So: you like martial arts films, eh? You’ve seen all of Bruce Lee’s movies, even Game of Death (which barely has Bruce in it). You’ve never missed a Jackie Chan flick. You think you’ve seen it all. Well, have you seen Street Fighter? If not, then you haven’t even come close to seeing it all. You’ve barely scratched the surface!
What is there to be said about Street Fighter?
The first thing we must clear up, is that we are talking here about
the Japanese Martial arts movie starring Sonny Chiba, and not the
dreadful Jean-Claude Van Dam movie of the same title. We are also not
talking about the cartoons, video games, and pinball machines that carry
the same name. All of the above are silly children’s entertainment. The
Street Fighter we are interested in is patently adult.
brought martial arts into the American Mainstream. He became a huge
international star, and then suddenly died. After his untimely death,
there was a mad rush to find other stars who could fill his shoes. The
Bruce Lee clones began pumping out movies at a rapid pace. However, no
Asian martial arts actor would attain the same level of success until
Jackie Chan. And even Chan would work for years in Hong Kong before he
made a real mark in the U.S.
Out of that fervor to find the next big thing in the world of Martial
arts movies came something very interesting. Among the garbage, and
un-entertaining movies spewed forth, was one very good movie. Street Fighter.
Sonny Chiba plays Terry Sugury. Terry isn’t so much a hero, as simply
a super bad a**. He kicks many many butts, and doesn’t seem to care
whose butt it is. Terry seems to feel that everyone deserves to get
their skull cracked from time to time.
The film opens with Terry pulling off a daring prison break. He was
hired to do this job. Who does he break out of prison? It doesn’t
matter. This is just the opening scene. The real plot comes later. Terry
is hired by a consortium of Yakuza and Mafia to kidnap a rich girl. He
does. They wont pay. He goes after them, and protects the princess in
the process. Not that he really cares for her. She’s an investment of
They end up on an oil tanker, where a wounded Terry continues to kick
butt, demolishing person after person. Oh yeah, it rains a lot.
Terry is helped by his sidekick, Rat nose. I wont say much about this
fellow, except this: Rat nose may be the strangest sidekick in movie
history. And that’s even if you disregard his awful name.
I know, that’s not much of a synopsis. But really, there isn’t much
of a plot. The plot is like a wire hanger, meant merely to have the
action sequences draped over it. It exists merely to provide connection
from fight scene to fight scene.
We will notice that Terry’s tough guy: quiet, deadly, seemingly
uninterested in how others feel or what they want, driven only by money
harkens back to Toshiro Mifune’s character in Yojimbo, and Sanjuro.
This character will also remind us of numerous roles played by Lee
Marvin and others. Terry is driven by greed. He is one dimensional.
This movie exists for the fight scenes. So, are they any good? Yes. They are amazing. The fight scenes in Street Fighter
are unlike anything you have seen before. They are brutal, fast, and
wonderfully choreographed. Terry pauses often during fighting, preparing
himself for further battle, I suppose. These pauses act as Caesurae, artful pauses that increase tension, create suspense, and keep you interested.
These fight scenes are unlike those we find in Bruce Lee’s films,
they are also of a different variety than the ones we have come to know
from The Matrices, these scenes are in a category of their own. No other film has really recreated this style.
An interesting thing about these scenes is the way in which we are
forced to focus on the outcome of all this fighting. In most Kung Fu
movies we see people hit, but we rarely see much blood. We never see the
true outcome of such combat. Street Fighter gives us the
logical end of the fight. It is dripping with gore. There are times when
it is hard to look at all the carnage. This gore fest is what led to
the film’s X rating in the United States. Of course, X ratings were
handed out like candy in those days. Back then, theaters would actually
show films with the dreaded X.
Today the NC-17 (the successor of the X rating) is certain death for a
film. This is a sad state of affairs. In the old days patently adult
films (not pornography) could be made and marketed to adults. Those days
are over. But I digress.
Today’s action films seem watered down, cleaned up, and Disney-fied
in comparison to this movie. Even today’s horror films are tame in
comparison to the unrelenting gore and violence of Street Fighter. This is a movie to turn weak stomachs. In other words: I love it. There is nothing better than good action, done well.
This movie was followed by several sequels. Among them:
Return of Street Fighter
Sister Street Fighter
I have only seen Return of Street Fighter, so cannot comment on the other films in the series. About Return I will just say that it is not as impressive as the first film. Like many sequels, it seems to lose something.
I recommend this film highly. I would also suggest that anyone
interested in martial arts movies check out Bruce Lee’s great films.
Also, the early films of Jackie Chan, John Woo’s great crime movies
(like Hard Boiled, and The Killer), and of course some of the movies from my favorite genre: samurai films. For those interested in Samurai movies I suggest Yojimbo, and Seven Samurai.
Final thoughts on Street Fighter:
This film is from an era that has passed us by. It is a fine film,
and I suggest finding a copy, making some pop corn, grabbing a cold
beer, and enjoying it with friends. The DVD (from Platinum Disc Corp) is
acceptable. The picture quality is fine, and the sound is okay. There
are no special features, which is sad. There is a great Laser disc
available, that has much better picture and great sound. If you can find
the Laser, I suggest it. If not, the DVD will do. Enjoy the movie!
Quentin Tarrantino deserves some credit for returning this film to
the American consciousness after being forgotten for many years. He
wrote direct references to it into his script for True Romance,
and then allowed a praiseful quote from him to be printed on the Laser
Disc cover for a re-release of the film. I have to thank him for
reminding the public that this interesting film exists. So, thanks