Saturday, January 15, 2011

Street Fighter, The (1974) - 4/5

If you clicked on this review mistaking it for the horrid 1994 video game adaption "Street Fighter" starring Jean-Claude Van Damme then you need to be taken in the back ally and shot. This is the ONE, the ONLY "Street Fighter" starring the incredible Sonny Chiba. Never heard if it? Then you need to break out of your box a little and discover the wondrous world of the Japanese martial arts / exploitation hybrids with "The Street Fighter" being king of the pack and the perfect place to start.

Chiba is our title character, a merciless dirty fighting karate master that hires out his skills to the highest bidder. When an important business man dies he leaves his daughter with billions of dollars, the Japanese Mafia and Yakuza attempt to hire our "street fighter" to kidnap her. When they refuse to pay Chiba's exorbitant price, they attempt to murder him in order to keep his mouth shut. BIG FUCKING MISTAKE! He instead offers his skills to protect the businessman's daughter and goes on a bloody rampage, literally!

Released in the early days of the martial arts film explosion, "The Street Fighter" pushed the envelope even farther of the violence seen in some early Bruce Lee and Shaw Brothers classics by piling on the violence and blood, so much that it earned the first ever X rating for violence alone. A martial arts movie rated X for violence?! Sign me up! Boy does it live up to its reputation of being violent as our street fighter is one ruthless mother fucker and one of the all time best anti-heroes ever to grace the screen. You want a fair fight? Then don't fight the street fighter! This guy will not hesitate to gouge your eyes out or to tear out your larynx. Fuck there is even one sequence where he rips a guys testicles off when he's attempting to rape a woman! Guaranteed you won't see a kill like that anywhere but here buddy.

What can I say about Sonny Chiba? This guy is just incredible! He's just a meaner, nastier version of Bruce Lee and to be honest I prefer that. He's just has a mesmerizing screen presence and an intensity that can't be matched. His martial arts abilities are just stunning and more violent than anything I have witnessed. This guy has solidified his spot on my of list of all time favorite martial artist.

The filmmakers here take standard martial arts approach and mix it with loveable over-the-top exploitation elements like violence to make one sick, fucked up martial arts fiesta. I loved it! Hell I prefer to watch this over Shaw Brothers epics any day (no disrespect to Shaw Brothers as I also love their films too, I just prefer the extreme nature of "The Street Fighter"). For me "The Street Fighter" is the epitome grindhouse martial arts film that was followed by two entertaining sequels, "Return of the Street Fighter" and "The Street Fighter's Last Revenge" as well as the "Sister Street Fighter" spin-off franchise. One can easily see why modern filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino love this film so much (he of course would make references to this film numerous times in his movies and even cast Chiba in an interesting role in "Kill Bill").

Bonus Praise: This film marked the first ever "x-ray" shot of someone's body while being hit. When Chiba chops a guy's head, the film cuts to an x-ray image of the guy's skull cracking. Cheesy? Sure it is but it's also fucking great! This technique would later be copied in Jet Li's crappy American "martial arts" film "Romeo Must Die."

Note: Sadly "The Street Fighter" franchise has fallen into public domain here in the states and there are a shit ton of DVDs available in varying quality, mostly shitty. I purchased the "Street Fighter Saga" from VCI Entertainment which included all three "Street Fighter" films and the first "Sister Street Fighter" film and that set is pretty good quality, definitely good enough to get us fans by. I recommend getting that set as well as picking up the amazing "Sister Street Fighter Collection" to get the entire franchise.

Written By Eric Reifschneider

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