You know, as hit or miss as the Martial Arts box set has been, I will say that today’s movie is one of the reasons I am glad I got it. Now as odd as it may sound, this movie came to my attention by way of another movie. See, in the movie True Romance (which I will be reviewing sometime next year), Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette’s characters were watching a triple feature of the Street Fighter movies and my interest was piqued by it and decided to rent today’s movie one day. So let’s see what all the hype was about with today’s movie, The Street Fighter.
The plot: Tateki Shikenbaru (Junjo) is awaiting execution in his cell when the police bring a priest, Takuma Tsurugi (Terry), in to offer him last rites. Junjo refuses at first but after staring into the Terry’s eyes, Junjo asks to be left alone with the priest. The police agree and after they close the door, Junjo comments about Terry knowing karate and says he wishes he had the time to challenge him and Terry says he has the time so they begin fighting. Terry wins by using his oxygen coma punch, a technique which Junjo recognizes, and Terry tells him to hold on for 10 minutes before he falls victim to the punch. The police come to lead Junjo to his execution but before he reaches the noose, he collapses and the police send for an ambulance. As the ambulance makes it’s way to the hospital, they stop when a man (Ratnose) is standing in the street and as some of the officers go to move him, Ratnose attacks them. After he deals with the police and doctor, Ratnose is joined by Terry and they drive off in the ambulance. As Terry and Ratnose are watching the news about the ambulance theft, Gijun and Nachi, Junjo’s brother and sister, arrive and ask to see Junjo. When Terry refuses to tell them where Junjo is until they pay him the rest of the money they owe him, Gijun attacks Terry but Terry easily beats him. Nachi pleads with Terry to give him more time and Terry agrees, but says he will need some collateral, grabbing Nachi and kissing her. Gijun becomes enraged and attacks Terry again, joined by Nachi, and during the course of the fight, Gijun does a jump kick at Terry but Terry dodges and Terry ends up jumping through the window and falling to his death. Elsewhere, Kendo Masaoka, the owner of a karate dojo, informs his niece Sarai that her father, a wealthy oil tycoon, has just died while in Cairo and some people arrive to take her home but Kendo says that it is better if she stay there where he and his students can protect her. Meanwhile, Terry sells Nachi to Renzo Metaguchi, who proceeds to sell her to a sex trafficker. Renzo then introduces Terry to two of his associates, who want to hire him to kidnap Sarai but Terry refuses after learning that they are part of the Yakuza. Worried that Terry will be a threat to them since he knows their plans, the Yakuza send some men to kill him but Terry easily beats them and sends them back with a message for the Yakuza’s boss. Terry then heads to the dojo and after making his way to Sarai’s room, challenges Kendo and the rest of the dojo to a fight. Terry easily defeats Kendo’s students but Kendo is able to get the upper hand against Terry. After knocking Terry down, Kendo says he recognizes his name as belonging to a karate master from long ago who wanted to combine karate with Chinese boxing and asks Terry if he is his son. Terry, recalling the events of his childhood, is able to continue the fight and ends up battling Terry to a standstill. As the two men recover, Terry tells him what is going on and Kendo agrees to let Terry take over guarding Sarai, despite Sarai’s objections. Elsewhere, the Yakuza is coming up with plans to kill Terry and kidnap Sarai, planning on sending several of their strongest assassins to handle the job. Junjo happens to be in the same bar as the Yakuza boss and when he discovers that Nachi is one of his prostitutes, he quickly heads to her. Nachi is happy to see that Junjo is still alive and says that he has to avenge their brother’s death. The Yakuza boss, thinking it a coincidence that Junjo happened to be there and discover his sister, decides to take advantage of the situation and agrees to give Junjo a job so that he can get his revenge on Terry. Some time later, Sarai is preparing to head back home to deal with her father’s company, with two students from the dojo accompanying her. Terry and Ratnose follow in another car but the Yakuza box them in and use a crane to capture them, then drive to a ditch and drop the car into it. Two Yakuza members head down to ensure he is dead but Terry quickly manages to kill them. Heading after Sarai, Terry kills one of the Yakuza assassins that is waiting for him, then tells Ratnose to head back to the car and keep the motor running. Continuing to look for Sarai, Terry encounters Junjo and Nachi, who are there to kill Terry, and Junjo tells