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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers (1990)

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It's taken me a little while to get my hands on this one and complete the No Retreat, No Surrender series (see also part 1 and part 2), but we've got it, so let's do it. Our friend Karl at Fist of the B-List has also done this one, so you should check that out too.

No Retreat, No Surrender 3 doesn't have anything to do with part 2, it just has Loren Avedon. Avedon plays a rebellious younger brother who runs a dojo and wears a CCCP jacket, while his brother, Keith Vitali, and his father run a private spy company. After his dad's birthday, his dad is killed by a terrorist baddie named Franco that looks like a poor man's Roland Gift with bleached hair cut in the Billy Ray Cyrus style. Now the question is, can the feuding brothers, Avedon and Vitali, get along long enough to avenge their father's death?

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This is a bit of a tough one, but I really enjoyed it. The action, when it's there, is extremely high octane. We're talking Hong Kong cinema level martial arts and stunts, which is really exciting to watch. Then you have the bad acting, worse dialogue, and amateur level direction-- seriously, were all those boom mics showing up on purpose?-- all of which was funnier than it was annoying when set against the too sweet action. The problem for me was that there were gaps in the action that at first were funny, but as the film went on, the bad acting, dialogue, and story wasn't as funny anymore, making those gaps tedious. Still, it does recover, and really brings it with a finale worthy of the solid scenes we'd seen leading up to it. I'm giving this a recommendation strictly to bad action fans and no one else-- again, if you overuse the word "cheesy" when describing a late 80s/early 90s DTV actioner, this is probably too much for you; but if you're into great action and are willing to have fun with the bad spots, you'll be rewarded.

Really liked Loren Avedon here. I think we've brought this up before, and other sites have discussed it as well, but it's a shame Avedon hasn't been in more stuff, based on how sick his skills are. Mr. Kenner at Movies in the Attic told us he spoke to the man himself, and one of the things he said was Avedon had a falling out with Lorenzo Lamas, and Lamas made it hard for him to get work after that. If that's true that's too bad, because Avedon is almost 50 years old, so we may have missed his best years-- though at 50 he'll still be over ten years younger than Steven Seagal, so maybe we'll see him again.

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What was up with all the boom mic-age? I lost track of how many there were. And you had multiple kinds too, from the fuzzy outdoor variety, to the standard one you see here. Once or twice is a novelty that we love when watching a low-budget film, but after awhile it becomes ridiculous. Is it that hard to keep the thing from floating into the shot? I guess it is, and that's why we love you.

We've done some other Keith Vitali flicks on here, American Kickboxer 1, Bloodmoon, and Revenge of the Ninja. Don't know if I remember him in any of them. His acting is pretty rough-- which is hilarious-- but his fight skills are right there with Avedon's. According to imdb though, Avedon worked 4-6 hours a day to train, while Vitali came into the role out of shape. He also busted his arm for real before shooting, so it was written into the film that his arm was shot, and then the rest of the movie people made cracks about his cast. Keith Vitali, exactly what No Retreat, No Surrender 3 needed.

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Most movies cast a veteran character actor as the President. We've seen Roy Scheider, Rutger Hauer (I know, he's not a native born American-- Birthers!), even Jerry Springer (I know, he was born in London-- Birthers!). This movie took a different tact. They used file footage of Bush 41, and acted like the villains were targeting him with a rocket launcher by drawing some green sights over it. Hey, it saves money, right? That's all public domain footage right there, you can do whatever the hell you want with it. So bad it's ingenious!

As far as I know, this is only available on VHS here in the States, but overseas you can get it on DVD-- in fact, Amazon offers a Region 2 DVD set of all three No Retreat, No Surrender films. I think it's really a matter of where you are in the bad action movie world. Do you love these things with absolutely no irony whatsoever? In that case, you should look for a copy of this. If you just kind of do this thing for some goofy fun to laugh at "cheesy" movies, this might be too much. To give you an idea, it wasn't too much for me, but I've had a blog for over four years where I review stuff like this on a regular basis.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0100266/

20 comments:

  1. Love the fact they used old stock footage of the President and painted a target over him! Such a brilliant idea. You can get this in a DVD set here in Australia quite cheap with the three NRNS movies and the two Kick of the Kickboxer films, called the "No Retreat No Surrender Anthology". Yet I've still only watched the first King of the Kingboxers from it.

