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Review Karate Tiger 1 a.k.a. No Retreat, No Surrender (1986): Bruce Lee's ghost trains Kurt McKcinney!

genre: martial arts, action

Naturally with the success of The Karate Kid others tried to cash in on this phenomena and one of those movies was Karate Tiger a.k.a. No Retreat, No Surrender. If this only had been a generic rip off we would have never heard about it and I probably would not be reviewing it. However you can say a lot of things about this film except that it's generic.

Far from it. In fact it's downright crazy. First of all the action is top notch. But with Cory Yuen (Above the Law, Ninja in the Dragon's Den, Yes Madam and She Shoots Straight) at the helm that is to be expected. Far superior to any of the martial arts displayed in The Karate Kid. Second the premise is what makes this one stand out from all the others. Because get this, the ghost of Bruce Lee comes back from the afterlife to train main character Jason (Kurt McKinney). That is such a wild and original idea and automatically a winner for me. And they managed to get an actual Bruce Lee clone Kim Tai-chung (Tong Lung) to play sensei Lee. Last but not least, Jean-Claude Van Damme plays Ivan Kraschinsky the Russian one of the main villains. His first significant role.

But one thing one has to be aware of even when all of the above makes this an awesome film it's not without flaws. Actually it's filled with them although ones you very gladly want to overlook since this film is never pretending to be more than a bad B movie. (Think of cheesy dialogue, teen drama and very little story.) For the most part it fully embraces the craziness and is exactly what makes this film so much fun. Just go with what the film is going for and you will have a blast too. Although if you don't have the stomach for cheesiness you will definitely be able to enjoy the action which is the main draw of the whole franchise in the first place. Karate Tiger moves in an extremely fast pace and doesn't give you time to think about things which is the right way to go since otherwise you will be scratching your head constantly. One other thing that I completely forgot to mention that makes this film appealing is the Eighties factor. It's very strong in this film and that for me is always a plus. 

So yes, a must watch if you ask me especially if are a martial arts fan.

If you are curious to find more about the film and main star Kurt McKinney you can listen to him being interviewed in the following podcast:

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