No Retreat, No Surrender (1985)

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Released 23-Feb-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-No Retreat, No Surrender II & III, King Of Kickboxers
Trailer-King Of Kickboxers - American Shaolin
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1985
Running Time 94:25
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Corey Yuen
Seasonal Film Corp
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Kurt McKinney
Jean-Claude Van Damme
J.W. Fails
Kathie Sileno
Tai Chung Kim
Kent Lipham
Ron Pohnel
Dale Jacoby
Peter Cunningham
Timothy D. Baker
Gloria Marziano
Joe Vance
Farid Panahi
Case C-Button-Version 1
RPI $19.95 Music Paul Gilreath

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis


    I was interested in watching this movie again given it is some 21 years old. I remember watching it way back in the mid eighties among a heap of other karate/beat-em-up movies such as American Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja and anything Chuck Norris was in. Back then these movies were shown on prime time television and my Nan would let me stay up to watch them whenever I was over at her place. In more recent years they can still be seen late, sometimes so late it's early the next day, on TV. My memories of this movie was much like my memory of other movies from the same period and along the same lines. They were full of action, fitness and fight training scenes and of course the good guys always win in the end due to their hard work and effort.

    Briefly, the movie is about a father (Timothy D. Baker as Tom Stillwell) who teaches karate and is forced to use his dojo as a front for the mob. He declines and suffers the consequences. After this he shuns karate and any sort of violence because of the effect it has had on him. His son (Kurt McKinney starring as Jason Stillwell) knows karate and isn't afraid to use it if the situation presents, and he is frequently found wanting in the toughness department. The story is poor, weak, thin and feeble, but I won't go on about it.

    Jason is beaten up and taunted numerous times before he is able to visit Bruce Lee's grave when Jason's family moves to Seattle to escape the violence of L.A. At Lee's gravesite he asks for help, and sure enough Sensei Lee (Tai Chung Kim) makes an appearance and trains him up good. Despite leaving L.A. for Seattle to escape the tentacles of organised crime, it's inevitable the crime is organised enough to also find its way to Seattle. Cue fight-down between Jason and Jean-Claude Van Damme as Ivan the Russian. It was Ivan who broke Jason's dad's leg at the start of the movie, so there is some history here to be worked out.

    Despite having second billing, and No Retreat No Surrender being "known" as a Van Damme movie, he is not in it all that much. I would guess two minutes at the beginning of the film and maybe ten minutes at the end. So it's hard to blame the inadequate acting on poor Jean here. Oh, sure, he is guilty of the first order in this movie but his time on screen is so limited it's unfair to place the blame solely on him. Both Kurt McKinney and Timothy D are more responsible for the stilted overacting.

    In fact it's J.W. Fails as R.J. who wins out in the acting stakes. This lad steals the show as the funny zany sidekick who dresses like Michael Jackson and dances like a member of the Rock Steady Crew.

    Tai Chung Kim has doubled and/or stood in for Bruce Lee in two other movies, being Game of Death (1978) and Si Wang Ta (1981).

Let the destruction begin!

    The fight scenes in No Retreat No Surrender are good. Even given the time that's lapsed since its release the fight scenes here are very good without being great. In some cases the film has been sped up. This works more often than not where it's done subtly but at times it's a touch overdone and verges on comical.

    It's easy to see why pre and young teens would be attracted to this movie. Karate is cool as teenagers and grown men engage in various chase scenes and end up fighting it out in parking lots. The training scenes are inspirational, as Jason embarks on his Rocky like training regime of running with ankle weights and a short rope skipping scene to rival Sly's own best efforts. Motivational stuff as exhaustive training, fighting, self discipline and belief enable Jason to overcome obstacles of increasing difficulty right up to the final fight scene. There was one particular exercise routine that stood out as humorous at 62:47 and we are not sure if this was deliberate or not.


    Definitely not KC.


    OK, maybe not. Given this was 1985 I am sure it was innocent enough. But looking back it provided us with a good laugh. The movie itself has dated some. The acting is as bad as we thought it could be but the fight and training scenes would suit the type of audience who would be interested in this type of movie. I didn't realise how little Van Damme appeared in it.