him he is too late, as Sarai is being taken to Renzo’s place as they speak. Junjo attempts to fight with and kill Terry but Terry jumps out the window, landing in the back of the truck and tells Ratnose to get them out of there. Meanwhile, Sarai and her escorts arrive at Renzo’s place, where Sarai’s father’s worker reveals he double crossed them. Sarai and her guards try to leave but they find their way blocked by a blind swordsman, who manages to kill both of the students, but the students kill his knife throwing companion before they die. The next day, Terry and Ratnose take a motorboat to Renzo’s place, where Sarai sees them and waves out the window to tell them where she is. Sarai is about to be raped but Terry climbs up to her room and kills her attempted rapist by castrating him by hand. Terry then has Sarai climb down the rope and he joins her but when Renzo’s men chase after them, he tells Ratnose to get Sarai to safety while he holds them off. Terry takes out several of the guards before Renzo faces him and the two battle to a stalemate when the other Yakuza bosses say they need to question Terry to learn where Sarai is. Terry is tied up and tortured but refuse to talk when Ratnose, disobeying Terry’s orders, shows up and attempts to free him but is captured. Ratnose gives up Sarai’s location to try and spare Terry’s life but the Yakuza end up knocking Terry off the cliff and into the water below. Ratnose heads down and manages to save Terry but Terry pushes him away, saying he betrayed their duty and are no longer friends. Terry heads out to rescue Sarai, who is being taken to a freighter out at sea but he encounters the blind swordsman on the docks. Terry and the swordsman fight, during the course of which a man on a motorbike interferes and is attacked by the swordsman. Terry manages to take advantage of the distraction and kills the swordsman, then discovers that the motorbiker was Ratnose, who was trying to make amends to Terry. On the freighter, Sarai learns that her father’s business partner was behind her kidnapping, as he wants her to sign over control of her father’s company to him, so the Yakuza will have a monopoly in the oil business. Meanwhile, Renzo speaks with Junjo and says that if he can defeat Terry, he will turn over control of his organization to him. Terry makes his way out to the freighter and begins taking out the guards as he tries to locate Sarai. Terry eventually finds Sarai but is unable to rescue her and Renzo says to let Junjo deal with him. Junjo and Terry head out to the deck and start fighting as a storm buffets the ship. During the course of the fight, the bodyguard of Sarai’s father’s business partner tries to shoot Terry and Renzo kills him and the business father for interrupting the fight. Nachi attempts to stab Terry but when she misses, she grabs onto Terry and tells Junjo to stab Terry through her. Junjo reluctantly agrees, killing his sister and severely injuring Terry, then continues to press the attack. When Terry is knocked down, Sarai rushes over and tells him to get up but Junjo pushes her aside and goes to finish off Terry. As Junjo attempts to strangle Terry, Terry manages to grab Junjo’s throat and rip it out, then get to his feet, where Sarai and Renzo both help him keep his balance.
While there isn’t a critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, the average movie goes loved this movie, giving it an 81% score on the site. The Street Fighter is famous for being the first movie to receive an X-rating in the U.S. due solely because of the violence in the movie (primarily because of the scene where Terry castrated a man with his bare hands). The movie, and it’s sequels, gained a lot of mainstream exposure after it was featured in the movie True Romance. 16 minutes were cut from the movie to give it an R rating, which is the version that was first released on home video. The movie has since been released in it’s entirety but is now in the public domain, where it can be downloaded for free.
This is precisely the type of film that you expected to see during the martial arts craze of the 70’s. Violence, violence, and more violence makes this a great movie to watch if you are in the mood for some almost nonstop fighting and action. Sonny Chiba was really good in his role but I will admit that some of his facial features during the fights were absolutely hysterical. The story was a little confusing after Terry’s first fight with Junjo, but it seemed to correct itself as the movie continued. The fight scenes were as brutal as you would expect from the title and while I think some modern movies look a little smoother, the choreography between Sonny Chiba and his opponents was pretty good. If you are a fan of martial arts movies, this is definitely one of those movies that you should watch, if for no other reason than the cultural impact it had.
Rating: 4 out of 5