American kickboxer Scott Wylde travels to Thailand to visit an old friend and his college sweetheart. When she gets kidnapped, his vacation sorta goes downhill. With the help of friend Mac Jarvis and a kickboxing helicopter pilot named Terry, he must save his woman from an evil Soviet force based in Cambodia.
Director: Corey Yuen
Screenwriter: Keith W. Strandberg
Cast: Loren Avedon, Max Thayer, Cynthia Rothrock, Matthias Hues, Hwang Jang Lee
Romantic love can make you do strange things. It can make you drive eight hours to spend four hours with someone. It can make you cook an elaborate meal, or write thoughtful notes and leave them around the house as surprises. For Scott Wylde (Avedon), love means busting out of police custody, killing 40 people with arrows and bullets, and climbing up a fucking waterfall. As much as you may love your spouse or partner, you will never love anyone as much as Scott Wylde does.
Shortly after arriving in Thailand, he makes a visit to a Muay Thai kickboxing school frequented by his old friend Mac (Thayer). He instead finds a bunch of guys who don’t speak English and a sassy American named Terry (Rothrock), who rocks an Esprit workout shirt almost as hard as she busts heads in the ring. On his way out, Scott drops a snide “your mother” joke which pisses off a Thai fighter and leads to a quick kickboxing scrum. After all, mom jokes are universal and kickboxing is the only logical resolution to such differences of opinion.
After a sweaty day of backpacking, Scott checks into a hotel haunted by the constant moaning of either whores or ghosts. He phones his Asian fiance, Sulin, to arrange the night’s plans and they end up going out for a dinner of fried bugs and tiger balls, dishes she insists he try in order to impress her father.
If the mustachioed man leering at them from afar during dinner wasn’t a bad enough omen, Scott brings Sulin back to room #13 at the hotel. After sex that we can only assume followed the slow-motion removal of their clothing, the couple is attacked in their room by a group of thugs. They carefully wrap Sulin in blankets to prevent damage during transport and two others stay behind to kill loverboy. He counters their blades and poisonous syringes with asskickery and jets over to Sulin’s family’s house to break the news that their daughter has been kidnapped. They have bigger things to worry about though -- they’ve been murdered! The police are suspicious of Scott’s presence at the house and take him into custody. Missing from the crime scene is Sulin’s wealthy father, who watches from behind closed doors as Scott undergoes a very sweaty interrogation back at the station. Roy Horan, who co-wrote the script, makes a cameo here as the American consular who mandates that Scott be deported to Singapore. As you might have guessed, Horan does not fight Bruce Lee in this film.
As protagonists tend to do, Scott escapes police custody the next day (thanks a fucking lot, Roy Horan). He tracks down Mac at a go-go dancing/arm-wrestling bar and to escape the heat of cops and bounty hunters, they head to a low-key restaurant outside the city. For an extra layer of cover, Scott wears a hat with a big floppy brim, perfect for a day of laying by the pool if you’re a girl. A group of bounty hunters are unswayed by this clever disguise and demand that the two come with them or die. Scott schools the baddies with acrobatic strikes and Mac utilizes his bad habits to great effect. He burns one guy’s face with a lit cigar, and wastes precious food by smashing eggs and melons into enemy heads. For his final act, he tosses a cobra at a gunman who Scott recognizes as one of the kidnappers from the night before. During a brief interrogation, they learn Sulin is being held in Cambodia at place called Death Mountain. It’s quite majestic between September and February but the weather’s a bit on the mild side.
At Mac’s warehouse of weaponry (he’s a black-market arms dealer) our heroes load up on enough firepower to fight an army and expel enough exposition to kill a horse. Mac posits that the Soviet-North Vietnamese forces have kidnapped Sulin to exploit her father, who is funding an anti-Khmer Rouge resistance movement. The two embark on their trip early the next day, but not early enough to evade the Thai authorities camped outside. A helicopter arrives just in time to fly them to safety, but the pilot turns out to be Terry, the wise-cracking kickboxer. Apparently, she and Mac have an intense history of sexy feelings and constant bickering. Mac is annoyed by her presence, Terry is frustrated by the assignment, and Scott is again very sweaty from the oppressive Thai humidity.
