“The Street Fighter” (1974)
Studio: New Line Cinema
Starring: Sonny Chiba, Goichi Yamada, Yutaka Nakajima, Tony Cetera, Masafumi Suzuki
Directed by: Shigehiro Ozawa
Running Time: 91 min.
Synopsis: A mercenary is hired to kidnap a heiress. When he finds out the Yakuza is behind it, he turns it down and now they’re after him. He decides to protect the Heiress and get back at the Yakuza.
This film is another one I heard about for years and recently I finally got to see it. For all the hype that I heard about this film over the years, after seeing it, I was a little disappointed. I didn’t think the film was terrible, but I didn’t think the film was that good. To me, it was decent film that didn’t live up to the hype. The movie is no Fists of Fury (aka The Big Boss) or Chinese Connection (aka Fists of Fury) and it’s not as good as some Bruce Li, Dragon Lee, and early Jackie Chan films. Sonny Chiba, who plays the lead in this and many other material arts films throughout the 70’s, is Japan’s answer to Bruce Lee, but he’s no Bruce Lee.
Chiba plays Terry (which is a great name for a tough guy, huh?) a mercenary for hire who helps an inmate, Tateki, who is on death row, escape from a Japanese prison. Tateki goes into hiding in Hong Kong and Terry and his sidekick, Rakuda, stay in Japan who are paid a visit by Tateki’s brother and sister who hired the two to free their brother. When the two can’t pay him the money, Terry suggests to the brother that he gives him his sister for the night. The brother is outraged and starts a fight with Terry. During all the commotion, the brother falls out a window to his death and sister ends up getting sold into sex slavery.
After that, Terry is hired for another job which is to kidnap a heiress to an oil tycoon that recently died. Terry refuses the job because he finds out the people are working for the Yakuza. The group gets very upset that he didn’t take the offer and then they try to kill Terry and Rakuda, but are unsuccessful. The two of them go seek out the heiress to warn her. When they find the heiress, her uncle and his dojo are protecting her. The uncle and Terry battle it out, but then the uncle realizes that he use to know Terry’s father when he was alive. Terry and the uncle join forces and vows to protect his niece.
Meanwhile the Yakuza hire a group of fighters from Hong Kong to stop Terry and to kidnap the heiress. In this deadly group, is Tateki. He happens to find his sister while looking for a woman in a sex ring. She tells him about the death of their brother and how Terry is to blame. Tateki vows revenge and seeks out Terry and Rakuda. Eventually, the Yakuza get a hold of the heiress and Terry and his sidekick have to rescue her.
The film does have some entertaining moments such as the fight scenes. The battles between Terry and Tateki and the ones with Terry vs. the uncle and his dojo are pretty good. Most of the story is okay, but they are some parts that seem to drag on or it’s the opposite with other scenes where not much is explained. Chiba is a bad ass, but I’ve seen others that are better and badder. At times Chiba is too over the top in his fight scenes or just in general. Also, his sidekick Rakuda is totally gay for Terry. He waits on him hand and foot and will do anything for him. During one seen when the Yakuza captures Terry and are about to kill him, Rakuda comes in and begs them not to kill him. He whines and cries for Terry and ends up telling the Yakuza where the heiress is. The scene is pretty bad and he even goes over to Terry and grabs a hold of his leg pleading with them not to kill his friend.
One scene I’ve always heard about was the castration scene. This is the scene and other violent scenes were the reason it was given an X rating. These scenes would be tame by today’s standards and I believe was kind of tame for that time considering other films from that era were much more violent and were rated R. Most of the bloody scenes were cheap effects and red paint was used for blood. Anyways, the scene isn’t as brutal as other castration scenes from numerous films. What happens is a thug is about to rape the heiress and Terry comes in and rips his privates off with his bares hands. It sounds more brutal in print, but during the scene the thug’s back is to the camera and Terry reaches down to his crotch. Cut to a close up of Terry’s face as he rips it off and holds in his hand a part of the thug’s boxers that are bloody. It’s not as gruesome as the one in I Spit on Your Grave and Cannibal Ferox, but any castration scene in a movie is horrifying.
The Street Fighter is a cult classic, but in my opinion, the film is mediocre. This is the first Sonny Chiba film I’ve seen and I’m not that impressed. I’ve seen many other martial arts films throughout the years, mostly ones from China that are far superior. There’s a couple Chiba films I’m going to check out and see if they’re better than The Street Fighter. All in all, I was glad to finally see the film. It did have its moments and I liked most of the fight scenes, but I wished the film could have been better.