Saturday, July 15, 2006

American Ninja

Dear Michael Dudikoff,
------I’ve been a fan of yours for many an aeon (or at least the quantification of a singular spin on the Earth’s rotational rump), but this is my first time writing you. I should say, this is the first epistolary that can be met with the applause of empiricism, for I feel I have written you many times in the past - an extent so elongated that every thought to have glided across the tundra of cognizance seems to have aimed it’s tentacles in your direction.

Directly, or indirectly. Via the belts of excessive allegory, or the geography of Ulan Bator. They’ve acted as some sort of enigmatic tribute, a ceaseless ego caress, to your deep-rooted merits. Merits, I can only guess, that were tessellated into the omniscient fragments of Dudikoff by a grand narrator back in some esoteric antiquity. How those appendages burrowed into each speck of overblown prose retched onto the digitalia by myself is unknown; it savours it’s mystery and I for one do not wish to enact theft on it’s abstract possessions.

No, that type of ignoble behaviour does not fellate my senses. Rather than solicit solutions to perplexing paradoxes, or squeeze out the satisfying rejoinders to metaphysical riddles, I’d prefer to fondle and shape your inner-voice for a few moments to the tune of American Ninja.

As you’re all too aware, this piece of cinema was spawned from the uterus of Cannon Films in 1985 (and how proud I am to share a birth date with such an event), and featured yourself smothered in the guise of Joe Armstrong, a rebellious upstart living as an armed forces peon in the swelter of the post-Nam, pre-Gorbachev Cold War, in the rurality of The Philippines. With edgy histrionics, various military shipments are being pilfered by armed insurgents and a bunch of local ninjas, often leaving behind a slipstream of cadaveric extras.

With the escalation of iniquity in the Pacific tropic, you enter to rescue the days and the nights from the peccant fingers of our big bad personage, the arrogant Ortega - presumably some supercilious reference to Daniel Ortega, but we’ll ignore that as I’ll assume that the red lineages of the Sandinistas swerve around your capillaries from nightfall to sunset.

Veering into the brief pit-stop of brazen jowls and audacious verbiage, I’ll slash an end to this synopsis before your pride becomes entangled in the spears of condescension. Simply allow me the cavity necessary to remark some explications, allow me to knight myself the onus of providing the required delineations of your role in that aforementioned movie.

Quite clearly, as you trundle the landscapes as the eponymous hero, you are, with the shavings of doubt gracing the dirt, the crux of the happenings here. And you revel as the star at the centre of this universe. Following an early gestation sans violence, you are thrust into an ambush situation where the hoards of insurrectionists attempt to take control of a military consignment - but you ain’t having any of it. Some petulant pokes and you waste no time erupting the volcano of ninja goodies. In a smoky nebula, the magma of punches and the sulphur of kicks are bounded around as if you were an anthropomorphic Java.

But the restraint of limbs poses no problem for your own ingenuity when it comes to the physical brawlings. Imagine my awe as you were able to utilise a screwdriver to dispatch a nearby miscreant, then go on to deal death to a nefarious duo by the flight of a few tire irons. Then suddenly some degenerate makes off with the truck at the centre of this debacle, but whereas your average recruit would sneer at the very idea, you wasted no time departing after it on foot. A quick jump-cut and you’ve accessed the rear of that vehicular beast. Poised on the roof, and swinging a chain complete with hooks either end, you proceed to smash the chain’s sharp tail through the windscreen, wrap in onto the steering wheel, and cause the truck to veer off the dirt road - all while blinded by the malaise of angles pummelling peripheral vision.

For much of the early scenes, you are a loner amongst the thriving comradeship on the army base. I can only perceive this as an examination of the existential man, yourself being he who meanders a world without meaning, a solitary mortal fumbling about with myopic resolve. Like Camus says in the afterword to The Outsider (I’ll assume you’ve read it): “the hero of the book [Meursault] is condemned because he doesn’t play the game.” That is, the game of life, of societal relations, of convention, of doctrinal self-deception, of sightless ignorance. Tommy Lee Jones attempted to inject such profundity into his recent directorial outing of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (I’ll assume you’ve seen it), including passing about copies of Camus’ novel to the various cast members. But that didn’t quite capture the turbulence of the metaphysical and the existential like American Ninja does.

Moving from that extreme, you showed another side, that of fellowship. Following gifting a beating to a rambunctious corporal, you and he ignite a vibrant friendship. The muscular Jackson becomes the Tango to your Cash, the Morgan Freeman to your Brad Pitt, the Use Your Illusion I to your Use Your Illusion II. It’s a flamboyant turnaround, and especially stark after all that existential anguish. But it’s welcome to see such homoerotic handshakes, shoulder-rubs and bare-chested head-stroking. All set to very a romantic background - all that jungle fauna and verdant brown. I’m amazed Mr Dudikoff.

Scenery like that makes one think of what Tarkovsky’s debut Ivan’s Childhood (I’ll assume you’ve seen it) would have been like had it been set south of the equator instead of Eastern Europe. All those beautiful snow-covered forest shots would be transposed to the sort of jungle flora you’d expect Arnie to be mudding himself in.

One scene has you heading off to a tryst secretly arranged by the lovely Patricia, but a problem is impregnated into the situation care of a corrupt superior: how do you escape the camp when confined by orders from above to not escape it?

With ease, says you. Taking the reins of your buddy’s superbike - and dressed in the sort of military get-up that’d put Eisenhower to shame - you circle the barracks for a moment before choosing your runway, which is a conveniently placed slope leaning against the outer wall of the enclosure. To the trumpet calls of patriotism, you take flight over the wall, while at the same time temporarily changing both your hair and face in-flight, and then returning to your hitherto state upon touchdown. An impressive metamorphosis; perhaps Kafka should have set his tale (I’ll assume you’ve read it) completely in the saddle of a motorcycle stunt.

The later cascading elements of narrative have you peering south with vivid vision at the all the bad people from the elevated recesses of rooftops, like a Spiderman, or a Brundlefly. Only with more silken entanglements than the former, and more vomit than the latter.

Your fighting skills astound me, such oomph for such a young man. Your fists dance in furious arabesques, knocking the technicolour from the machine-gun-grasping anonyms you are opposing. Your textured legs kick with vivaciousness; vigorous like the peddle-notes in Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (I’ll assume you’ve heard it). But most resolutely gripping my skin with the need to be retained is your magnificent lack of emotive countenances through the whole ninety-five minutes. Rarely would any extraneous activity penetrate that visage of calm pasted onto your head. With cool-blue eyes and a face unaffected and impassive, you proceed to kick posteriors and save the day - a day that includes your lady friend.

It only remains for me to visit upon you my gratitude that you saw fit to make this movie an exploration of deep philosophical quandaries - but one which radiates humanity on top of that. It is a positive step in the direction of civilisation that you bestowed this on us, for in the end we are all but alluvium on the banks of the River Dudikoff.

With globules of love, Aaron Fleming


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