The Street Fihgter (1974)

Shigehiro Ozawa directed this Sonny Chiba classic The Street Fighter (Japan, 1974) which was the film that introduced Chiba to the US audiences. The film was cut roughly to get the R rating, but in 1996 New Line released the fully uncut X version on video and I have now seen this original uncut version two times, having just watched the film today again. This film is more violent and brutal than most of the subsequent efforts, so I can just imagine what kind of an experience this was for the audiences in the 1970. Chiba (really bad) plays Terry, a martial arts sensation, who gets dirty jobs done with the help of his martial arts, and after he becomes double crossed and begins to have more and more enemies, he starts his own war towards the mafia and the Japanese yakuza, and neither of those can give something that would beat Terry, the most dangerous and incredible iron fist alongside the Hong Kong Ricky, of course!

Street Fighter is 90 minutes of pure Karate terror and action without any efforts to hide the results of the violence. This film may appeal only to fans of this kind of "attitude cinema" which has gratuitous violence and plenty of it. The plot (very confusing and with some holes) is only there to lead Terry to the next fight, but I think that's okay as far as the viewer enjoys this kind of film. I enjoy this due to its great fight scenes (there were four action directors for this film!) and some great photography, which makes this a no-nonsense film, if extremely hard to like for the (most) casual viewers.

There are some nice camera angles and movements which prove the talent of director Ozawa and his crew. The fight scenes are almost as unbelievable in their choreography as the greatest scenes by Bruce Lee, which has been said to be the Chinese equivalent for Chiba. Perhaps the most famous detail in Street Fighter is the x-ray close up of a man, whose head Terry bashes in with bloody results. That detail is pretty stylish and used also in Story of Ricky, another over-the-top martial arts mayhem film from Hong Kong.

The brutal fights are very graphic and exploitative as people are stabbed, sliced, diced, punched, kicked, torn, ripped and so on, and what differs Street Fighter from the other martial art films of that time, is its high level bloodletting. If this film lacked this element, it would look just like some Bruce Lee film made in Japan with different actors. Some of the violent scenes are almost unbearably brutal to watch (like the "vomit" punch and the groin bit) but it was perhaps the film maker's intention to make as violent action film as possible, and on that level, he definitely succeeded. If this all had even some point other than just to shock, this film would be more noteworthy and easy to appreciate. Now this film remains perhaps among the most violent action films ever, and due to its cinematic skill, I give this 7/10. Still, I like Story of Ricky much more due to its madness and even more fierce over-the-top mayhem.

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