the more dramatic scenes thrown at him, but that chemistry… it's hard to describe. When Dudikoff and James you got the impression you were watching to buddies out having a good time busting heads. Here, Bradley and James seems more like they're out on assignment. Which is fine, and probably more realistic in a lot of ways, but it's not quite as fun and that hurts this one a bit. Additionally, new series director Cedric Sundstrom (who would come back for the forth film), doesn't seem to have as much control over things as Sam Firstenberg did in the first two entries. There were logic gaps aplenty and preposterous situations in those films too but here they're a little more obvious, maybe because we don't have that aforementioned chemistry to distract us from the film's flaws.
Now all is not completely lost here. Seeing Marjoe Gortner play a super criminal is pretty fun. He chews the scenery with plenty of reckless enthusiasm and while he's a questionable and odd choice to play the heavy, he makes the part his own. Additionally, Michelle B. Chan (who would star in the TV series' Hotel and Danger Bay and make a guest appearance of two on MacGuyver) is pretty great as the female ninja out to wreak havoc.
Once again shot in South Africa (like the second film), the scenery is nice and it gives the movie a somewhat exotic look. The storyline is pretty predictable and not all that original but the movie does at least ensure that it crams in enough well shot and fairly violent fight scenes every few minutes. The film is flawed, but it is at least a reasonably entertaining time killer.The Blu-ray:
American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt arrives on Blu-ray from Olive Films in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer from in the film's original aspect ratio of 1.85.1. Colors are reproduced quite well here and they look consistently natural, as do skin tones. Some of the softness that was inherent in the transfers for the first two films is done away with here, the picture is just a bit tighter and crisper. Detail is quite good and once again offers a nice step up from past DVD editions. Likeiwse, the image is very clean throughout, there isn't much in the way of print damage to discuss here at all. You'll notice film grain, as you should, but no serious print damage, whatever elements were used were obviously in good shape. Black levels are pretty solid here and there are no problems at all with any edge enhancement or noise reduction.Sound:
The only audio option for the feature is an English language Stereo track presented in DTS-HD 2.0 lossless format. There are no alternate language options, although English subtitles are provided. There are no issues here, this track isn't fancy at all but it gets the job done without any issues. Balance is good, depth and range are solid and the dialogue and score both sound quite nice. No issues with any hiss or distortion to note some occasional power and 'oomph' behind the score helps to accentuate the action sequences well.Extras:
The extras on this disc include a featurette entitled Strike Me Deadly: The Making Of American Ninja 3, which is a fourteen minute piece that is made up of interviews with Michael Dudikoff, director Cedric Sundstrom, executive producer Avi Lerner, and actor Gary Conway. Dudikoff talks about why he wasn't in this one, while the producers discuss their intentions to go back to the American Ninja well a third time, this time with none other than Harry Alan Towers in the producer's chair. There's a bit of talk here about the locations but more focus on David Bradley and Steve James taking the leads here. This is pretty interesting stuff and definitely worth watching.
Outside of that we get a trailer for the feature, seven minutes of tape sourced David Bradley audition footage taken from the original casting sessions, menus and chapter selection.Final Thoughts:
American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt is a definite step down from the first two films, but it has its moments. Steve James and David Bradley handle themselves well in the fight scenes and seem to do the best they can with a mediocre script. The action scenes are decent and there's still plenty of entertainment here, just keep your expectations in check. Olive's Blu-ray release looks and sounds quite good and the featurette is very interesting. Recommended for fans of the series, a solid rental for everyone else.