Bruce Lee Returns in… – No Retreat, No Surrender (1988)

No Retreat, No Surrender sounds like a Chuck Norris movie and surprisingly, or not so surprisingly, you will find no trace of the man.  More often than not, this is billed as a Jean-Claude Van Damme film with him as the headliner and once you give it a go, you will find that he is barely in the film except to set it up at the beginning and to give our hero his moment in the sun during the last chapter.  It is by all accounts, a rip-off of the Karate Kid and even then, despite the similarities, utterly compelling in every way.  no-retreat-no-surrender3The script is fairly bad, though par for the course when it comes to 80’s action films with the acting not much better and the action sequences a little silly at times, especially when you can see that the punches and kicks are not connecting at all.  It is terrible in almost every sense, but so good and even charming at the same time.

The story concerns Jason Stillwell as played by Kurt McKinney, a guy who just wants to practice karate and worship his idol, Bruce Lee.  Forces outside of his control do not make it easy though as he is sometimes forced to defend himself, to which his father always gets angry about.  After moving away to start fresh due to some New York thugs out to steal his father’s business, he finds a new friend, a few new enemies and inspiration, not to mention training, from the ghost of Bruce Lee.  The. Ghost. Of. Bruce. Lee.  no-retreat-no-surrender4That all leads up to the final confrontation with the New York mobsters, namely Van Damme and a fight to determine their fates.

Nothing makes a movie better than bringing in the ghost of Bruce Lee for a little one-on-one training with the hero.  Up until this point, the movie was doing all right, but when Bruce Lee showed up, the film actually got better.  Worse, but better.  Some would say that there is nothing redeemable about this movie, and it is true as everything about it is such a cheese-fest, but you find yourself so immersed in it that it is hard to tear your eyes away.  When Bruce finally takes leave of Jason, you kind of hoped that he would stay, to do exactly what is unknown and a good question, but it is not like the film could have been any more awful/great.

The movie definitely falls into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category and you cannot help but love it when watching it.  Sure, it might have lifted story ideas from a ton of different films and be as heavily clichéd as they come, but it will hold a special place in your heart if you decide to give it a watch.  Also, the ghost of Bruce Lee.

3 out of 5

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4 replies »

  1. Never seen this one, or the other early movie where Van Damme played a bad guy. It’s weird seeing him play the villain, but he’s done it at least twice in the past decade or so with Replicant and Expendables 2.

    Liked by 1 person

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