25 years ago on May 2, 1986 was released the well-known and always recognizable martial arts movie No Retreat, No Surrender, also known as Karate Tiger. Fans from all over the world first time saw future world action star Jean Claude van Damme as Ivan Kraschinsky the Russian, who is trying to kick asses of all karatekas in US. Opposite to van Damme is Kurt McKinney, who is like Ralph Macchio, just dissapeared after such a successful role. This movie was a first american project by well-known producer and writer Keith Strandberg, filmmaker See-Yuen Ng and popular fighting coordinator Corey Yuen. This movie got two installments in no way connected, first one is Raging Thunder with Loren Avedon and third one is Blood Brothers with Keith Vitali. Anyway it is a good time to
The ’80s was a magical period in American filmmaking. Nowadays, a film as bad as “Retreat” is relegated to Bad Action B-Movie status and dumped directly to video store shelves without preamble. But way back in the ’80s, movies like “Retreat”, with its low-grade acting, horrendous scripting, poor directing, and just plain bad moviemaking in general, graced movie screens on a regular basis.
“No Retreat, No Surrender” will probably be most known for offering up an early work by the Muscles from Brussels, Jean-Claude Van Damme, who plays an evil Russian fighter name Ivan. The actual star of “Retreat” is Kurt McKinney, who plays Jason, a white kid obsessed with Bruce Lee. After Jason’s father, who runs a karate school, gets his leg broken by Ivan at the behest of the Russian mob, Jason and his family packs up and moves to Seattle. Here, Jason makes friends with Sassy Black Guy R.J. and runs afoul of a really evil fat kid. After getting beaten numerous times by numerous people, Jason is visited by the spirit of Bruce Lee, who teaches the kid kung fu.
Basically 90 minutes of everything the ’80s was known for, including: bad hair, bad clothes, bad synthesizer music, bad acting, and a boom mike that refuses to stay out of frame, “Retreat” is nothing more than a guilty pleasure. Martial arts fans may also notice that the director is none other than Corey Yuen, who despite having very little to work with in terms of script, budget, and actors, actually manages some decent fight scenes. The best, of course, is the final fight between the Muscles from Brussels and what seems like the whole city of Seattle.
“No Retreat, No Surrender” is one of those martial arts movies that just begs to be ridiculed. It certainly has its share of goofs, including: Jason’s father, who after getting his leg broken, becomes a big wimp; R.J., who is supposed to be black and thus “groovy”, but has a white stunt double every time he is supposedly “getting down”; and how about the fact that the guy playing the spirit of Bruce Lee looks nothing like the real Bruce Lee. Actually, the better question is: has the Russian mob gotten so lame that they now spend all their time going around the country taking over karate dojos?
Hey, it’s the ’80s. Deal with it or avoid it.