Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba) is a criminal for hire, renowned for his almost unbeatable fighting skills. He sets free a killer from prison for the killer's brother and sister, but the deal ends with one family member dead, and the killer swearing revenge. Meanwhile, the Yakuza wish to employ Tsurugi to kidnap an heiress so she will hand over her fortune - but will he agree?
The Street Fighter, written by Motohiro Torii and Koji Takada, became notorious for the levels of violence shown in its martial arts combat sequences, and made cult star out of Sonny Chiba. He is a one man tornado of brute force, hammering his way through his assailants, smashing in heads and punching in stomachs, all the while grimacing and gurning with the huge effort it takes to thump his enemies to within an inch of their lives.
Tough? You think you're tough? Sonny Chiba is tough. Whenever he apparently meets his match, he takes one hell of beating, but always recovers successfully to gain the upper hand. When his car gets dropped over a bridge with him in it, he is sufficiently unruffled to play dead, then suddenly leap into action against the baddies who have tried to kill him. After a bout of Russian roulette, Tsurugi frees himself and dives over a high cliff into the icy waters below - does he survive? With barely a scratch!
Although not quite the bloodbath it is trumpeted as, there are a number of strikingly gory deaths here. At one point, Tsurugi's blow to the head of a gangster allows us to be treated to an X-ray shot of the hapless victim's skull being crushed. Other victims all seem to end up with blood spurting out of their mouths, except for one who spurts vomit out of his mouth - yes there's even a bit of diced carrot in there. Oh dear me.
Out of the three women in the film, two have to endure scenes of attempted rape, but Tsurugi saves the heiress from her ordeal by ripping off the rapist's bollocks. The criminal underworld is a place where you can be attacked at any moment, where oaths of honour are the most important thing in the gangster's lives, and revenge means killing off the person who has offended you. There's no elegance to the fighting, simply crunching bones and bloody death.
Tsurugi's aggressive nature (stemming from a childhood trauma, we're told in flashback) lets him fit in here perfectly - his only friend is Ratnose, a comic relief cook who seems an unlikely partner for him. The Yakuza henchmen don't fare too well, as is so often the case, being nothing more than fodder for Tsurugi's flying fists - they even try to shoot him, but naturally he dodges the bullets. If it's all a bit one-note and humourless (apart from unintentional laughs like the bloke flying out of the window), The Street Fighter should do if you're looking for a bit of mindless violence, and the powerful Chiba is worth seeing in action.