No, this isn't the Jean-Claude Van Doody/Raul Julia festival of shame, rather this Streetfighter is the 1975 Japanese karate flick starring the legendary Sonny Chiba.Truth be told, Chiba wasn't much to look at as a martial arts star. He wavers between comical and awful. His fight sequences are bland, the noises he makes are reminiscent of a choking asthma patient and his acting consists of staring angrily through his bushy mono-brow.
Having said that, it was the 70's - the time of Shaft and Mr Majestyk - when this was released, so it's comparable with the standards of the time. In fact, The Streetfighter made Chiba a legend in the Asian film world and spawned many imitators and sequels. Fans of Tarantino's True Romance will be aware of the Streetfighter sequels already through Clarence Woherle's fascination with Chiba.
The story is lightweight. A rich Japanese oil heiress is kidnapped by Japanese yakuza ("Ah. You are Yakuza. The Japanese organised crime gang that some say is even linked to the mafia." "You know of us." - great writing, as you can see).
Terry Tsuguri (Chiba) is "not so much a good guy as he is a bad motherfucker who's paid to fuck guys up" (quoting Clarence). Tsuguri is hired to protect the heiress against the yakuza who want to make her sign over her company to them.
Cue the entrance of many golf-pants-wearing American businessmen in cahoots with the bad-guys and an assortment of evil-doers with different "fist-styles" testing themselves against the huffing hero.
In reality, this is a shitty film. "Shaft" has better writing, your average Jackie Chan flick has better action, and anything Bruce Lee has much better fight sequences - but it's campy enough to be fun.
The big downside - the only cut I've been able to hunt down is a 73 minute video botch job on New Line Home Video that looks to have had the worst 'editing for a better rating' job ever - leaving the final five minute showdown sequence over in about 30 seconds and making absolutely no sense whatsoever.
If the only version of The Streetfighter you can find is this 73 minute hatchet job, leave it on the shelf. It's just not worth it. But if you can find the original, with throat ripping scenes intact, take a look.Even at it's worst, The Streetfighter is better than it's more recent namesake. But then, what isn't?