Good, Tough & Deadly Week: No Retreat, No Surrender 2 & Back in Action
After reading reviews and interviews for hundreds of action and martial arts flicks theatrical and direct to video in The Good, the Tough & the Deadly, I had to dip my toe into some of the lesser known titles I passed in the aisles of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Video Star and Classic Family Video years ago. Author David J. Moore couldn't believe I'd never seen 1987's No Retreat, No Surrender 2 so I started with that and to give Loren Avedon a spin. The first film was regular viewing in my home, it helped launch Jean-Claude Van Damme but more than that, it's a crazy and hilarious flick that somehow blends Bruce Lee's ghost, the KBG taking over karate schools nationwide, break dancing and inspirational pop songs. Apparently original stars Kurt McKinney and JCVD ducked out of the sequel at the last minute, opening the door for relative newcomers Avedon, Cynthia Rothrock and Matthias Hues.
Made by Seasonal Films' usual suspects like Corey Yuen and Keith Strandberg, NRNS2 transports the action from Los Angeles to Cambodia where kickboxer Scott Wlyde (Avedon) is visiting his buddy Mac Jarvis (Max Thayer) and his lady then somehow gets involved with a kidnapping plot and Russian soldiers? There's action and flips galore with everyone showing off impressive kicks and acrobatics along with a few explosions. This is the first flick I've ever seen Avedon in and I must say, I was not impressed. Sure he can kick and move but he doesn't have much in terms of leading man charisma. Cynthia Rothrock has some entertaining spunk and Matthias Hues shows a bit of humorous posturing along with a muscular frame. The real ace here is Max Thayer as the Hawaiian shirt clad, cigar smoking, tail chasing ex-pat Mac, he's a cool dude. Yuen and company's goofy yet choreographed approach comes off cartoonish and not as endearing as the original's. Still, seeing so many physically talented actors pull off crazy fight scenes still impresses after all these years, especially in the era of hyper editing, stunt doubles and not seeing combatants actually make contact.
Moving on to1993's Back in Action starring Roddy Piper and Billy Blanks, I had a little more hope for a solid DTV flick as it came from Shapiro-Glickenhaus, who produced classic action thriller Shakedown. While Back in Action doesn't scale those theatrical heights of high octane action on the streets of New York, the Steve DiMarco and Paul Ziller from a Karl Schiffman script delivers the boom boom boom. Billy (Blanks) is trying to help out/protect his sister from mobsters but keeps running into hardened and sweaty cop Frank Rossi (Piper), or something like that. There's banter, rough and tumble fights and destruction pretty consistently throughout the 93 minutes. Blanks and Piper made a cool duo with the martial arts champion's muscular frame and 3 inch flat top juxtaposed with the professional wrestler's rough and gruff yet likeable demeanor. The two would team up nearly immediately for 1995's Tough and Deadly which I'll have to check out next.