Monday, 9 November 2009

No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers (1990)


"The first was for honour, The second for his country, This time it's family." The tagline may suggest continuity but No Retreat, No Surrender 3: Blood Brothers continues the series' tradition of abandoning the previous film's plot and characters like a baby in a dumpster. The first film was a shoddy Karate Kid knockoff, the second was a shoddy Rambo knockoff (incidentally it wasn't really "for his country", he was trying to rescue his girlfriend; mowing down commies in the name of freedom was just the icing on the cake). The third film is a revenge-based action movie about two bickering brothers seeking vengeance after father is murdered. This time... it's personaller.

By this stage in the series Corey Yuen had buggered off back to Hong Kong, but Seaonal Films continued to produce the series. Lucas Lo stepped in as director where he would remain for the rest of the series. Loren Avedon, the only other returning element from the previous films, plays Will; a Karate teacher who rebelled against his CIA father by running away and founding a Karate dojo. His brother Casey (Keith Vitali of Bloodmoon and American Kickboxer semi-fame) on the other hand, followed his father's footsteps into the CIA and is a shameless womaniser to boot. The two of them are invited up to their father's house for his 65th birthday celebration and it looks like a pretty cool party - even the boom mike is invited - but Will has to ruin things by rolling up in his V-dub wearing a leather jacket with "CCCP" and a hammer and sickle stitched on the back. A big fashion don't.

Later that day, after the party is over, a bunch of terrorists bust into the place and kill the birthday boy despite his somewhat paranoid habit of hiding weaponry all over the house. Will and Casey discover his body and after a flurry of bad acting ("The only thing that kept us together... is DEAD!") they decide to put aside their differences and seek revenge. Casey uncovers their first clue by breaking into his dad's secret file (cunningly named TOP_SECRET.DOC). He discovers that his father was on the trail of Franco, an international terrorist plus albino mullet-enthusiast, currently located in Tampa, Florida. After getting into a fight with some cross-dressing terrorists, the two brothers separately decide to head down there and try to out-stupid each other in their attempts to find Franco.

Will's plan involves going undercover as Jesse Roby, tough guy for hire, and it's probably a good thing he didn't become a spy like his brother because his idea of going undercover is wearing huge sunglasses and combing his hair a lot. He gets his karate buddies to stage a bar fight so that Will can leap in and save Franco's right hand man Angel. This impresses the hell out of Angel, who immediately takes him back to their hideout where Franco hires him for their secret mission. Who knew that bar fighting was such a important skill for international terrorists?

Meanwhile Casey meets up with an old flame named Maria (Wanda Acuna) who just so happened to have worked for Franco in the past. This may seem like a ludicrous coincidence until you consider the fact that Casey is such a mega-stud. Statistically at least one of his conquests had to have been affiliated with Franco's international terrorist organisation. She gains their trust by tipping them off about a police raid but they worry that she's no longer "sympathetic to their cause". This is pretty interesting because I have no idea what their cause actually is. Franco speaks vaguely of "the revolution" and he occasionally uses the word "comrades" so I guess he's a communist. One thing's for sure though, the guy hates contractions. It's always "I cannot do this" and "I will not let that happen". Maybe his cause is strict grammar reform.

Pretty soon they discover that Maria is actually working for Casey, so it probably won't surprise you to learn that Will's final initiation test is killing his brother. After discovering Will's true identity, Franco's men capture Casey and Maria and offer him a deal: Help them kidnap the Mozambique ambassador as he arrives into the country or they die. Casey and Maria manage to escape, but I guess they forgot the terms of the deal because instead of explaining the situation to the police Casey heads straight to the airport and helps Will with the kidnapping. There's no time to worry about that gaping plot hole though, because it turns out that the kidnapping is just a diversion so that Franco and his men can drive out onto the tarmac with a rocket launcher and blow up the President as he arrives on Air Force One. Even for pre-9/11 that's some pretty lax airport security.

Will smacks a terrorist in the face with a motorcycle just before he can launch a rocket at a smiling and waving President Bush I. Apparently it's business as usual for the US President even with a police siege going on and armed kidnappers on the loose. Will and Casey then chase Franco and his men into an aircraft hangar for the final showdown. The battle is actually pretty cool with lots of flying kicks and climbing on scaffolding, although it's marred a little by some obvious stand-ins (Franco's stunt double is a 5 foot Asian dude in a terrible blonde wig). Franco tries to kill them with one of his signature metal throwing darts, but Casey manages to deflect the dart with the arm-cast he acquired from an injury in the opening scene (what is it made from, kevlar?) and Will kicks it back at him, impaling him in the chest. Pretty awesome but a shame to see him go down. Good fight skills, a distinctive look and a rich, full evil laugh. An excellent villain.

In conclusion, the fights are good but everything else is fucked. The boom mike and camera crew appear on screen so often they deserve an acting credit. I know nobody watches these films for the acting but... Jesus; Avedon is okay but Vitali seems like he is reading his lines for the first time. Early in the film he is asked to read a document aloud and thus provide some clumsy exposition. A difficult feat for the most skilled of actors but with Vitali it's laugh-out-loud hilarious. Acuna is just as bad, making the flirtatious banter between the two particularly painful, but she is acquitted on the basis of looking awesome in a bikini. So as an acting showcase it fails miserably but then nobody watches The Hours to see Meryl Streep deliver roundhouse kicks to "Terrorist 1" through "Terrorist 15", although that would be a vast improvement.

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