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"It's The Only Way To Survive"

                 Americana Film Review
        No Retreat ' No Surrender

Starring: Kurt McKinney,Jean Claude Van Damme,Peter Cunningham

Directed By: Corey Yuen Kwei

1986

aka: Karate Tiger

 

 

 

NG See Yuen has been responsible for the discovery and stardom of many a house hold name in the martial arts film industry.With this film shot in 1986 NG wanted to make a film similar to the Karate Kid ,but with actual Martial arts on show as opposed to the play acting of the original Karate Kid films ( i hear screams defending Karate Kid).

The story is nothing new ,take any 197's 80's old school kung fu movie about the down trodden Kid who learns kung fu to avenge a master and you have it in one.But put that in to a modern environment and make it look effective and realistic and you have something special .

The film stars Kurt McKinney in the lead role as Jason who lives for Martial arts ,his father is the teacher of a dojo .But when a rival group wants to muscle in on Jason dads Dojo his father refuses and meets the Roth of new man on the block ''Jean Claude Van Damme '' as Ivan Krushensky,getting his leg broken in the process.

This puts pressure on the relationship of Jason and his dad ,as he now has lost his motivation to run a school ,as the mob won't leave him alone .So the answer for his dad is to leave it all behind and move to Seattle .

Their new home seems OK ,and the garage is big enough for Jason to carry on training,his dad takes a job in a bar and all seems well.Jason meets RJ who lives local to him and they become friends .But a local neighbour's kid (Jason calls him Lard ASS) is a trouble maker and doe's not like RJ ,so this causes trouble for Jason when he rescues RJ from a beating.

His dad hates him fighting and when Jason see's a champion fighter (Riley) on TV ,RJ tells him his dojo is local and he should go.So Jason and RJ go along and meet one of the Sensei's ,but who should be a member of the club?,yep Lard Ass.This causes Jason to have to fight thier best and get beaten after they are told by lard ass that he hates Seattle karate and he he thinks he's tough.

So all going well for him here then,Being Seattle this is the final resting place of the late Bruce Lee and Jason has visited his idols grave to get some inspiration and pay respects to.

Now it can only get worse before it gets better ,Jason has a party to go to ,the party of a girl ( Kelly) he in LA the year before.Now the strange thing here is she is the sister of the Riley the champion fighter ,who's dojo he just got beaten up in.Why does he not know this?

He arrives at the party and gives Kelly a present,a Bunnie rabbit.But who's at the party ,well all the guys from the dojo he got beat at and of course Lard Ass.Kelly's brother has been called away by the same hoodlums that gave his dad trouble in LA.

So amidst the bad feelings between these people ,Jason once again gets bullied and beat and humiliated.Leaving he goes to Bruce Lee's grave and begs for help and inspiration.

Arriving home looking like he's been in a battle ,his father is not pleased ,but when Jason calls his Dad a coward for running away ,His Dad goes ballistic trashing his training area and ripping the image of Bruce Lee ,Ohhh Nooooo.

Thing is do you believe  a Martial artist ,crippled or not and  angry would do such a thing? I think Not. Any Way Jason turns to RJ for help and RJ tells him there is a empty house he could use to train.Getting the gear to the place is OK as RJ helps with that,Rj leaves and Jason starts to organize his stuff,once all done he plans to go home but falls asleep,but is woken by a bright light ,one so bright it lights up the whole room.

 In the doorway is a figure of a man ,Jason shouts ,who's there ! The man answers ,you asked me to come ! as the man makes his way towards Jason  .For standing in front of him is Bruce Lee ( or at least the ghost of ) .He's here to teach Jason the Way of the intercepting Fist ,and Jason will have his work cut out as our Bruce takes Jason through a routine of training techniques to test the hardest of men.

Whilst this is going on Kelly's brother  who's getting bother from the mob agree's to a contest ,which puts his dojo on the line.The deal is up and Seattle will fight the New York Maulers.

Jason who is continuing to train under Bruce Lee is getting faster and better in his art ,training when he can ,morning noon and night .Even RJ takes a peak to see Jason talking to a imaginary person ,citing his friend as crazy.

You see that's what happens when you have a ghost only you can see helping ypu train. ( Happens to me all the time).Any way RJ a has a dance contest to attend and brings Jason along ,really it's a ploy to get Jason and Kelly together as they have not spoken since the last trouble at the party.

Anyway all ends well for Kelly and Jason and all that leaves is for Jason to complete his training with Master Lee ,one night Jason performs a move to complete his training and with that our ghostly teacher vanishes as fast as he came.

Jason has reached his goal ,on a journey to pick up his dad at work he see's his dad getting beaten by some thugs he had trouble with in his bar.Without thinking Jason springs in to action dispatching them with ease ,and saving his dad.

Jason and his dad reconcile there ways and alls well.But is it?

It's the night of the Seattle vs New York Match and the media is out in force to watch this battle of fighters ,but amidst the introductions of the fighters ,our mobster friend announces that New York only need one man to fight all of Seattle's fighters and anyone else who cares to fight.

