No Retreat, No Surrender
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Ivan The Russian Butcher Kraschinsky (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Hard Target, Double Impact) faces off with Jason Kid Karate Stillwell (Kurt McKinney, Sworn to Justice) in a do-or-die battle between good and evil. Jason is an avid admirer of Bruce Lee, but has suffered countless defeats. At his lowest emotional ebb Jason is visited by Bruce Lee s spirit (Kim Tai Chong, Game of Death) offering to teach him all his closely guarded secrets. Jason s training is quickly put to its ultimate test when a crime syndicate threatens to take over Seattle as the fate of Jason s karate school hangs in the balance. Jason is forced to submit to a trial by combat against the syndicate champion, Ivan, an unstoppable butcher who has made mincemeat out of all the black belts he s faced before and there s no retreat and no surrender. Directed by action-great Corey Yuen (The Transporter and Jet Li s The Legend and The Legend II). This release includes both the international cut and U.S. theatrical cut, available for the first time in HD.
Special Features: 94-Minute International Cut | Interview with Star Kurt McKinney | Audio Commentary by Screenwriter Keith W. Strandberg | Trailers
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The story: Jason Stillwell (Kurt McKinney, "General Hospital") is the Bruce Lee-idolizing son of a karate master who is forced out of his dojo by a crime syndicate backed by a powerful Russian martial artist named Ivan Kraschinsky (Van Damme, Bloodsport). After relocating from LA to Seattle, Jason finds himself humiliated at every turn by a community determined to make him miserable; but when all seems lost, he's visited by the ghost of Bruce Lee, who offers him personal instruction to become the martial artist he'll need to be to survive both bullies and a returning Ivan.
Jut by reading that summary, you ought to get a feeling of how undoubtedly weird this movie is. It's my belief that director Yuen used this film as a kind of creative outlet for everything he had wanted to put into a film: I think he took all the cool ideas that he hadn't been able to utilize in other movies, coupled with everything he thought was hip in the US at the time, and threw them all together amidst some cool fight scenes. That, at least, would explain the presence of Bruce Lee's ghost (played by former stand-in to the real Lee, Tai Chung Kim), the nonsensical and completely useless disco scene in which Jason's strange friend RJ (J.W. Fails) dresses like Michael Jackson, and the overall 80s-in-overdrive feeling that permeates the movie. Very, very bad acting from everybody involved is further offset by illogical exchanges ("Don't worry; I'm nobody's lunch!") and a general feeling of everything in life revolving in one way or another around martial arts.
Of course, the martial arts in question certainly are worth devoting attention to: there are about six real fights in the movie, and despite not being Corey Yuen's best work, they go to show why the director is one of the best there is when it comes to what he does. To list them chronologically, Jason's father (karate champion Timothy Baker) fights an invading thug and Van Damme, McKinney is confronted by Peter Cunningham (Above the Law) in a one-sided but very technical exhibition match, Jason and his father take on a group of alley thugs wherein McKinney really begins to shine with some awesome kicks, a series of three fights wherein Van Damme takes on Dale Jacoby (Ring of Fire), Cunningham, and tang soo do expert Ron Pohnel (the third of which is probably the best fight of the movie), and the final emotional confrontation between McKinney and Van Damme. I don't think it's an exaggeration to claim that prior to this movie, most Americans had never experienced kung fu quite like this; even though some fights aren't as fun as others, the collection is about as good as it gets for this kind of show, Van Damme's full leg splits included.
Whether or not you should be interested in buying the film depends on your tolerance of cinematic cheese and whether or not you're willing to accept it, either as a complementary side or a grain of salt, alongside the action scenes. Rest assured, "No Retreat, No Surrender" has earned its cult status many times over, but unless you're willing to grasp the significance of all of the film's flaws and strengths as a cumulative package, you ought to look somewhere else for you kicks (and punches).