Directed by: Corey Yuen
Starring: Kurt McKinney, Jean-Claude Van Damme, J.W. Fails
I do indeed love me some bad martial arts movies, and nothing quite hits the mark better than No Retreat, No Surrender. It’s super 80’s, there’s a cartoonishly evil fat kid who’s always messily eating ice cream, a crazy sidekick who’s always dancing, Jean-Claude Van Damme in a non-speaking role, and the cherry on top of it all, the ghost of Bruce Lee. Wow, I love this movie.
Some Karate Kid wannabe wishes he was a great martial artist so he could… uh… beat up fat kids, I guess. He makes a friend for the first time in his life, then gets beaten up for undoubtedly the six or seven hundredth time in his life. He runs off crying to an abandoned warehouse where he prays for his idol, Bruce Lee, to come and teach him kung fu. His wish is inexplicably granted, as the ghost of Bruce Lee (who looks absolutely nothing at all like Bruce Lee) trains him in a series of extended montages. In the end, he fights for America against the evil Russian kickboxer (Van Damme) in a contest that I don’t think has any consequences whether either side wins or not. Powerful stuff.
It takes equal amounts of creativity and laziness to make the mentor in your fighting movie be the ghost of Bruce Lee. I’ll admit, I would never have thought of anything that brilliant. At the same time, they spent about six seconds looking for a guy to play the part, and it seems their only qualifications were for a man who was Asian. Overall, this is a masterpiece of awful filmmaking, rivaling other 80’s masterpieces such as No Holds Barred and Ninja III: The Domination. I think I’ll have to put it on my 50 worst movies of all time list.