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  2. I know, wasn't that great? And I'm glad you brought up the King of Kickboxers, because I forgot to mention that in Europe they're all grouped together as Karate Tigers. I know you'll dig these, especially NRNS 2 & 3, because the fighting is really high quality, but the rest of the movie isn't-- which I found really fun.

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  3. Ah good, well I see no reason to hold off watching these so I'll get cracking on them shortly. Good action with bad acting = big fun.

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  4. Nice review! Also agree about how hilarious it is that they used Bush Sr. stock footage.

    Loved the 2nd No Retreat, No Surrender. Max Thayer, Rothrock and Hues were great.

    Haven't seen the 3rd one yet. Looks like fun!

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  5. Holy crap Ty, Rothrock, Thayer and Hues are in the second? I'm all over that.

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  6. Yeah, part 2 is really good, probably better than part 3, but part 3 has some really great Hong Kong style fights. I think you'll both enjoy this one for the reasons I gave, and I'd love to see your write-ups on it.

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  7. I enjoyed his 80's/90's stuff (Snake Eater, Renegade) but I've heard from multiple sources that Lorenzo is/was a consummate douche. I'd like to think he didn't shaft this dude's career, but I'm betting he did. The boom mics are hilarious - haven't that many since a Dark Shadows marathon.

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  8. Yeah, that's the thing with Lamas, he has a solid resume, but him being a douche isn't unfathomable. I have a feeling with Avedon that he felt threatened too, because Avedon was a hard worker and better martial artist.

    Yeah, the boom mic thing was pretty crazy, it was like they were doing it on purpose. I've never seen it like that before.

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  9. Great review. Bought the boxset a while back. Part 2 is easily the best. Can't beat the ending - Matthias Hues + Loren Avedon + Jeep + Rope + Crocodile Pit = Awesomeness

    This one was a slight step down. Vitali really really can't act. But the HK fight scenes are great (only spoiled a little by the fact they obviously use a guy in a white wig as a stunt double for the old man who gets beat up.)

    Think my favourite part was were Vitali hacked in a computer and there was a word document called "Top Secret.doc" on the desktop!

    Agree, it's a shame Avedon. Shame about Kurt McKinney (from NRNS1). Surely they could have pulled off something like American Ninja 4 and had both guys team up.

    If you can get a copy American Shaolin (aka Karate Tiger 5) that one isn't too bad either.

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  10. The entire computer hacking scenes was hilarious, especially with his gay friend behind the terminal that was talking dirty to the screen.

    I agree, 2 was better, especially with its cast. I'll have to check out American Shaolin. You're not the only one who's said it's worth it.

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  11. Yeah American Shaolin's fairly solid. The acting's better but there's not a whole of fighting. It's more about the training (as any Shaolin movie should be). Also it returns to having a teenager in the lead.

    I gotta say I love b-movies like this who use HK stunt teams - US Seals 2 and Extreme Heist come to mind as great ones.

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  12. Great review. I dug this one a lot, and I thought that despite the obvious use of a stunt double in the climax, Rion Hunter was pretty dope as Franco. How many martial arts movie villains had bleach-blond mullets and threw poisoned metal darts? NOT ENOUGH. The bearded Mark Russo as his main henchman was pretty fantastic as well. He was also in Capital Punishment which you covered a while back.

    I'd agree with you on the fight choreography -- it's pretty stellar, even by the rigorous standards of golden-era HK film. I think that purely from an action perspective, this is only slightly behind NRNS2. But as you mentioned, the acting in this one drags it down a few pegs and it doesn't have the steady hand of a Max Thayer to drag the non-action scenes to a more palpable level of watchability.

    Last, I'll definitely vouch for the boxset that others have mentioned. The prints are all full-screen but it's nice to have them all on DVD in one tidy package. I actually prefer the American cut of the first film for the unintentional comedy factor, but otherwise it's a great investment if you're into these films.

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  13. I'll have to check out those other movies you mentioned Jack. US Seals 2 is on Watch Instantly over here in the States.

    Rion Hunter was a trip as the main baddie, between that hair and the Roland Gift look-- but he had some skills too. I'm good with bad acting if the action is solid and consistent, and this had that; but most people can't handle that equation.

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  14. Another vote for US Seals 2. Good stuff there from Isaac Florentine with a bad guy death that's not entirely original, but done in a hilariously awesome way. The star, Michael Worth, like Avedon, could also have been bigger. He did a few PM-actioners and a TV-show. US Seals 2 (which he advertised as "a sequel to that Charlie Sheen film" - and which really should've been retitled, since US Seals 1 was horrible) is probably his best film.

