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Prime-Time Flicks

January 09, 1994|Kevin Thomas

Slicing and dicing their adversaries with precision, the Ninja are once again on the rampage in American Ninja (KTLA Sunday at 6 p.m.), a violent, super-charged adventure that breathes new life into the martial arts genre. It resounds with verve and enthusiasm, thanks to Sam Firstenberg, a savvy young action director. The latest romp finds the deadliest art of Asia in the hands of American GI Joe Armstong (Michael Dudikoff), a taciturn loner who's part of an Army convoy in the Philippines ambushed by the dreaded Ninja.

Contrast that with Platoon Leader (KTLA Sunday at 8 p.m.), an inept, stereotyped 1988 movie for which audiences may also be hopelessly ungrateful. It's a weird hybrid: a film that tries to mix the irreverent grunginess and profanity of Oliver Stone's "Platoon" with the gung-ho, flag-waving and hero-worshipping of "Rambo," presenting us in the process, the manhood rites of a young lieutenant (Michael Dudikoff, again).

Slap Shot (KTLA Monday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m.), a 1977 comedy about a third-rate ice hockey team driven to play dirty, is loaded with homophobic locker-room humor. It's not that such talk isn't authentic, it's that the film endorses such talk rather than sending it. Paul Newman stars.

King of New York (KTLA Wednesday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m.) is one of virtuoso of Abel Ferrara's most stylish films. Christopher Walken plays a feared New York crime lord who, at the start of the 1990 film, is released from prison after five years, with detention having inflamed his do-gooder's soul: He plans to strong-arm the city's drug lords into redistributing their booty to the poor. This strategy, involving a morality play at the service of great gobs of mayhem, is more hypocritical than usual, considering Ferrera's filmmaking instincts are so clearly on the side of violence. But the film, which has passages of surpassing lunacy, is never boring.

The 1987 The Principal (KTLA Thursday at 8 p.m.), with Jim Belushi in the title role, takes on one of the best subjects imaginable, the tensions and conflicts at an inner-city high school, and turns it into one more cliche-ridden revenge movie.

The Statue of Liberty (KCET Thursday at 8 p.m.) and Huey Long (KCET Friday at 9 p.m.) are two captivating and comprehensive 1985 documentaries by "The Civil War's" Ken Burns.

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