No Retreat, No Surrender (1985) Review

"No Retreat, No Surrender" American Theatrical Poster

“No Retreat, No Surrender” American Theatrical Poster

Director: Corey Yuen
Producer: Ng See-Yuen
Cast: Kurt McKinney, Jean-Claude Van Damme, J.W. Fails, Kathie Sileno, Kim Tai-chung, Kent Lipham, Ron Pohnel, Dale Jacoby, Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham, Timothy Baker, Gloria Marziano
Running TIme: 79/85/95 min.

By James H.

We’ve all been there. We’ve all been at the video store at 9:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, looking up and down the aisles for movies that have all been rented hours ago. We’ve all stopped and paused at the ‘N’ section and seen “No Retreat, No Surrender” staring at us from the shelf in its faded cover. We’ve all picked it up and wondered how good Van Damme’s fights are and how the ghost of Bruce Lee teaches a loser kid martial arts.

There really isn’t much else to the story. If you’ve seen the “Karate Kid” movies (and I know you have!), then you’ve seen this. “No Retreat, No Surrender” is the only movie I have seen that insults the great name of Bruce Lee even more than “Game of Death”. I could not believe the writers came up with the idea of Bruce Lee’s ghost teaching this kid. It’s a sad, sad display. As far as a Van Damme movie (he’s also barely in it), it ranks right down there with “Cyborg”.

James H’s Rating: 1.5/10


Corey Yuen Kwai and Ng See Yuen teamed up once upon a time, in an American production called No Retreat No Surrender. In short, the script is something that might have come out of the head of a 4 or 5 year old, but the writer did his best I’m sure and went on to work on parts 2 and 3, so I guess he did all right. He was upset about changes that Roy Horan (the producer of the sequel) made to the script of one of the sequels, so I guess he had some sense! Anyway, the script is horrible and I won’t go into that aspect of the movie, but I will go into the fight scenes…particularly the last fight.

In the “bad” corner have Jean Claude Van Damme in the role that launched his career. In the “good” corner, we have three well-meaning good guys, including Peter “Sugarfoot” Cunningham, who exist solely to get trashed by Van Damme (who plays a Russian). Corey Yuen does his best to make this scene look HK-styled, and for the most part he succeeds. The main problem is that the sound effects aren’t very effective, and in short they are horrible. The competitors are wearing light foam foot-padding, but the sound effects are more suited to heavy combat boots!

Another problem is that some of the kicks and punches aren’t in effect “selling-the-shot,” in other words, you can see that they are not landing. And the fact that nobody is wearing a shirt to hide this is another problem. But aside from that, Van Damme is great and beats all three people up in highly stylized battles. He knocks Peter out with a cool flying kick, trashes the other guy, and chokes out the final opponent with a chain, while the audience looks on nonchalantly and rather unplussed.

At that point, the Hero (it might as well be his name), who was sitting as a spectator, jumps to his feat and “heroically” jumps in the ring to exchange some hilariously BAD dialogue with Van Damme:

Van Damme (in a mock Russian accent): You are good!
Hero (in red jumpsuit): I get better. Russian.

Then, Van Damme, apparently offended by being called a Russian even though he is playing a Russian, starts to beat up the hero. The hero beats him back, then wins, and people jump in the ring (which looks to be situated in some old small gym) and carry our “Hero” into the air. Van Damme is on the floor outside the ring pouting.

S!DM’s Rating: 5/10

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3 Responses to No Retreat, No Surrender (1985) Review

  1. david says:

    No Retreat, No Surrender blu ray petition lets do this people it’s been to long

    • DougWonnacott says:

      I’d love a special edition with commentary (by Bey Logan or Mike Leeder with someone from the cast or crew) and a retrospective documentary. If all four ‘sequels’ were included as special features, that would be perfect.

      I’m just not sure if it’s a film that would benefit from being remastered. The shoddy bits would be much more evident.

      There is a European Blu ray available, I assume its barebones.

  2. Alvin George says:

    There is now an official RiffTrax commentary for “No Retreat, No Surrender.”

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