Sunday, August 1, 2010

REVIEW: The Street Fighter's Last Revenge

逆襲!殺人拳 (Gyakushū! Satsujin ken)

Released: 1974

Shigehiro Ozawa

Sonny Chiba
Reiko IkeKoji Wada
Tatsua Endo
Akira Shioji

Running time: 83 min.

Reviewed by Bob Turnbull

If Sonny Chiba's third Street Fighter film doesn't start with quite the punch of the previous "Return Of The Street Fighter" nor leave quite the same lasting impression and smile on your face at its end, it can still be satisfactorily summed up with the one line review "If you liked the first two Street Fighter films, you'll like this one." It's harder to say if you'll ever love it though. Even though it was made in the same year as its two earlier siblings, there's a growing cynicism at work here - every character seems to fall prey to the evils of greed and corruption seems rampant.

That's not to say a dark, cynical film can't be great or even great fun, but it's harder to mesh that in with the dynamic, fun tone of the Street Fighter series. Even more difficult when you bring in spy elements (Tsurugi in disguises?) and have your previously almost unstoppable anti-hero struggle through several battles and get duped out of his money over and over. Fortunately about 70% of the movie manages to set its levels properly and deliver its action tinged with silliness but never completely spilling over to goofiness. Well, almost never - the laser beams masked as psychic powers used by the American hired killer who dresses like a mariachi might have stepped over the line a bit. No matter though, the fights still get ample time on screen and are rarely dull or slow. The quota of somersaulting and high-flying kicks is quite high as is the number of "where the hell did he come from?" moments.

Tsurugi is once again doing business with the yakuza at the start of the film when he rescues one of their family from a sticky situation surrounded by police. He also recovers a cassette tape with incriminating evidence of government corruption, but when it comes time to get paid for his work, Tsurugi gets shafted and barely escapes alive. He doesn't take kindly to this and steals the tape back to hold it for an even higher price in ransom. Everyone wants to get their hands on the tape - the yakuza, the sexy sister of the yakuza leader (played by Reiko Ike), the police, the government and, in particular, a prosecutor who may be Tsurugi's toughest ever fighting competition. After getting whooped by him early on, the Street Fighter himself has to go back to his old master to find out what's happened. The implications are that his greed for money has dulled the mental sharpness he requires for his skills to be at their fullest.

It's actually a pretty interesting angle to take at this point in the series. His utter ruthlessness is still evident (it's not enough for him to simply trap his opponent in a crematorium chamber - he wants to see that pile of ashes), but he allows himself to be off guard on several occasions and isn't quite as superhero-strong as before. Unfortunately, this angle isn't quite fully explored and combined with several characters that never go anywhere (a female hired killer who wants to be his assistant, an annoying telephone operator, etc.), the film is quite messy at times and loses its way. Director Shigehiro Ozawa (helmer for all three of the series) still manages to inject life into his story by occasionally experimenting with editing and zooms (repeated shots to indicate heavy motion; jump cuts while zooming to quicken the pace; zooming during one-on-one conversations to indicate full attention by both parties) and ensuring that there is always something interesting in his frames. All the films incorporate hand held footage to bring the viewer right into their action, but never at the expense of maintaining a visually appealing movie. So in the end, if the third Street Fighter film doesn't quite hold together and incorporates some odd choices for its plot and characters, it's never at the expense of entertaining its audience.

Read more from Bob Turnbull at his blog.

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