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Total Recall: No Retreat, No Surrender

no_retreat_no_surrenderThanks in no small part to the Karate Kid, one of the big genres that emerged in the 80’s was the “kid learns karate, fights to prove himself” genre.  One of the lost classics of the genre is No Retreat, No Surrender starring Kurt McKinney and Jean Claude Van Damme AS THE VILLAIN!  Shocking, I know.

The movie starts out with your typical karate class being taught by our hero Jason’s father Tom.  Jason gets a little overzealous and takes down his sparring partner, causing his father to scold him because “this isn’t a Bruce Lee movie”.  As the students head to the showers in walks the main villains of the movie, a stereotypical evil 80’s businessman/douchebag type, a karate guy who looks like Kenny Loggins and Van Damme in a white pimp suit.  Apparently the mafia has some grand scheme that involves using all the local Los Angeles karate dojos as fronts.  Tom refuses and Kenny Loggins is sent against him.  Tom manages to fight him off but is no match for the Muscles from Brussels and Van Damme lets him have his trademark “grab the guys leg and kick him in the face a couple times” move and then breaks his leg.  I should mention that Jason and the students all have been watching this the entire time and Jason attempts to intervene by taking on Van Damme, but JCVD grabs Jason’s arm and almost breaks it off.  80’s douche calls JCVD or “Ivan the Russian” off and tells Tom that his dojo is his.  Tom responds to this by first getting laid up in the hospital and then fleeing to Seattle.


While moving in Jason meets his token black friend in the form of RJ, who loves basketball and break dancing.  Jason shows off his new garage training area and explains that he’s pretty much based his life around becoming Bruce Lee.  As the two of them help unload the rest of the boxes we meet another of the movies villains, Scott.  Scott lives across the street and is like an Evil Andy Richter.  If there’s two things that Scott hates it’s RJ and people who like Bruce Lee.  Well those and anything low fat but that’s besides the point.


RJ mentions that Bruce Lee is conviently buried in Seattle and agrees to meet Jason tomorrow and show him where it is.  When RJ arrives on his skateboard, Scott ambushes him with a power washer and a wacky chases ensues, with Scott getting stopped by a construction barrier that he could easily walk around but that would require too much effort after running a couple yards.  RJ then heads over to Scott’s and they visit Bruce Lee’s grave.  Jason shows off his knowledge/obsession by bringing Bruce’s favorite flowers and then asks for help so he can be just like Bruce.

At an undetermined time later Scott is treating a group of his friends to burgers when he notices RJ wandering around the parking lot.  He and his crew (which includes a guy in a gray leotard and who has a ponytail) attempt to rough him up but Jason arrives in the nick of time to karate their asses, at which point Scott declares he will get vengeance. Tom then yells at Jason not to fight, ever, because he’s now a crazy pacifist.


Scott gets vengeance pretty soon afterward actually, as Jason and RJ head to the local karate school run by karate champ Ian Reilly, who just won the national championship.  Ian is unfortunately out of town and his second in command, the consummate 80’s jock/douche Dean is teaching lessons.  Dean is fairly friendly to Jason until Scott (who also takes karate for some reason) tells him that Jason was bad mouthing Seattle karate and this sparks some sort of West Coast v West Coast duel in Dean’s mind.  He sends Jason against black belt Frank and Jason gets his ass kicked and he and RJ flee in shame.

After another undetermined amount of time, Jason heads off to his girlfriend Kelly’s birthday party.  It’s really never explained where they meet but you just have to strap in and accept the ride that is No Retreat, No Surrender.  Of course, also at the party is Dean and Scott.  Dean wants Kelly for himself and Scott is just an asshole so they goad Jason into fighting them by throwing cake and punch onto his back.  Jason holds them off for a while but his thrown into the food table and runs off.  Meanwhile, Ian gets a favor from 80’s guy, who tells him the mafia operation is extending into Seattle and his dojo is next on their list.

Jason returns home and gets reamed out by his dad for fighting again.  This time Tom takes it particulary bad and hobbles into the garage to destroy Jason’s training equipment.  Jason runs off to Bruce Lee’s grave and begs him to help him defeat the combined douchiness of Dean and Scott.  He then heads over to RJ’s, who tell Jason there’s a conveniently empty house that Jason could move his stuff into.

While Jason is training he gets an important visitor, the ghost of Bruce Lee.  Yes, the ghost of Bruce Lee, who agrees to train Jason, thus beginning one of the most extended training sequences in movie history, culminating in this awesome montage:


So then there’s an unnecessary scene at a night club where RJ uses the power of break dancing to reunite Kelly and Jason (who were fighting after the party) and we finally enter the end game.  The mafia has arranged for a fighting tournament between their guys and Ian’s crew, presumably for control of the dojo but possibly also all of Seattle, it’s not very clear.  It’s tough to decide who to root for because on the one hand the mafia is technically the bad guys but the “good guys” have been assholes to Jason this entire time.  After the teams are introduced, 80’s guy announces that the mafia will only have one fighter, Ivan.  Van Damme proceeds to decimate Dean and Frank and goes apeshit on Ian, wrapping turnbuckle line around his neck and then tying him up in the ropes and beating him.  Jason, RJ and Tom have been in the audience and Jason, armed with his new found karate, enters the fray against Ivan:


So Jason wins, saving both Ian’s dojo and the pride of Seattle and is carried off by the fans of karate fights in local high school gyms.  If you’ve ever wanted to see Van Damme as a bad guy or just can’t get enough Karate Kid then definitely check out No Retreat, No Surrender.


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