Today I watched Shigehiro Ozawa’s The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge (1974)
If you have see the previous two entries in The Street Fighter series, you might be expecting another gritty, hard boiled, bloodbath of a karate crime film. You may be disappointed then to hear that this film makes a strong turn into the super spy genre, complete with ridiculous gadgets. The mercenary antihero Tsurugi returns but is now a master of disguise in conjunction with his karate abilities, rather inexplicably I might add. The plot is kicked off when Tsurugi is hired to retrieve a case from some rioting workers with guns, which he does handily. But when it comes time for the switch he is double crossed, in the ensuing fight he discovers that the real valuable was a tape. In the original Japanese version this tape contains blackmail information on some corporate bigwigs, but in the substantially more absurd American version it is half a formula for synthetic heroin.
I bring this up because it highlights the big issue with this film and how it does not even try to capture the insane, nihilistic atmosphere of it’s predecessors. Even the Japanese version is way sillier than the original films as it features a Chicago gangster who always wears a black mariachi costume who shoots lasers out of his hands. It’s an interesting question, what does a film owes to it’s predecessors or source material, how much responsibility is there to be true to the original vision? If a creator ignores these responsibilities does it make a movie bad? This film totally betrays the spirit of it’s main character and the bleak atmosphere of extreme violence that the original two Street Fighter movies had, but does that alone make it bad?
For my money, I think this film is actually quite decent, well, the Japanese version anyway. It’s really silly, sure, I mean the villains hire the aforementioned Chicago hitman/laser mariachi after he displays his powers on a paranormal talk show of all things. The film is full of subtle experimentation and I wonder if it was intended to satirize the previous two as much as follow them up. I think that as a film that ignores or subverts the tropes of it’s predecessors, this piece asks more of it’s audience than I think most audiences are comfortable with; one has to either forget it’s lineage or be open enough to it making fun of it’s own origins in a rather depreciating manner. That being said the film is totally worth seeing and if it’s lineage means nothing to you, then it’s just a surprisingly bloody and silly action romp, as long as you avoid the American version, it’s woeful. 4/5