Shigehiro Ozawa’s Return of the Streetfighter

Today I watched Shigehiro Ozawa’s Return of the Streetfighter (1974)

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The Streetfighter as a movie was a brutally dark, highly immoral and blood splattered karate movie.  This sequel tones down some of the darkness and instead opts for a briskly paced parade of pure action.  Sonny Chiba returns as Terry Tsurugi, but he is really just along for the ride as the story is actually driven by two Karate schools, one good the other evil.  The evil school has been blackmailing other schools throughout east Asia and stealing artifacts all in an effort to bankroll the construction of a new martial arts center… or so it seems.

Having the main character be just an incidental element in the story is not the greatest decision, but considering the nature of Tsurugi’s character it has some benefits.  It works to frame Tsurugi as this force of nature who is drawn into the story by the antagonists who hope to use his violent nature to their own ends.  But Tsurugi is not to be controlled and he lashes out at such pretentious attempts to dominate him.  This is how the film sustains my interest in a story that really has little to do with it’s protagonist and this only works because of the film’s short run time.

The film rushes from action sequence to action sequence, often without much of a logical transition.  I actually found it quite fun how this film often threw reality aside for more evocative or interesting settings and framing for some of the scenes.  At one point there is a conversation on a chairlift at a ski-hill which is followed up by a fight scene at the top of the mountain, There is no logical reason for anyone to be in this location, they don’t even have skis.  But there may be an expressionist reason to set this scene here, to represent the cold isolation of Tsurugi or his distance from others… or it’s just a place the crew felt was a neat place to shoot.

This film is pure, exhilarating entertainment.  A fast paced blast of martial arts and blood, but without much narrative tissue to hold the violent sequences together.  The violence is enhanced by some very raw cinematography and the camera bobs and weaves as though the audience were stuck into the violence beside all the poor henchmen about to have their chests crushed beneath Terry’s lightning fists.  Yet the narrative continues to hold the film down, without much focus on the protagonist, the film needs to pad for time with some egregious flashbacks and once again they have saddled Tsurugi with a needless sidekick.  But in the end this film is just trying to entertain and it does that wonderfully, and despite not having much emotional investment the story does work to move the action along  and bring the hard hitting bad assery of actor Sonny Chiba to the screen.  3/5

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