No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) is an American martial arts film and Corey Yuen directorial debut in America. The film stars Kurt McKinney, Jean-Claude Van Damme and J.W. Fails and Tae-jeong Kim. The story is about an American teenager, Jason Stillwell, played by Kurt McKinney, who is a Bruce Lee Fan and who ends up learning martial arts from the spirit of Bruce Lee (Tae-jeong Kim). Jason then uses his newly acquired skills to save Seattle from a crime syndicate, whose top enforcer is the deadly martial artist Ivan Kraschinsky (Jean-Claude Van Damme).
No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) came about because Ng See-yuen, the owner of Seasonal Film Corporation, asked martial artist Keith W. Strandberg, who speaks fluent Chinese, to write a script for him. Keith, who had never written a script before, came up with Ring of Truth and later changed the name to No Retreat, No Surrender (1986). Strandberg began a tradition of playing a small role in each of his movies beginning with No Retreat, No Surrender (1986), where he played a bad guy who helps beat up Jason’s father in a bar parking lot.
During the casting call for No Retreat, No Surrender (1986), hundreds of of fighters showed up and this forced Strandberg to walk through the lines of hopefuls and choose those he felt should audition. One out of the three fighters he choose was Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Tae-jeong Kim, who played the ghost of Bruce Lee, only spoke Korean and therefore his voice had to be dubbed throughout the movie.
The film received negative reviews when it was released because the storyline was considered too similar to that of The Karate Kid (1984), The Last Dragon (1985), and Rocky IV (1985) even thought No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) was produced in 1984 before the Last Dragon (1985) and Rocky IV (1985) came out.
The movie grossed under $5 million at the U.S. box office and out of it came two sequels. The success of No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) was didn’t compare to similar movies of the time, such as the Rocky series or The Karate Kid series, however No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) stills remains a cult classic to fans around the world. 1987’s No Retreat, No Surrender 2 was originally intended to be a direct sequel to this film, but because of safety concerns over filming in the jungles of Cambodian, Jean-Claude Van Damme backed out of the project, and he convinced Kurt McKinney to back out as well.
Retrospectively, No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) received kudos for its well-choreographed fight scenes featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. However, it has been said that Van Damme caused problems on the set by continually making physically contact with the other actors and stuntmen during fight scenes. Van Damme’s actions continued even after Director Yuen warned him not to do so.
No Retreat, No Surrender (1986) was released in the United States on May 2, 1986.