In to the ring walks Ivan Krushensky ,announced as Russia's most feared martial artist .Looking on Riley and his comrades look on thinking it will be OK .It's at this moment that Jason and his Dad walk in to see their tormentor in the ring ,they now know this match is gonna be dirty.

Jason tries to warn Riley ,but he is just thought as over reacting.But hey when the fight starts and Dean the first fighter is Beaten and smashed out of the ring ,they look on with slight fear.Now it's the turn of Peters their Light weight champion ,the battle is fierce and the footwork is blinding but in the end Peters is knocked out cold.Now it's the turn of Riley and Ivan will have a fight on his hands ,but when it reaches a second round Ivan gets dirty ,beating the ref and using parts of the ring to strangle Riley ( while the audience look on and do nothing) It's gonna be up to Jason to fight ,leaping from his seat he does a flying kick in to the ring kicking Ivan for six,thus saving Riley in the process.

As they stand opposite each-other ,Ivan says ,So it is you the son! Jason replies yep it's me.With some of the most brilliantly filmed moves our foes kick and spin at each other in a flurry of Ariel moves .At one point Ivan says ,''Your Good'' Jason replies '' I get Better'' ( it's so classic it's crazy but exciting).

The fight continues amidst cheers  from the home crowd and jeers from the New Yorkers ,but once again Ivan gets the upper hand trapping Jason in the ropes and pounding his head with his elbow.(I'm sure this is not allowed) It's here the most important line in the film is relayed.RJ  stands up and shouts' Jason No Retreat No Surrender'' with this Jason finds a new found lease of life giving Ivan a good kick freeing himself and taking the big man to pieces in a show of martial arts to please all fans. And in the end it is a classic Bruce Lee kick that saves the day as Jason escapes a leg lock by spinning over head and kicking Ivan in the head ,Ivan is out and Jason is victorious and hailed a hero.

Now from a martial arts point of view the film is a pure success and one that set a standard for American style fight flicks ,even though it was shot in a Hong Kong style by Corey Yuen and NG See Yuen.

Yes it is the karate kid story but more or less ,but like i said before Karate Kid is just a story borrowed from many Old School flicks.Of course there are some aspects that could have been better ,but remember this film was made for like $400'000 and returned wordwide some $16'000'000 ,now that's a profit.

Many people say the use of the word Sensei to address Master Lee is wrong as it's Japanese ,but then Bruce did not play by tradition.I am still bewildered that he knows this girl and does not know of her brother till he meets him later on.

And even though he had the most important line in the film ,the character of RJ can get on your wick a bit with his crazy persona,more so at the beginning though.

The truth is ''No Retreat No Surrender '' is one of the most important martial arts films of the 80's it showed Martial arts as a honorable art and showed it's dark side if used for ill gain.The winner here was the show of martial arts .

Now there is a confusing thing ,the original film in the states was some 94 minutes in length.On VHS in the UK it was some 84 minutes ,but the UK DVD is billed as 79 minutes ,then there's alternate soundtracks as well ,so people say you should by the USA  version if you can find it to experience the film as it should be. I reviewed this watching the UK DVD version,on the back it has a running time of 79 minutes.Funny how it Ran for 94 minutes and featured the USA soundtrack .something going on there then ,I'm not complaining though.

 People have many views on the film it's a classic and one that spawned two sequels as such.Thought the sequels did not have the same cast as Jean Claude did not want to return and persuaded Kurt to do the same.OK for Jean Claude he had deals going on and went  on to do many films ,but for Kurt McKinney we did not see him again ,he did do some TV and starred in a film with Cynthia Rothrock some years later.May be if he had stayed on for the others he would have been bigger then Jean Claude Van Damme.

Score out of Ten:9

Dated: 12-09-10

Trailer

Stills from the film

Karate for all

                   A class in motion                Ivan Krushensky (Jean Claude Van Damme)

 

Jason learns from the Master

 

Jason Trains  and his Dad gets Beat up

To the rescue Jason shows what he can do!

 

The fighters prepare                         Jason saves the day

 

He Gets Better 

 

A battle to survive ''No Retreat No Surrender''

 

Crazy Facts

When training with Master Lee ,Jasons T-shirt changes in one shot,

You can see the mike boom in some shots in the old house.

Jean Claude's characters name is not the same in the credits as in the film.

On the UK DVD cover they have  Corey Yuen  name wrong ,they have Corey Yuam.

Some of the music featured is from Project A .

Info
Directed by Corey Yuen
Produced by Ng See-Yuen
Written by Ng See-Yuen
Keith W. Strangberg
Corey Yuen
Starring Kurt McKinney
Jean-Claude Van Damme
J.W. Fails

Kathie Sileno
Kent Lipham
Pete Cunningham
Timothy D. Baker
Tai Chung Kim
Alternate Posters and Covers

 USA DVD cover 

 

Current UK DVD cover 

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