The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

No Retreat, No Surrender (1986)

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This is it for our Jean-Claude Van Damme DTV films. He now joins Dolph and Seagal as an actor with his entire DTV oeuvre reviewed here at the DTVC. It's a very cool moment, even if this film is a straight up sack-of-asscrack.

No Retreat, No Surrender is about this toolbag Osmond reject whose dad moves him and his mom to Seattle after the family dojo is taken over by organized crime bosses, and the bosses' hachetman, Van Damme, breaks the dad's leg. In Seattle, the kid struggles to fit in when a fat kid at the local dojo with a grudge tells an a-hole sensei there that the kid thinks LA is cool and Seattle drools. Now it turns into a Karate Kid rip-off, as the ghost of Bruse Lee visits the kid in his imagination and trains him to be a better martial artist, and worlds collide as Van Damme and the baddies return to take over the dojo from the local tool bags that stomped him earlier in the film.

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This was excruciating. Sure it was ridiculous and hilarious and so good to make fun of, but the Karate Kid plot is hard to sit through, because we know everything that's going to happen, and when the only curve ball to the paradigm we can get is the ghost of Bruce Lee teaching this moron of a kid, it's funny for like a minute, before we realize we still have 50 minutes worth of story to get through where we already know what's going to happen. I'm not sure if I'd call it amazing 80s action cheese, especially after the Golan-Globus week we did around Thanksgiving, where we really did celebrate quality 80s action cheese.

We've had a couple discussions here at the DTVC about why Van Damme doesn't play bad guys in bigger movies today instead of take some of the poorer roles in bad Romanian DTV films like he does. If any movie gives insight into why he chooses the films he does, it has to be this one. It must have hurt his soul to have to pretend on screen that this Osmond family reject was kicking his ass. I bet when he became famous, he said "I will never let that happen again!" The next Van Damme film to be released will actually be the next Dolph film as well, Universal Soldier: Regeneration. It's coming, February of 2010. Can't wait.

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One twist on the Karate Kid paradigm was the ending, where, instead of confronting the tools at the local dojo that stomped him, our hero watched Van Damme beat the crap out of them, and then our hero takes down Van Damme. Who came up with that? Who do we root for when Van Damme is crushing these toolbags? I rooted for him to beat the snot out of them. And I understand that the Osmond reject had a score to settle with Van Damme for breaking his dad's leg, but the sense was he was doing it for a girl and the respect of the locals. The proper way this should've been handled, was our hero goes to the dojo after training under the imaginary ghost of Bruce Lee, kicks those guys' asses, and then they need him to fight Van Damme, because they can't handle him, and the Osmond reject can line up all his ducks in a row, getting revenge on everybody who made his life difficult.

The reason why the ending was the way it was, though, was because of the amount of montages in the middle. There were multiple ones, and the music for each was stellar, whether it was the synthesizer, or the Survivor cover bad performing original work for the first time, it all worked for me. Sure, the film and story were excruciating, but the music was the balm on my wounds that made it easier to handle.

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Though this film took place in Seattle, it looked like it was filmed in LA or some place further south. Is that right? I mean, if there are palm trees in Seattle, I didn't see them. Also, at no point did it rain. And there were no Seattle sports teams featured. It was like a name as opposed to the real city, like Biloxi, or Poughkeepsie. What was the point of even going to Seattle then? Oh, footage of the Space Needle when they entered the city at the beginning, and Bruce Lee was buried there. That's right.

This is another film not available on DVD yet, and I'm not sure if it will ever be, especially if Van Damme has any say in the matter. I bet if he had his way, he'd beat the crap out of all the Osmonds, just because the kid who beats him in this movie looks like he could've been one. Can you see Donny pleading for Van Damme to leave him and his family alone, completely clueless as to why the Muscles From Brussels has broken into his house and is practicing his kickboxing moves on his face.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089695/

2 comments:

  1. This was one of the first Van Damme movies I ever saw! I remember the kid wasnt really much of a martial artist (which is probably why they had Van Damme kick the bad guys asses) and one particular scene I remember, where somebody is supposed to be giving a whole bunch of punches to someone in the stomach, they did this thing where they cut, and showed more punches, and cut and showed more punches, and we were supposed to believe it all happened within the same take.

    The ghost of Bruce Lee...jeezus, youd think the ghost of Bruce Lee would have something better to do, like avenging his own death! Or his sons! Hey...that would make for a kick ass movie!

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  2. That fact that the kid couldn't fight probably galled Van Damme even more. I wonder if anyone ever asked him if he'd tell the truth, or say "Nah, is just a movie."

    Would Jason Scott Lee play Bruce Lee?

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