NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER 2, sometimes subtitled “Raging Thunder,” which is also the name of the opening credits song, picks up exactly where part 1 left off: with Corey Yuen directing movies. But it has no characters or story that have any relation at all. Like it would’ve been hard to throw the ghost of Bruce Lee into a scene or two.
Instead of being about a karate student in Seattle learning kung fu from the ghost of Bruce Lee to fight Russian Jean-Claude Van Damme in a karate tournament this is about Scott Wylde (Loren Avedon, KING OF THE KICKBOXERS), an American kickboxer, getting into some shit in Thailand. It seems like he’s a tourist, there to visit his old friend Mac Jarvis (Max Thayer, MARTIAL LAW II, ILSA, HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS), but then we find out he has a fiance there, Sulin (Patra Wanthivanond). She’s from a rich family and she brings him to a restaurant for a huge feast of TEMPLE OF DOOM type food such as tiger balls and monkey brains. “Very funny, sweetheart!” he says.
But four guys break into his apartment with big knives and little guns and kidnap Sulin to the tune of inappropriately upbeat music. Two stay behind to fight Scott, and it’s immediately clear that the fights (action choreographer: Corey Yuen) are better in this than in part 1. It’s a very acrobatic fight inside the little dingy apartment, jumping off the bed, slamming against the flimsy walls, kicking a guy through the door and across the hall and through the neighbor’s door (where of course he surprises two people who are having sex). And there’s alot of banging heads against walls. And he kills them.
When he gets arrested he throws the kind of fit that only a bad guy should. “You can’t do this, I’m an American! I want my lawyer! I’ll sue your asses!” (actual quote.) He gets framed for murder and drug possession, which is an unnecessary story contrivance in my opinion because he actually did just kill two guys, which is a reasonable cause for getting into trouble overseas, even if it was self defense. Anyway, while being transferred he steals a motorcycle, uses five different sets of stairs to jump over five different small planes, takes off into the jungle and then to the red light district to find Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, cigar-chomping, arm-wrestling-for-money Mac, who used to be his teacher I guess.
While out drinking snake blood shots they get attacked by the kidnappers and get into a high-kicking, table-flipping, pole-spinning brawl. Mac is more into the use of props: he busts a watermelon with a guy’s head, then blows smoke in his face, then burns his cheek with his cigar. He smashes eggs in a guy’s face and throws a snake at a guy. It’s that kind of movie. Also it’s the kind of movie where they’ve got a guy pinned down to interrogate him and another guy rolls a grenade at them so they say “Ah shit!” but then one of them puts a table on top of the guy (so he doesn’t get away? to shield them? I don’t know) and then there’s a great shot of a dummy under a table getting flipped up by an explosion.
Anyway before the explosion they got the guy to give up that Sulin was taken to Cambodia. Mac is an arms dealer now, so they load up enough weapons to kill every character and stadium extra in part 1 and head for Cambodia via helicopter to “start a war.”
The pilot they hire turns out to be Terry, played by the one and only Cynthia Rothrock. This leads to bickering, because in the opening scene Scott ran into her at the gym and was a total dick to her for no reason, and also because she’s an ex-flame of Mac’s and thinks he’s a fucking asshole. So we get lots of awkward, stiffly delivered banter like this:
“What are you doing here, you witch?”
“Right now she looks like an angel.”
“If you were expecting Santa Claus you’re in for a big surprise.”
But they learn to work as a team. They actually stop to do an arms deal along the way, but the village they’re in gets attacked, allowing for Yuen to get a ridiculous amount of pyrotechnics into the movie, and also for Scott to win over Terry by shielding her from an explosion.
Now we meet the actual bad guys: Viet Cong and Soviets working together to plan a coup or something. So, the ultimate enemies of America in the ’80s. Their leader is Yuri, played by Matthias Hues, the long-haired giant who played the alien in I COME IN PEACE and was also in KICKBOXER 2, BLACKBELT, TALONS OF THE EAGLE, MISSION OF JUSTICE, TC 2000, etc. This was actually his movie debut, and he was called in at the last minute to replace Van Damme, which is interesting because it brings up the possibility that the two movies were supposed to be connected by his Russian character graduating from asshole athlete to war criminal.
