Revisiting Sonny Chiba’s Street Fighter Series

Today I thought I’d take a look back at the classic Street Fighter Series starring legendary martial artist/actor Sonny Chiba. If you’ve ever watched True Romance, these are the films Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette are watching in the cinema. There are further adventures of the Sister Street Fighter but for now we’ll just stick to the ones that star Sonny Chiba.

The Street Fighter (1974)

The Street Fighter really is a bit of a classic; even now the fight scenes kick some serious ass, but it’s also disturbingly violent. Admittedly some of the effects are dated by today’s standards, but they are still pretty gruesome. One scene in particular involves a potential rapist having his balls genuinely ripped off by our “hero.” But hey, he deserved it!

At a breezy 1 hour and 27 minutes, The Street Fighter moves along at a great pace barely pausing between fight scenes. The action never gets tedious, however and the film clearly has had a huge influence on martial arts and action cinema since.

Sonny Chiba plays Takuma Tsurugi: “A tough, mercenary, master of martial arts. When an important business magnate dies, leaving billions to his daughter, the Mafia and Yakuza try to hire Tsurugi to kidnap the daughter. When they refuse to meet his exorbitant price, then try to kill him to conceal their secret plans, he promptly offers his services to protect her.”

But really, who cares about plot? We want to see smashy smashy and The Street Fighter has it in spades. Speaking of which, another great scene is where a bad guy literally has his teeth knocked out which looks incredibly painful. So yeah, not the best date movie Mr. Slater, what were you thinking?

At first Tsurugi is quite arrogant and unlikable but as the film progresses, he becomes more sympathetic. He’s just such a badass though that you just want him to beat the hell out of all comers… which he promptly does.

I love the main music theme; it has that cool 70’s vibe which is slightly manic sounding but really adds to the atmosphere. You can tell it influenced Tarantino’s music in his movies.

There is a lot of unintentional humour in the film; some of the facial expressions look like they are having terrible constipation, but I guess they either need more fibre or are preparing to whip some ass.

Overall, I’d say the Street Fighter is one of the all time great martial arts movies and pretty much essential.

Return of the Street Fighter (1974)

Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) returns. In this sequel, he sets out to bust up a phony charity put together by the Yakuza. This follow up to the 1974 classic is very entertaining but not a patch on the first. The first half of the film is pretty slow with a whole bunch of unnecessary side characters and prolonged scenes in martial arts schools, which add nothing to the plot and really drag the pacing down.

Thankfully, it does perk up in the second half with some kick-ass fight scenes and even has a guy being punched in the back of the head so hard that his eyes pop out… pretty sure that’s not even physically possible, but who cares? It’s still awesome.

Aside from that though, the violence isn’t anywhere near as hardcore as the first film.

ROTSF still has that really cool theme tune that the first movie has and when Chiba decides that asses need kicked at the end, the music comes in and I smile with joy.

Sonny Chiba is one of the best martial artists I’ve ever seen on screen and I still consider him to be a very underrated action star. I’m glad Tarantino used him in Kill Bill to remind the kids of today who he is.

The film has a satisfying finale with Chiba being the invincible hero and I’m pretty sure he beats up 150 bad guys single-handedly.

Overall, although not as good as the original Street Fighter, it’s a worthy follow up with some good fight scenes.

The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge (1974) 

Takuma Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) is hired to recover one of two tapes containing a formula for making heroin for a price of 200 dollars a pound. But he gets double crossed. So he wants the tape back.

I love the first two Streefighter movies, especially the first which had so much casual brutality in it even I was shocked… almost. Sadly this is the weakest so far with bland fight scenes, terrible dubbing and a lack of shocking violence.

It is thankfully rescued by the awesomeness of Sonny Chiba and the fact that he manages to bed pretty much any chick he walks past. He’s just such a total bad ass that it’s impossible not to love him. Like the first two films, any time he’s about to do something awesome the Street Fighter theme tune starts to play and you know he’s about to whup some asses.

I love how Tsurugi is basically just a badass for hire; he’s not looking for love or family, he just really enjoys beating the crap out of people and getting paid for it.

The bad dubbing and dialogue really only adds to the film as that’s all part of the fun. It moves along at a great pace with a fight scene every few seconds so you won’t have time to look at your watch.

Not much else to say about it really; Overall, if you enjoyed the first two films then you’ll enjoy elements of this film but it lacks the violence and shock value of the original.

Sister Street Fighter (1974)

1974’s Sister Street Fighter once again brings back Sonny Chiba but sadly only really in a smaller, supporting role.

The story this time is as follows: Mansei (Hiroshi Miyauchi), an undercover police officer in Hong Kong, is kidnapped during a drug bust by a ruthless kingpin named Kakuzaki (Bin Amatsu). Lee’s sister, Koryu (Sue Shiomi), a kung fu master, vows to rescue her brother. Before embarking on her mission, Koryu goes to her former dojo to ask for help, and Hibiki (Sonny Chiba), a notorious street fighter, agrees to aid her. But, before they can confront Kakuzaki, Koryu and Hibiki must battle his army of deadly martial arts experts.

Chiba still gets to kick some ass but this is Koryu’s show and she is a welcome addition to the Street Fighter series. Hollywood could still learn a lot from Asian cinema; this is from 1974 but Koryu is strong, can handle herself in a fight but also has a sense of honour and is a total hero.

There are so many things I like about this movie; the fact that when we get glimpses at various international martial arts styles the subtitles come up on-screen telling us what kind of fighting style it is was awesome. We have a henchman who uses nunchakus therefore guaranteeing a few badass fight scenes, another dude called Hammerhead and guys with epically huge hats who are just there to get beat up.

Has anyone ever noticed how in these movies there are always really convenient assassinations? “I have to tell you something really important that could change the wor-” Nope! You’ve just been killed by a dart thrown by a hired killer who was hiding in the chimney. This seems to happen regularly and causes some unintentional (but incredibly entertaining) humour.

Kakuzaki is a great villain too; he always wears shades even when he’s lying in bed getting a foot massage because, why not?

There are several similarities to Enter the Dragon, namely the climactic fight which has Kakuzaki use a claw which is very familiar to Han’s from the Bruce Lee classic and the villain’s lair all looks very familiar. The nunchaku fight with the henchman who makes sounds like Bruce Lee also felt like it was maybe trying to cash in.

There are fight scenes literally every couple of minutes and Sue Shiomi is impressive to watch as she takes on multiple opponents with ease.

It`s not quite as brutal as earlier entries in the series but it still has some cool violence; Koryu crushing a goon`s throat with her foot was pretty awesome…

I`ve only seen the dubbed version of this film but the acting was still pretty bad. The dubbing only makes it more fun though and didn`t detract from my enjoyment.

There are some really crap bats at the end which were clearly on strings and totally unconvincing but once again it only adds to it.

Overall, if you’re wanting to see a lady really kick some ass then you should check out this welcome addition to the series.