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Transfer Quality


    I was disappointed in the film transfer. From the opening scenes the footage appears old and it doesn't seem like any effort has been made to buff it up for the DVD release. It does improve as the film progresses, but the quality remains very variable. Even different camera angles of the same scene can vary from not being too bad, to having many noticeable artefacts like dirt and stray hair.

    This film is not 16x9 enhanced and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1.

    Many scenes seem jaded and footage is not remotely sharp. Shadow detail is lacking, grain is noticeable and low level noise is apparent.

    The colours appear washed out and are never striking, despite the efforts of the wardrobe crew at the time outfitting the cast in the best 1985 had to offer. Tracky dacks of the silky and cotton variety are in almost every scene, and some of the colours of shirts fight with each other for attention on a scale almost as vicious as the fight scenes themselves. Unfortunately the DVD struggles to keep up with the colours likely on offer.

    As mentioned, the film is plagued by positive and negative artefacts throughout. They do appear in bunches though, and this is where the variability comes in. In one scene the film can be reasonably clear but then cut to a different angle and there's countless appearances of dust, hair and other artefacts. There are times when the transfer seems as if it's straight from the cinema as vertical lines race down your  TV screen like the movie was being run from a projector. This doesn't happen too often, but is worth mentioning because it shouldn't happen at all and occurs more than once.

    There are no subtitles.

    There was no noticeable layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The sound starts off as disappointingly as the video. It's very scratchy and crackly. Some dialogue is not clear - it's almost as if the microphone was too close to their mouths as it can become distorted and muffled. The music is amusing in a good sort of way. Mood setting music is effective also.

    Here we have a Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s) English sound track. The quality of sound is just as variable as the vision. Repeatedly there are scenes where background noise is non existent before cutting in at an exaggerated level and then just as quickly dropping back to nothing. This is distracting.

    Audio sync on the whole is good, except for the scenes where Tai Chung Kim as Sensei Lee is training Kurt. In these scenes Kim speaks in his native tongue and his voice was later dubbed into English. Neither actor was able to understand the other during these scenes and the lack of voice sync is offputting. As mentioned there are times where voices can be difficult to understand because they become muffled and distorted. This is where subtitles would have been good, although I'm sure nothing is lost if you cannot determine some of the dialogue in the movie.

    There is a surprising amount of music throughout this film. There is 80's style evil-baddie type music to prompt you when to boo the villains, synthesizer-rap-B-boy-music when R.J. does his dance thang, and various segments of dramatic effect music during the film's entirety. Eighties inspirational music is also used throughout the movie when Stillwell is going through his training routines.

    There is no surround sound or LFE.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    Plenty of trailers on offer here. Just over twenty minutes of trailers in fact. American Shaolin, No Retreat, No Surrender I , No Retreat, No Surrender II, The King of the Kick Boxers and No Retreat, No Surrender III (Blood Brothers) are all martial arts action flix.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region 4 must be the winner here as I have not been able to find a Region 1 version available on DVD! 

    Interestingly, I have not found a box set release in R1 either.


    Poor acting but good fighting - this will appeal to the young, young at heart and budding karate enthusiasts.

    The video is disappointing, right on the verge of being distractingly so.

    The sound is disappointing, right on the verge of being distracting.

    Combined, the sound and video is distractingly poor. Older movies have had better transfers. The material here has gone straight to DVD without any apparent effort to improve its quality.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Kristen Clark & Ryan Woodforde (I love the smell of bio in the morning.)
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-533K, using Component output
DisplayPioneer PDP436HD 43" Plasma Display Panel. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to Amplifier.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS494
SpeakersKrix Lyrix front speakers, Krix KDX-C centre speaker, Krix Equinox rear speakers, BIC D-121OR 12' 200 watt powered sub-woofer.

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Thanks -
Longer cut & different soundtrack - Sam
Question about transfer - James Lee REPLY POSTED