No Retreat, No Surrender

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“When life is on the line there can be No Retreat, No Surrender!”

When a bullied teen wimp decides to stick it to his tormentors, kung-fu style, he’s going to need all the help he can get. Naturally, he turns to the ghost of Bruce Lee for help, and the strangely helpful (and DEAD!) martial arts superstar “Mr. Miyagis” the kid into a lean, mean butt-kicking machine. But when an evil Russian fighter (played by a swaggering Jean-Claude Van Damme, in his first speaking film role) comes to town, our low-rent Karate Kid is gonna get a heaping helping of whup-ass courtesy of the Muscles from Brussels. Will our pint-sized hero retreat, or maybe even surrender? Not if the title of this utterly insane action flick has anything to say about it! In No Retreat, No Surrender, virtually everything that CAN go wrong with a film DOES go wrong, and it’s a true wonder to behold, giving us a veritable Bad Film for the Ages. Liberally borrowing from such then-recent hits as Karate Kid and Rocky IV (not to mention Breakin’, Pretty in Pink, and heck, probably even Ernest Goes to Camp), this no-budget, no-s**t??? laugh-fest displays a distinct disregard for such movie niceties as logic, coherence or drama. Instead, we are subjected to an onslaught of weird “everything but the kitchen sink” narrative incidents (now, WHY exactly does Bruce Lee return from the grave to help an obnoxious suburban kid learn karate? Who the hell knows?), really atrocious acting (keep your eyes on the kid’s pacifist father, who constantly and ineffectively badgers our hero into not fighting, and who seems to have received his lines literally seconds before filming), gratuitous break dancing (courtesy of our hero’s silly, jheri curled sidekick, who has a penchant for dressing like Thriller-era Michael Jackson and busting a move in a mall disco full of confused looking white kids) and laughable douche bag villains with frosted hair and torn Flashdance sweatshirts. And Jean-Claude Van Damme’s highly incongruous Russian kickboxer (obviously modeled after Ivan Drago), who for some reason blows into town and decides to take down all the members of a Seattle dojo in the seriously wacky finale, is just the sweet icing on the Bad Movie Cake. Followed by two sequels (???), No Retreat, No Surrender is great movie junk that will make you happy to surrender to its dubious charms. (Dir. by Corey Yeun, 1986, USA, 85 mins., Rated PG) Digital