Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Bad Movie of the Month: No Retreat, No Surrender

I may not be devoting all of my time and effort to covering bad movies these days, but that doesn’t mean I stopped loving them. So once a month, I’ll spread a little bit of that love…

I know I’m a little late getting this month’s Bad Movie of the Month out there, but I wanted to coordinate it with the latest episode of The Lair of the Unwanted. Yes, this also makes this a Recommendations post, so let me start again…

I'm not the only one doing stuff – other people have great stuff, too. That’s why every so often, I'll give a Recommendation of something you should read, see or do. Recommendations like this...

When it comes to movie reviews and coverage, there’s an entire battlefront that no one talks about… You won’t hear about it on your Rotten Tomatoes or your Metacritic, and you won’t hear about it on the popular YouTube channels. I’m talking about the efforts to take on bad movies, the movies no one else will touch because they’re crappy, crappy cinematic experiences. 

That battle is fought every stinkin’ month over at The Lair of the Unwanted, where Jason Soto and I have been covering bad movies for nine years. Nine years! That’s a whole lot of shit-n-shinola, my friend. But for nine years, every month like clockwork, Jason and I have been tackling bad movies like some kind of movie-reviewin’ dynamic duo. We even wear capes and tights sometimes. At least I do…

Anyway, the show is glorious. You should run on over to iTunes and subscribe. 

You might be thinking to yourself, Hey, doesn’t it get old? Honestly, it does and I was feeling a bit like I had seen it all, that I couldn’t be surprised anymore. Then this month’smovie happened. We had Todd from the Forgotten Films on the show and… well, we loop back to where we started:

I may not be devoting all of my time and effort to covering bad movies these days, but that doesn’t mean I stopped loving them. So once a month, I’ll spread a little bit of that love…

People bemoan the reliance on sequels and remakes in Hollywood these days, but the dirty truth is that Hollywood has always leaned heavily on popular trends for a quick cash grab.
Here’s a relevant case in point: 1984’s The Karate Kid. That was a huuuuuge hit. People went Karate Kid krazy. I’m old enough to remember seeing that in the theater, and by golly that movie made me want to run out and wax cars just so I could instantly be good at karate. And it worked! (as far as you know)

You know what else The Karate Kid did? It gave us the cinematic delight that is No Retreat, No Surrender

Here is a film that seems to be fueled entirely by cocaine and Coca-Cola product placement (so much Coke in this film…): This movie is just like The Karate Kid, only in addition to the new-kid-gets-bullied-by-local-dojo plotline there’s also a mob element from New York trying to muscle in on west coast martial arts dojos through their main enforcer “Ivan the Russian,” played by a pre-fame, non-Russian Jean-Claude Van Damme. Also, instead of an Asian-American handyman, our karate kid is trained by – I shit you not – the ghost of Bruce Lee. 

Yeah, there’s a lot to unpack here.

The movie starts off in Sherman Oaks, where hot-blooded Jason is a student at his dad’s dojo. The mob shows up, demanding that Dad sell them the dojo. He refuses and takes a beating from JCVD, so Dad… immediately closes shop, packs up the family and moves to Seattle. We know it’s Seattle because we see the Space Needle, then a highway sign saying we’re entering Seattle, then another shot of the Space Needle, then a caption that reads “Seattle.” And the film will never be that thorough about anything ever again.

Jason immediately befriends ‘80s stereotype black teen R.J., and the two are immediately hassled by ‘80s stereotype fat guy Scott. Yes, everything in this movie happens immediately. We get a heavy dosage of cartoonish fat guy/bullying stuff here, and it all would be very much at home in an issue of Archie comics. Take this run-in, which features too much mustard and multiple characters hanging out in a fast-food parking lot.

Despite the title of the film, Jason and R.J. have numerous moments of both retreating and surrendering in their encounters with Scott and the guys at the Seattle dojo, led by Scott to believe Jason has been disrespecting their karate.

After taking a particularly embarrassing beating at Kelly’s birthday party (Did I mention Kelly? Don’t worry, the movie didn’t either), and upset Jason goes to the grave of Bruce Lee – yes, it’s actually in Seattle – and somehow summons him. A very generous chunk of the movie is spent with Jason squatting in an abandoned house, being physically abused by the Ghost of Bruce Lee, played by an Asian man who most definitely does not look like Bruce Lee. 

It all builds up to an exhibition match between the bully dojo and the New York mob fighters for control of the Seattle dojo, giving us absolutely no one we want to see win. It’s not until JCVD starts fighting dirty and backhands Kelly that Jason jumps into action.

There’s so much I’m glazing over, such as the strange character arc given to Jason’s father, the muddling of Bruce Lee’s more famous teachings and the insulting way flashbacks are edited into the film, as if the audience forgot what had happened in the previous scene. But that’s okay, because you should really track this down and check it out for yourself. 

It’s been entirely too long since a bad movie made me feel this way. Congratulations, No Retreat, No Surrender: You are the Bad Movie of the Month.

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