Movie Kumite: Breathing Fire vs. No Retreat, No Surrender
Teenagers. They can be a rebellious bunch. Give them some martial arts training and they can be down right dangerous. That is a lesson the evil doers of Breathing Fire and No Retreat, No Surrender found out the hard way.
Now we will find out who will come out victorious in a youth gone wild edition of our cinematic slugfest known as the Movie Kumite!
Before we begin this competition, I want to thank Bulletproof Action fan, Luis, for suggesting this match up and bringing the movie Breathing Fire to my attention. Now in the immortal words of Mills Lane, let’s get it on…
Some would call Tom Stillwell, the dad in No Retreat, No Surrender a sad sack. It is a fair description since Stillwell (who was portrayed by Tim Baker of Bloodfist II fame) sort of looks like a guy that has pretty much given up. It doesn’t help that we see him pack up and move his family, including his martial artist son Jason (Kurt McKinney) at the first sign of trouble. He is constantly nagging Jason about fighting and how martial arts are to only be used as self defense. And it really doesn’t help when Tom gets angry at Jason for getting in a fight and tears down Jason’s Bruce Lee posters in the garage! Obviously the Tom Stillwell character is setting the bar pretty low here and this should be an easy win for Breathing Fire.
Jerry Trimble, of Full Contact and Terminator Woman fame, plays Michael Moore in Breathing Fire. Michael is the biological father of Tony Moore (Eddie Saavedra) and the adoptive father of Charlie Moore (Jonathan Ke Quan who you may remember as Short Round from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or Data from The Goonies). Michael Moore is most definitely not a sad sack. Michael has done very well for himself, but there are a few problems… like the fact that unbeknownst to his two sons he is a murderer and a thief.
Two moments in Breathing Fire really establish how horrible of a human being Michael Moore is. 1) He turns a positive thing like pizza into a negative thing. 2) After Charlie discovers the truth about the man who adopted him, Michael knows he has to eliminate Charlie and says “Get ready to meet your mother in hell!” The same mother Michael killed while serving in Vietnam forcing Michael to “guilt adopt” Charlie at the urging of Michael’s brother David.
Give me a down on his luck, overprotective dad over a felonious father any day.
BREATHING FIRE – 0 NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER – 1
THE EVIL PLANS
Michael Moore’s plan to rob a bank of its gold supply and become very rich is an evil plan that I think anyone who has ever struggled to pay their bills or dreamed of having things that are financially beyond their means can at least understand. Money is a huge motivator.
Meanwhile, I’m still not entirely sure what the bad guys over at No Retreat, No Surrender were trying to accomplish. A crime syndicate out of New York wanted to control all of the karate schools in the country or something. After typing that last sentence the whole thing makes even less sense to me than before.
So Michael Moore may be a failure as a father but the man gets an A+ in evil planning.
BREATHING FIRE – 1 NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER – 1
If you want to carry out an evil plan, you are going to need some muscle. Both films utilize some big time muscle to get the job done for the forces of evil.
Breathing Fire calls in one of the baddest of the bad, Bolo Yeung. Unfortunately Breathing Fire also manages to get Bolo to appear in drag. That sort of kills his badass credibility, but Bolo is still bad enough that even in a wig and a dress he could win this round…
…well he could have, but No Retreat, No Surrender brings an even bigger star to the table, I’m talking about a young Jean-Claude Van Damme who plays the ultimate 80’s bad guy, a Russian! Van Damme’s character Ivan Krachinsky does not wear a dress at any point, instead he opts for a classic gangster suit. Also if Bloodsport and Double Impact taught us anything it is that in the end Van Damme always beats Bolo.
BREATHING FIRE – 1 NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER – 2
If a bunch of young adults are going to take on a bunch of career criminals they are going to need some serious skills. And the best way for them to achieve those skills is through quality teaching and some heavy duty training.
Tony and Charlie Moore may have an a-hole for a father, but their Uncle David is one cool dude. He schools them on the martial arts and gives them the tough love they are going to need to not only win the fight they find themselves in, but also win at life.
Speaking of life, the only thing that can stop it is death. And that is why David Moore, despite being a well qualified instructor, can not possibly be better than The Ghost of Bruce Lee! Jason Stillwell has a leg up on every martial artist alive by receiving training from Bruce Lee, the greatest martial artist to have ever lived. And while it wasn’t the actual Bruce Lee or an actual ghost (it was actor Tae-jeong Kim), I think we would all choose The Ghost of Bruce Lee over any other martial arts instructor if given the option.
BREATHING FIRE – 1 NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER – 3
BOOGIE DOWN BONUS ROUND
Both of our movies feature a breakdancing element. This seems rather appropriate for 1986’s No Retreat, No Surrender, coming hot off the heels of Cannon Films breakdancing blockbusters, Breakin’ and Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. But the breakdancing seems a little outdated in 1991’s Breathing Fire.
I say outdated. Breathing Fire says evolved. When Tony and Charlie have to paint a wall before they can go to the beach, they “enlist” the help of their breakdancing buddy Mickey (TJ Storm of Kickboxer: Vengeance and Doomsdayer fame). Tony and Charlie sit back after they give Mickey two paint rollers and pump up the jam! Mickey has that wall painted in no time. Later, Tony and Charlie once again call upon Mickey’s assistance to help get their underage selves into a bar. Mickey gets to once again show off why he is called “The Man with All the Moves” on the dance floor.
Did any menial tasks get done while people were breakdancing in No Retreat, No Surrender? Nope, this round goes to Breathing Fire!
BREATHING FIRE – 2 NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER – 3
This Movie Kumite could go either way, but now to decide the outcome of this battle we turn to two of the most valuable movie related resources on the interweb, IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes.
No Retreat, No Surrender has a rating of 5.6 on IMDb, just edging out Breathing Fire’s 5.5 rating.
Over on Rotten Tomatoes however, Breathing Fire has a 68% approval rating besting No Retreat, No Surrender’s 54% approval rating.
The critics vote is split at one a piece, meaning Short Round came up short and No Retreat, No Surrender brings home the win!
FINAL SCORE: BREATHING FIRE – 3 NO RETREAT, NO SURRENDER – 4