Sunday, July 11, 2010

REVIEW: Return of the Streetfighter

殺人 拳 2 (Satsujin ken 2)

Released: 1974

Shigehiro Ozawa

Sonny Chiba
Yoko IchijiMasahi Ishibashi
Claude Gagnon
Hiroshi Tanaka

Running time: 85 min.

Reviewed by Bob Turnbull

It didn't take more than a couple of minutes before the hijinks were out in full force...After a short opening scene where Tsurugi Takuma (Sonny Chiba's Street Fighter character making his second film appearance) requests double his normal fee to "take care of" a couple of embezzling accountants, he speeds off on his motorcycle. Since one of the accountants is in police custody, he's purposely trying to get the cops after him. Of course, even though it works almost immediately, he isn't going to make it easy for them to catch him. He magically leaps his cycle over a crash in front of him, screeches to a halt in front of a set of embassy gates, somersaults over the high fence in one smooth movement and proceeds to engage in hand-to-hand combat with a multitude of easy prey (while wearing a coat only he could make look cool). He also pulls the old "while you hold my helmet, I'll duck out from under it and then beat the crap out of you" move. The titles haven't even run yet and already you know you're in for loads of fun.

It continues in much the same vein. Director Shigehiro Ozawa's follow-up to his own "The Streetfighter" (both from 1974) builds one fight scene on top of the other - in steam baths, on ski slopes, in hotel rooms (with sexy women and hulking men) - and completely relies on Chiba's athletic fighting abilities and over the top reactions. How tough is this guy? After getting stabbed in one fight, he pauses to dip his fingers into his own bleeding cut and then lick them clean. Do I really even need to review the film further at this point? You can either choose to run with that kind of broad "let's have fun with it style" (complete with flying bodies and several physical impossibilities) or reject it. If you do the latter, you have no one but yourself to blame for the void that will exist in your life.

I briefly considered simply linking to Marc's excellent previous review of the initial Streetfighter film and adding "Yeah, what he said". Will it help convince you to see the film if I explain that those two accountants are targeted because they stole from one of the martial arts schools that is actually a front for the mafia? Or that they then turn against Tsurugi when he refuses to kill their rival school's headmaster (an old opponent he greatly admires and respects)? Likely not. But what if I mention that that Tsurugi can make someone's eyeballs literally pop out of their heads with a perfectly placed chop to the back of the neck? That should do it.

Let me be clear though - this isn't completely cheese filled or a cheap production. The fight scenes are excellent in their choreography and physicality. Sure there's a few obvious missed punches and exaggerated grimacing going on, but it never goes too broad or gets too serious. The tone and feeling of the film is just about spot on all the way through. Chiba's wild-eyed looks in concert with the sudden alarming musical cues signal more battles and the dynamic camera work matches each punch, thrust and kick. The single less than positive note is Tsuguri's female sidekick - she's given nothing to do but whine several admonitions at him and allow herself to get pushed around. Her odd choice of a Pippi Longstocking hairdo doesn't help either. Fortunately there's plenty of other touches in the film that help bring a smile to the face - like showing a character in a movie theatre watching a screening of one of Kinji Fukasaku's "Yakuza Papers" films or the fact that there is a preponderance of 8-track tapes (in cars, in portable players, etc.).

Chiba. Loads of fight scenes. Wild-eyed looks. 8-track tapes. Glorious fun.

Read more from Bob Turnbull at his blog.

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