Whatever the story is, Yuri is not just an asshole, he’s a legitimately evil dude, complete with a Just How Evil Is He? introduction. He flies into their base, chooses a prisoner hanging from a rope and challenges him to a duel for freedom. He not only beats him, he drags him across the ground by his chin, picks him up by the leg, spins him around and tosses him as easily as if he was a coat. Then he tells him he can go but shoots him from behind, picks him up and jollily tosses him into a crocodile pit, laughing the whole time. Then turns to Sulin and says “Don’t be afraid, my dear. I will not harm you.”
Our heroic trio have to make a bit of a trek to get to this evil Soviet base. They stop to stay with some Buddhist monks who turn out to be phonies. There’s a cool scene where the protagonists leap around to avoid getting caught in nets. Terry ends up getting captured and taken to the base before the others. This is when the movie gets real good because the #1 henchman wants to fight her, and she arrogantly demands to fight Yuri, not a “flunkie.” But she does have to fight the flunkie first, and she beats him. Yuri picks her up by her neck and just throws her against a building. When he comes over to tell her it was a good try (maybe sincerely, because it was), she spits in his face.
She may get defeated, but she never submits. While tied up she keeps saying things like “Am I going too fast for you? Have you heard the theory about small brains and big dicks?” (Which implies that he at least has a big dick, doesn’t it?) Also: “Is that you I smell, or crocodile shit?” But that doesn’t stop them from being hung by pulleys over the croc hole.
There’s a long sequence of passionate guitar soloing as Scott and Mac rappel up a waterfall toward their destiny of a big action finale. Man, they are way outnumbered, but you know how it is. No retreat, and furthermore no surrender. They sneak around at night and set up a bunch of bombs and shoot down at them from the hills. Scott shoots a rope arrow into the guard in the watch tower, zip lines onto it and starts firing off arrows with grenades hooked onto them.
Of course this is all leading to Wylde vs. Yuri. Hues is a great opponent, cackling and wielding his huge forearms like weapons, kicking through wooden structures instead of bothering to hop over them. He flips Scott up over a desk into a chair, then flips over the desk and pushes it towards him, crushing him against the wall. He’s like a rampaging monster. The way Wylde finally defeats him is pretty brilliant. First he breaks a framed picture of Lenin over his head, then he pulls a Soviet flag over it and wraps a noose around it. Not satisfied with just blinding him he runs outside with the rope, steals a Jeep and drives, dragging Yuri along by the neck and into the crocodile pit.
But not so fast! This is Yuri we’re talking about! He doesn’t retreat or surrender either. When the engine of the Jeep suddenly dies, Yuri pulls on the rope, dragging it down into the pit with him. But Scott hops out before it falls in on top of Yuri and explodes.
This is all alot of fun, but there’s a depressing tragedy at the end too, so there’s your Asian cinema tonal shifts. When it freeze frames and goes into a downbeat version of the theme music suddenly you feel like you watched a serious movie.
The screenplay is credited to Maria Elan Cellino (no other IMDb credits), Roy Horan (Lewis from GAME OF DEATH II!)
and Keith W. Strandberg (writer of all three NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER films as well as AMERICAN SHAOLIN).
It’s hard to measure this against the first one, since they’re unrelated and not really the same type of movie. On one hand, I tend to prefer movies with both kicking and exploding to ones about legitimate athletic competition. This one has bazookas. It has Cynthia Rothrock. It has Matthias Hues. It has crocodiles. And most importantly it has more of Yuen’s Hong Kong action type of energy, that willingness to pile insane stunt on top of insane stunt, to have more thought-out and acrobatic fights. Rothrock with her hands behind her back kicking guys, breaking them through wooden planks, Hues lifting and throwing people like an Incredible Hulk.
On the other hand, part 1 is just way crazier, way goofier, has more enjoyably ridiculous music. I can’t see myself re-watching part 2 as many times as I have part 1. But all critics of retreating and/or surrendering owe it to themselves to view it at least once.