Monday, 18 October 2010

No Retreat, No Surrender 2: Raging Thunder (1987)

Welcome to my second week in my retrospective of the No Retreat, No Surrender series. Today I'm reviewing the second entry No Retreat, No Surrender 2: Raging Thunder. After the huge success of the first one Seasonal films were quick to put together a sequel to capitalize on it's huge success. Both stars Kurt Mckinney and Jean-Claude Van Damme had signed on and a script and locations in Thailand had been put together.

Unfortunately days before cameras were set to roll Van-Damme dropped out of the film, feeling it would not further his career and went on to star in Kick Boxer, which propelled the Muscles from Brussels into super stardom. Strangely, Mckinney would soon follow, thus leaving the film without it's principle actors. Producer Roy Horan was then forced to find replacements. German martial artist Matthias Hues took the place of Van-Damme and American Tae Kwon Do expert Loren Avedon was given the leading role.

The film opens in the stormy fields of Vietnam, here we see a group of people tied to posts ready to be executed by the military, here we meet Ty played by none other then Hwang Jang Lee, we can tell he's the bad guy cos 1) his face is partially obscured by shadow and 2) he has a mean looking scar on his face and nothing says evil like a big facial scar. Suddenly he barks an order and they proceed to kill their prisoners, quite why he's executed these people is never made clear but it serves the purpose of just showing just how evil this guy is, I guess a little t-shirt saying "I'm The Bad Guy" would have been a too subtle.

Next we meet Scott Wylde (Avedon), a martial artist who travels to Thailand to visit his college sweet heart Sulin. After a romantic meal consisting of deep fried insects and Tiger testicles he whisks her away to his flop house hotel room for a Bond style love scene, complete with slow motion disrobing and cheesy music. That Scott is a classy guy. Not long after their torrid love making they are attacked by some thugs. Sulin is kidnapped and Scott is arrested by the local police for killing some of the attackers. After an awkward interrogation in which he was told to inexplicably jump or maybe shut up I couldn't tell, Roy Horan shows up and tells him to bugger off to Singapore and never set foot in Thailand again.

As he's about to be shoved into a plane, Scott escapes on a motorcycle which culminates in a jump over a spitfire that would make Evel Kienevel piss himself laughing from beyond the grave. Scott soon finds out Sulin's kidnappers are involved with the Vietnamese army and Russian military, sadly I can't recall why these two armies had joined forces or why they kidnapped her but it's not all that integral to the movie. Scott then enlists the help of wise cracking Vietnam veteran Mac Jarvis (Max Thayer) and the hot tempered fighter Terry (Cynthia Rothrock) to go with him to Cambodia to rescue his girl and take down the bad guys.

So, yeah, the plot is very different to the Karate Kid cloning of the original, it seems that the producers were eager to push the series further and give the audience more bang for their buck. It's also obvious that Rambo II was a huge influence, with it's exotic locations and bombastic action sequences. There's a lot of martial arts action but there's also a few good gun fights thrown in which gives the film a really wild over the top tone. Corey Yuen returned for directing duties so as you'd expect the action is really solid for the most part.

I mentioned previously he really knows how to make people look good when their fighting, he has this incredible knack for being able to play to the actor's strengths and NRNS2 is a fine example of this. Avedon is a good martial artist, he looks good when he's throwing kicks and he handles himself well in the numerous action scenes he's in, Yuen choreographs his action that plays to Avedon's strengths really well. He's also not that bad an actor, growing up he starred in TV commercials and had a few bit parts in low budget action flicks but NRNS2 was his first full leading role, he may have been a little rough around the edges in the drama department but with a lot more exposure and some sure fire hits under his belt he could well have been a big a star as Van Damme and Seagal. It's just a shame that he never really got the recognition he really deserves.

He plays well off his co-stars Thayer and Rothrock. Thayer plays Mac with just the right level of world weariness that makes him likeable and Rothrock does well enough but it's when she's fighting she shines the most. By this time in her career she'd already made a name for herself in Hong Kong with appearances in Yes, Madam!, The Magic Crystal and Righting Wrongs so it was a natural for her to make the progression to American movies and this wasn't a bad place to start. She shares the distinction of having the one and only fight scene featuring Hwang Jang Lee (I should mention this film contains the only scene were he speaks English in a movie) and while the choreography itself is not as great as you'd expect it to be, it's a good opportunity to see these two action legends go toe to toe.

The finale has Avedon and Hues go at it and it's just as over the top as you'd expect. Matthias Hues is a large man, he towers over Avedon and when you get a heavily built man like Hues doing the action, it can come off as a bit awkward and it does a couple times but Yuen does a good enough job of hiding it and the choreography works in both actors favours. No Retreat, No Surrender 2 is a solid action flick and is definitely worth seeing as it gives a great debut from Avedon and as I said, the rare opportunity to see Rothrock and Lee fight each other.

Tune in next week for my review of Part 3 Blood Brothers!

1 comment:

  1. Good review! Loved part 2! Th Hues vs. Avedon fight was great and Max Thayer and Rothrock were at their best too.