Made in 1974, but not released until 1979, this was the final instalment in Toei’s Street Fighter series. Half-breed badass-for-hire, Terry Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) is recruited to retrieve a tape implicating a trade union boss in a heroin smuggling ring. The complicated plot - even harder to follow in New Line’s re-edited American version - involves rival gangs, the mob boss’ seductive sister (Reiko Ike) and a karate kicking district attorney all trying to get their hands on the tape. Terry skulks through a tangled web of sex, blackmail and deceit, trying to work out who is double-crossing whom and why, between karate battles with a sombrero-wearing Mexican (Frankie Black), who shoots heat beams from his hands.
Coming after the superior Return of the Street Fighter and Sister Street Fighter (1976) - technically not part of the series but released as such, internationally - the fourth chapter plays more like a film noir/caper movie than a karate thriller. Heavy on the sexploitation, the film centres around the steamy interplay between our man Chiba and his sultry femme fatale, giving the audience ample opportunity to ogle Reiko Ike. Alongside rival Miki Sugimoto, Reiko Ike was Toei’s resident sexpot and had the acting chops to make a great, scheming seductress. Yet, it’s dispiriting to see her simpering and being slapped around when she is usually a feisty action heroine in her sexy, delinquent schoolgirl movies.
Typically for Toei (a studio founded by gangsters), almost all the characters here are duplicitous, self-centred, schemers, although Chiba plays a kinder, less amoral Terry Tsurugi this time round. He gets to swagger around looking suave in a white tuxedo and rip off rubber disguises (including a vampire mask!) while the funky, Street Fighter theme heralds karate violence. Sonny roasts one guy in a crematorium, stomps another’s head apart like a ripe cantaloupe. Few of these yakuza chumps prove a worthy match, including Black’s hilarious Hispanic, Willie Dosey (the black actor Sonny kills in almost every movie), and a podgy, ginger-haired Caucasian in a red sweater. Who hires these clowns? Chiba protégé, Etsuko Shiomi cameos as an acrobatic private investigator working for the D.A. She gets a great scene where she wipes out a roomful of yakuza, but is needlessly gunned down helping Terry escape. While he’s kind to women and small children in this movie, for some reason Terry doesn’t show any compassion towards the girl who saves his life. The plot lurches through needlessly drawn out scenes of businessmen negotiating and counter-negotiating, while the lack of urgency and emotional content makes it hard to care. A mountaintop finale with Terry and his opponent leaping wildly about in slow-motion rouses the film out of its stupor, but Street Fighter’s Last Revenge is strictly for completists.