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With: Sonny Chiba, Waichi Yamada, Tony Cetera, Yutaka Nakajima, Teijo Shikeharo, King Stone, Masashi Ishibashi, Akira Shioji, Osman Yusuf
Written by: Koji Takada, Motohiro Torii
Directed by: Shigehiro Ozawa
MPAA Rating: X/Unrated
Running Time: 91
Date: 18/03/2013
IMDB

The Street Fighter (1974)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Empire of the Sonny

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Buy The Street Fighter on DVD

"He ain't so much a good guy as he is just a bad motherfucker," says Clarence of Sonny Chiba in True Romance. And he's right. In 1975, the emphasis in Asian action movies was to emulate Bruce Lee as much as possible. Bruce Lee enjoyed more success in the States than any other Hong Kong action hero before or since. The Japanese-born Chiba does some of the same Lee moves, lots of long poses, hissing sounds, etc., but his attitude is entirely different. He has huge, wild eyes and big eyebrows. He seems to be having fun when he beats the hell out of someone, whereas Lee only beat someone up if he absolutely had to. He is an action anti hero, a cross between Toshiro Mifune and Han Solo. He's in it only for himself, and possibly some cash.

The plot of The Street Fighter revolves around a billionaire heiress. The Yakuza tries to hire Chiba to kidnap her so they can control her fortune, but he refuses. So they try to kill him because he knows too much. At the same time, a brother and sister have hired Chiba to break their other brother out of jail. He does and they can't pay him, so he kills the first brother. So the jailbird brother is after him too. After that, things get mixed around alot and it turns out that some white guys are in charge of the whole ring. The movie winds up just like a James Bond flick, with Chiba killing and maiming everyone from lowest rank to the highest. There's a beautifully shot final showdown in the rain (reminiscent of Seven Samurai). There's even a villainess straight out of a James Bond movie dressed in high boots, riding tights and a red sport coat. This may sound convoluted, but if you just ride it through you will find yourself immensely entertained.

The version I saw is the unrated director's version that received an X rating back in 1975. It was cut up and has never been restored until now. It's pretty violent, Chiba spends a lot of time ripping people's body parts off, but it's almost all very creative, Sam Peckinpah-type violence with that phony purple looking blood.

DVD Details: VCI Entertainment has released The Street Fighter Saga (1975-79), a classic series of four Sonny Chiba martial arts classics, made famous as Christian Slater's birthday movies in True Romance. Three of the four are letterboxed for the first time, though all four are dubbed. The first film, The Street Fighter (1974) is still the best, with its unforgettable bone-crunching action scenes. But Sister Street Fighter (1978) was ahead of its time with its butt-kicking heroine. Those titles plus Return of the Street Fighter (1975) and The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (1979) are available separately for $9.99 each, or together in this ridiculously cheap must-own box set.

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