    As for Lamas... Definitely a fun guy in films. An a-hole? Maybe so. A good fighter? Sure. Better than Avedon? Nope. But the reason for Avedon not getting jobs? I wonder... I mean, they were with different companies, worked with different people, often in different countries. Even if Lamas (who, by the way, was the star of Michael Worth's first feature, PM's Final Impact) had wanted to destroy Avedon's career, I wonder he would've had the power to do it. I can't find any connection between them, other than Lamas being in Circuit 2 and Avedon in Circuit 1 & 3 - and by then, Lamas wasn't exactly eating snakes anymore... The boom mikes are probably because this was a full frame-version rather than p&s. Some old Laserdiscs of big budget films from Fox were also full frame, for reasons unknown, and occasionally showed some fun stuff. Blue mats, car ramps, boom mikes, marks on the floor... All the stuff that isn't on the widescreen- or p&s-versions.

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  15. I don't know how much Avedon and Lamas working on the same projects would have to do with the fact that they run in he same circles, and Lamas was bigger in those circles than Avedon was. I think Kenner mentioned that Avedon had an issue with Sherrie Rose as well. Who knows, maybe Avedon was tough to work with, or maybe Lamas and Avedon are both tough to work with, but Lamas had more pull. Unfortunately through Kenner we only have one side of that story.

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  16. Avedon himself mentions this incident on his website:

    http://www.lorenavedon.com/avedon/interview.html

    About mid-way. He doesn't say Lamas was the reason for not getting the contract or hurting his career, though. It seems it was between Avedon and Wilson. The workout video by Lamas (I actually own the darn thing!) was made 2-3 years before Wilson's first PM film, so who knows... I believe all actors have their good and bad days. Some say Lamas is a great guy who always has time for his fans and is involved in various charities etc. Others say he's a douche. There's no reason why both can't be correct. Isn't that the way it is with all of us, really? In any case, while I'm certainly not above appreciating a juicy rumor (especially since there's so little info on the background of b-action), I think bad-mouthing people rarely does anyone any good. I highly doubt Lamas, Sherrie Rose, Seagal or Van Damme are having any sleepless nights over what Loren Avedon thinks of them.

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  17. It's here in the Tiger Claws III post where Kenner describes his conversation with Avedon.

    Again, it's all hearsay, but when we're looking at what was a potential great talent like Avedon, and people are curious why he didn't become bigger, there's one possible explanation.

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  18. "No Retreat, No surrender 3: still not surrendering" "No Retreat, No surrender 3: not surrendering harder" "No Retreat, No surrender 3: Electric Boogaloo" "No Retreat, No surrender 3: The legend of Patch's gold"

    Wait, where was I going with this again?

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  19. This all seems to lead in the early 90s and the PM contract. Avedon says in his website that he waited too long and Wilson got the contract, but apparently he has also said Lamas and Rose were at fault. Who knows? Avedon's story is pretty weird. He was an extra on Lorenzo's workout video, an unfortunate accident happened, Lamas called and apologized, Avedon accepted, and everything was paid for him. What's the problem there? At the same time, back in those years, PM took chances on a number of guys, from Wilson to Gary Daniels to Michael Worth etc. Avedon not getting that chance... It IS weird. Perhaps there was bad blood between Lamas and Avedon. Or perhaps Avedon wanted only leading man-roles. But even with Lamas and PM out of the picture, with friends like Rothrock, Blanks and Phillip Rhee, you would think something would've happened.

    It's funny... My personal opinions are actually 100% different from Kenner's. I think Avedon, while certainly a brilliant fighter, looks and sounds rather nerdy and goofy, while Lamas is a handsome guy, who can also play a dude you wouldn't want to mess with. Granted, Lamas definitely has a cheesy element to him, but I think it works for him because he seems to be aware of it and often uses it to his advantage. On the other hand - and not too many people know this - I was actually named Johnny Murata in my previous life, knew Kenner and he...well, he had the biggest male organ I've ever seen! So this could just be envy, you know?

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  20. No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Retreatier and Surrenderier. No Retreat, No Surrender 33 and 1/3. No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Forced to Fight.

    I have a feeling it might be envy TJ... Swaaahthhh!

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