No Retreat No Surrender (1986)
Directed by: Corey Yuen
Written by: Corey Yuen, Keith W. Strandberg, See-Yuen Ng
Starring: J.W. Fails, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Kurt McKinney, Tai Chung Kim, Timothy D. Baker
NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER (1986)
Directed by Corey Yuen
Teenager Jason Stillwell and his family move to Seattle after his Karate Sensei father is threatened and beat up at his dojo after refusing to hand his club over to a New York crime syndicate who wish to run all the dojos throughout America as fronts for their illegal activities. Atfer moving to Seattle, Wing Chun mad Jason befriends break-dancing cool kid R.J. and the two become best buddies and unfortunately the target of local bully Scott. Whilst a red belt in Karate, Jason’s obsession with Wing Chun and Bruce Lee spurs him on to learn how to defend himself, much to his father’s annoyance. After succumbing to a few scuffles with the neighbourhood bad boys, Jason begs for guidance at Bruce Lee’s grave, and is shocked when the spirit of Lee visits him and helps him to train to become the best he can be. The training couldn’t come at a better time as the New York gangsters roll into town to take over Sensei Ian Reilly’s local dojo with the help of the fearsome Russian, Ivan (Jean-Claude Van Damme).
If you love 80s cheesey movies, complete with teen storyline and a can of whoopass, then you’ll be in for a treat with Corey Yuen’s martial arts flick, NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER. The storyline deals with our protagonist Jason who’s a very talented and committed martial artist but just not good enough to take on the likes of the local karate students in Seattle, who big bully Scott has set upon him. With his father suffering from a broken leg from a fight with the incredibly talented Russian karate expert, Ivan, Jason is ordered not to fight anymore, as it only leads to trouble. The film deals with all sorts of teenage issues, such as friends and budding romances, as well as bullying, but all provides as a backdrop for the fight at the film’s finale. Taking the good ol’ martial arts film cliche of a martial artist who is defeated in the first instance, trains up during the bulk of the film and then proceeds to kick ass at the finale, the movie doesn’t exactly surprise. However, the cast are very likable and easy to watch, and having a baby-faced Jean-Claude Van Damme showcase his moves is one of the main attractions of the movie. JCVD is not the only one with skills though as Kurt McKinney, who stars as Jason, is too a skilled martial artist and displays some excellent technique and fitness throughout the movie.
For anyone who’s into martial arts, NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER is an enjoyable watch, if you can get over the camp happy-go-lucky scenes amidst the snappy punches and kicks. Compared to other martial arts films, this is very much a teen movie with martial arts elements, with JCVD only appearing for maybe 15 mins in the entire movie despite his chiseled body appearing on the film’s front cover. However, martial arts is at the core of the story and makes it such entertaining viewing, particularly when Jason takes on groups of attackers, the local Karate black belt and training with the “spirit” of Bruce Lee.