Shortly after their arrival in Cambodia, they make contact with a local resistance force to whom Mac has sold arms in the past. The colonel agrees to help them locate the Soviet camp, but only after Mac agrees to trade a battle tank for opium. To put this in perspective, it looks a lot like an F-16 worth of psychedelic mushrooms. Without warning, the camp is bombarded with explosives from above. The crew evades certain death by diving into a pond but their prospective guides have been blown to bits. With Plan A firmly in the shitter, they turn to Plan B -- wandering the jungles of Cambodia without the benefit of maps or a compass.
The Soviet camp where Sulin is held captive is run by a brutal general named Yuri, played by Matthias Hues. In a display of cruelty, he challenges an injured prisoner to a fight and dangles the promise of freedom as incentive. After inflicting punishment in the form of internal bleeding, Yuri lets him limp towards the exit for about ten feet before shooting him in the leg and ass. He then throws him into a pit full of crocodiles. While laughing hysterically. Following this comical turn of events, he turns to Sulin and assures her that he won’t harm her. Hmmm.
Meanwhile, our heroic trio is trudging through the jungle without the benefit of sunscreen, insect repellent, or moisture-wicking clothing, because it hadn’t been invented yet. They come upon a riverside camp of Buddhist monks, which reveals their deeply ingrained prejudices about non-Western religions. Mac doesn’t “trust people who don’t eat meat” (true, they don’t). Scott thinks they “sing and shake beads all day” (not entirely true). Terry states that “they’re harmless” (demonstrably false). The “monks” attack them and what follows is a legitimately great fight scene involving some slick rope work and gruesome kills. Though it must be said that for a guy purporting to frequent a Muay Thai gym, Mac doesn’t do an awful lot of kickboxing. After the scrum, Terry tries to start up a motorboat for a getaway but gets captured by a group of Yuri’s rogue military men and is whisked away upriver.
Back at the Ruskie Ranch, Terry is forced to fight Yuri’s second in command, an officer played by the legendary Hwang Jang Lee. After a brief show of skill by both fighters, Yuri steps in and asserts his authority. For reasons I’ll leave undisclosed, he decides that both she and Sulin will be executed by overly elaborate means the next morning. However, Mac and Scott have discovered the camp and set a number of overly elaborate traps, bombs, and self-firing machine guns under the cover of night.
Yuri decides to kick off the morning with an crocodile feeding, with both hostages suspended over the pit with nothing to counterweight them but a pair of sandbags. Terry remains defiant, remarking that Yuri would be a “big hit at the circus” (oddly prescient since Hues played “Oscar the Liontamer” in Big Top Pee-Wee just a year later). Scott and Mac awake to Sulin’s screams as both women are lowered into the pit. Before unleashing their bag of goodies, Scott and Mac share the first on-screen fist bump I can recall and the chaos commences. Bombs send soldiers flying, gunfire splatters the camera lens with blood (in 1987!), and arrows pierce flesh with pinpoint accuracy. And the girls are saved! Sort of.
Scott and Yuri battle hand-to-hand all over the compound in a climax filled with screaming and flag desecration and crocodiles. The fight is gloriously over the top and might be the best of Hues’ career. After the bloodshed and multiple ‘splosions, Scott cryptically speaks, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Intentional or not, I’d like to think this 1980s martial-arts actioner was dropping some subversive commentary on the military presence of the United States in Southeast Asia with this last bit of dialogue. But I also cracked up at the “Thanks To” credit to Mike Miller at the end of the film, because I pictured the Miami Heat shooting guard:
While a sequel in name only, there’s something for everyone in No Retreat, No Surrender 2 and it’s probably the best in the series. The kills are plentiful, the action is well-choreographed and well-shot, and there are reasonably good performances from all the principals. What really held it together for me was Thayer’s screen presence; as a real-life military vet and star of several Filipino action/war films of the 1980s, he’s a natural fit and seems very comfortable as the grizzled arms dealer. I’ve seen him comparatively positioned in other reviews as a Han Solo type and I’ll echo that sentiment here as well. In the first of his three-picture run with Seasonal Films, Loren Avedon is damn good; his acting, while raw, still has personality, and his fighting is excellent. Rothrock plays cocky reasonably well despite some grating dialogue, and Hues is good as the heartless Russian monster despite a fairly obvious German accent. You may be able to find this on Youtube in its entirety but action aficionados will want to acquire the readily available import for their collections. Followed by No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers.