No Retreat, No Surrender Part 2

Ok so the other week I filled you in on the back story to my first exposure of martial arts masterpiece No Retreat No Surrender. If you’ve just tipped up, get yourself informed here, then you can come back and get into the meat of it.

So after Jason gets beat up at Kelly’s birthday party he runs home and beats hell out of the stuff in his garage dojo. His dad can no longer teach Karate because JCVD snapped his leg so now he pulls pints down at some grotty local watering hole. I mean, it’s all starting to sound like one of them sad Bruce Springsteen songs isn’t it?

Fat guy + Cannonball = 80’s Pool party

Anyway Dad has already warned Jason about fighting even though getting your shit knocked in appears to be a Stillwell family tradition at this point. In a rage Dad pulls down Jason’s beloved Bruce Lee poster and thats the last straw of a spectacularly shit day. Jason runs off into the night.

RJ turns up to save the day and suggests that they move all Jason’s karate stuff to an abandoned house he knows of. Now I’m all for urban renewal incentives but this seems like a foolish move given the amount of heroin floating around up in Seattle. But nonetheless they set up the crack den dojo, whack up the sandbags and the Bruce Lee posters and commence training. Up until now NRNS has followed a standard underdog story formula right? Well this is where things get twisted up….sure enough Jason falls asleep in his new digs and somehow opens a glowing portal in to Heaven and the shade of Bruce Lee emerges in to the mortal realm to teach this absolute melt Jeet Kune Do powers.

Bare in mind that Bruce Lee had been brown bread for about ten years at this point. That’s not even that long put it in modern context that would be like the ghost of Anna Nicole Smith turning up in Pitch Perfect 2 or something. What makes this better is that I didn’t bat an eyelid when a fucking phantom turned up. Didn’t phase me in the slightest. I guess this is no big surprise given my grasp on reality over the years could be described as ‘flexible’ at best. I mean at various points in my life I have A) genuinely believed that playing Fighting Fantasy books at midnight would give me black magic powers and B) that I was part of a vegan straight edge master race that would inherit the wasteland and breathe new life into Gaia’s ravaged corpse . Like I say, flexible.

Anyway Ghost Bruce shows up and starts whipping Jason Stillwell into shape. Not just physically but also mentally. Despite the fact that Jason constantly refers to a Chinese Kung Fu man as Sensei (Japanese term innit) he fortifies Jason’s shattered confidence. Bruce gives him the kind of tough love that encourages and admonishes at the same time. None of this modern ‘we’re all winners/everyone gets a prize’ crap they teach in schools these days. No mate. Bruce Lee’s educational methods are definitely more Magneto than Professor X. Ridicule and failure made both Jason Stillwell and I, Nathan Bean the men we are today. Thank you Sensei.

Bruce Lee sets Jason up with a training regime that will elevate him to God tier scrapper and we are treated to one of the FINEST training montage’s committed to film, observe:

I know what you are thinking…why the fuck is Jason Stillwell doing pelvic thrusts whilst there’s a black lad munching on a Magnum sat on his cock?  My answer is, I have no answer. The 80’s? I don’t know. Anyway Jason’s shift in attitude is also signified by a change in his wardrobe choices. No longer is our hero content to dress like a caricature homosexual from a 70’s UK sitcom, instead he starts as Brand, the meathead older brother from the Goonies.

In the the schoolyards of 1980’s Britain, knowing Karate carried a significant cache. You were considered a bad wo/man (official) and afforded the same level of respect reserved for the higher tier football players or the top three hardest in the year. As someone who was skirting the periphery of the social sin bin of fleabags and boffins, I felt like I needed something to define me. I needed a thing. My options were thus: go to the karate Club down Margate Community Centre and become nails in a few short weeks orrrrrrrrr learn to play the cornet and join Margate Silver band. Kick a mans soul out of his mortal form or toot away on a little trumpet. Decisions decisions.

I ended up taking three cornet lessons before flaking out. I never got to march in Margate carnival in a nice blazer and dickie bow. I never got to learn how to play the Last Post. Turns out I just didn’t have it in me to be a bugler. Wasn’t really feeling sitting in a cold, empty room round the back of the Fire Station with a man with busy hands and an ever present line of sweat on his top lip. My mum shouted at me that I was a waste of time and that was the end of that. Why did I pick the cornet over whupping ass? Glad you asked mate. See my logic was thus…leaning to play the bugle involved minimal financial investment since they had a trumpet I could borrow. Learning Karate TRADITIONALLY involved donning a pair of grubby Jim-Jams and being shouted at by a large man down the church hall and probably getting beaten up loads by bigger boys. Or…I could TEACH MYSELF KARATE USING THE METHODS DEMONSTRATED IN NO RETREAT NO SURRENDER. It was a no brainer.

I assembled my equipment, cobbled together from round the house. I’d seen boxers on Dickie Davis World Of Sport using that method of dodging under a wire, back and forth in order to develop reflexes, to bob and weave. That’s all well and good but I knew I could improve upon this technique. Because we had a spinning washing line in our back yard and I am the king of sweet ideas. I loaded the arms of the spinner with carrier bags full of rocks and old broken bricks that I found down the alley down the back of our house. I then instructed my younger sister to spin the washing line as hard as she could so that I could evade the flailing arms of the tornado of death I had invented.

When we finally got home from the hospital, I received one of the great beatings of the eighties courtesy of my Father. It was a real humdinger and unfortunately my training plans had to go on ice until things cooled off. But I didn’t flake. I did not relent. I did five press ups then ate an apple and ran up and down the stairs a few times to keep myself ticking over. Steel sharpens steel etc. A couple of years later we got a Swingball set for Christmas. I’m sure you can imagine how that went but I’ll save that story for my Bloodsport review.

I spent the rest of the Summer attempting to master the kickup hand spring. You know that thing that Jackie Chan does when he’s on the floor and kinda rolls back and springs up onto his feet? Cool innit.  I chose to practice this challenging manouver at the top of the school field far away from the mocking eyes of my classmates. EVERY DAY., Sadly I hadn’t considered the view from St Ursuline’s the Catholic girls school next door…..

‘What are you doing you silly wanker?’.  Let me tell you readers, there’s nothing quite so sobering/mentally scarring as ridicule from a pack of Catholic schoolgirls in kilts having a snidey cigarette.

I used to wonder why I didn’t get to kiss a girl until I was 27 years of age, but on reflection it’s pretty fucking clear isn’t it?

Meanwhile in Seattle, Jason is primed and loaded to start breaking man off something proper. There’s still so much of this movie to celebrate but I’ve already written almost 3000 words on this honker so lets wrap things up. Basically Jason turns it around by saving his old man from getting beat up outside his work by some textbook rednecks. Dad realises he was wrong and that it’s not socially acceptable to be a massive pussy. They hug. Then they celebrate this revelation by heading on down to the competitive Karate tournament that pits the mafia’s team of Karate Men against Kelly’s brother Ian, Dean Ramsay and Pete Sugarfoot Cunningham.

We’ve seen these men beat up Jason Stillwell. We know they aint no slouches. But then Jean Claude finally shows up in his shiny pants and wife beater combo and the entire Mafia team get relegated to the subs bench so Jean Claude can fight the entire Seattle team single handed. Needless to say EVERYONE gets battered and it is an immensely satisfying moment to watch Dean Ramsay get dropkicked out of the ring. Jean Claude is ripping it up and has so much gel on his hair it’s a wonder his noggin cleared Health and Safety regs. According to stuff I read on the internet, JCVD was a bit heavy handed in the fight scenes here and didn’t pull his punches. I can’t say as I am surprised because honestly he seems high as fuck during these fights.

With the Seattle team spin kicked into orbit, Jason Stillwell seizes the opportunity to save the day and springs over the ropes and into the ring to take on the JCVD. What follows is actually a really sick final fight. In fact all of the fights in this movie are good and despite its many dramatic shortcomings, weird clothes, questionable ethnic portrayals and crap acting, the fight choreography is a cut above pretty much everything else that was coming out of Western cinema at the time. See unlike Karate Kid the producers did the right thing and got some legit heads involved to choreograph the fighting. Corey Yuen and Shaw Brothers matey Sel Yuen Ng are the men with the hook up here and it shows. The combat has impact and flair, speed and excitement and way more in common with Hong Kong cinema than Chuck Norris or whatever.

Here’s the footage of the final scrap. Just enjoy it for what it is. An opportunity to see JCVD turn in an awesome performance as a baddie for once and Kurt Mckinney hamming it up good style. The final scene is scarily reminiscent of the end of the original Teen Wolf and ANY film that echoes Teen Wolf is alright with me. I didn’t even get into the amazing soundtrack or explore some of the truly magical hairstyles that populate this film. But that’s OK, some things you need to discover on your own. I know this movie is dumb as absolute shit but I love it so much, thanks for sticking with me, it’s been a blast.