Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Street Fighter (Series)

The Street Fighter (1974) * * * *

Cast: Sonny Chiba, Goichi Yamada, Yutaka Nakajima

Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa

Bad ass Sonny Chiba stars as the greatest anti-hero ever captured on film, Chiba is Terry, an A-moral karate expert/mercenary that kills non-paying customers and sells their sisters to pimps, ends up becoming the good guy by default when he butts heads with the Yakuza, who look to muscle in on an Heiress’ oil company fortune. Chiba helps her, not out of principle but because they wouldn’t pay him enough and because they tried to kill him. The novelty of The Street Fighter is that this hero is just so mean spirited. This is the cynic’s kung fu movie hands down, as Chiba’s charisma and martial artistry sell the character who is clearly one of the meanest characters ever captured on film. (He makes Harry Callahan seem like sensitivity guru by comparison) Meanwhile the story is unexpectedly good, the story is paced well and the film has some excellent fight sequences. The martial arts film buff can’t go wrong here, mainly because Chiba’s character is so endearingly mean spirited, and although Chiba isn’t at all ponderous or indeed finds his good side, the film keeps an interesting edge throughout. Meanwhile the action is just as well staged. Sonny Chiba no doubt inspired Steven Seagal’s presence because you clearly see Chiba made the template. The Street Fighter then is ultimately one of the best movies in the martial arts genre, up there with Master Of The Flying Guillotine, Five Fingers Of Death, Enter The Dragon, Crippled Avengers and The Big Boss. Indeed if I had to make a list of the greatest kung fu movies ever made, you can bet I’d reserve a place for The Street Fighter. It’s a classic Period.

Return Of The Street Fighter (1975) * *1/2

Cast:Sonny Chiba,Yoko Ichiji

Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa

Chiba returns with the same swagger but unfortunately the series doesn’t rise to Chiba’s effortless charisma. The kung fu scenes are there as is Chiba’s dependable presence but the story feels padded, uninspired and needlessly convoluted. Indeed this movie is pretty disappointing stuff after considering the fun factor of the first. Still not all is bad, for instance the brutal edge is still there, the Return Of The Street Fighter is just as action packed and there is a thrilling motorcycle chase that makes the film supremely watchable, it’s just that it’s not up to the first one’s standards. Though Return is better than the lackluster sequels that followed, this one is worth it only for die-hard fans who don’t mind seeing the same story and generally same results done here on with less success. Personally one should check out Chiba’s stellar work in G.I Samurai, Karate Bullfighter, Karate Bearfighter and The Executioner as those films are depicted with far more ambition and verve than this fairly uninspired sequel. Still it's pretty decent when compared to most in the genre and I don't know if I said this already, but Sonny Chiba is cool and ergo amything the man is in can't be too bad.

The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge (1975) * *

Cast:Sonny Chiba, Sue Shiomi

Directed by Shigehiro Ozawa

This time Chiba does more spy work as he tangles with drug smugglers who want to get their hands on some tapes that have a formula for making Heroin, however since the drug smugglers double-cross our P.O’d hero Chiba takes vengeance in the typically mean spirited way. A passable though ultimately tired sequel, Even Chiba this time seems bored with the plot surrounding him and the film makes Chiba more into a good guy than the other two efforts which ultimately takes away what little novelty this entry would have. Some of the chop socky is fun and as usual Chiba’s charisma always makes a movie somewhat worth watching but this film is pretty pedestrian in all levels and isn’t all that exciting on any level. This would be the worst of the series if not for the subsequent entry.

Sister Street Fighter (1976) *1/2

Cast:Sue Shiomi, Sonny Chiba

Dull entry in this worn down series finds Chiba playing second fiddle to Shiomi, as a karate expert who helps Shiomi battle the drug smugglers who have taken her brother hostage. Shiomi works pretty well, and once again Chiba is fine (though he’s playing a different character) What really sinks this movie is the pacing, in that there are too many long intervals where there is no action. What action there is adequately staged but overall this feels more like a bad spy movie than a Street Fighter series, of course part of this is due to the fact that it wasn’t intended to be a Street Fighter sequel. However even as a stand-alone film this has problems, mainly in that this film is just too boring. Not to mention that the drug smugglers are unexciting villains, and that Shiomi pretty much makes short work of them. Only the fists of fury of the climax, as well as Shiomi and Chiba’s sturdy screen presence save the film from being completely without merit.

1 comment:

  1. I only went as far as the first one, which I agree with you, is awesome! Chiba is one angry mother. I found his martial arts style interesting, it was kind of raw and maybe even kind of sloppy, but effective. It certainly was unconventional. Not as neat and choreographed as some martial arts flicks. That scene where rips out a guys reproductive organs was awesome, never seen that on any movie! EVER!

    Ive yet to see the rest, but I think Ill only go as far as the second one, the last two dont sound too good.