With 1974’s The Street Fighter we were introduced to one Terry Tsurugi (or Sugury, depending on which version you watch), an anti-hero that leaned so far into “anti” territory, he was barely better than the criminals whose faces he so spectacularly pulped. Played by the legendary Sonny Chiba, Terry is essentially an indestructible thug infused with enough lethal charisma to counterbalance the fact he’d twist the head off anyone who even looked at him funny while he gurned like a feral Bruce Lee – needless to say, his debut movie was nothing short of exploitation nirvana.
A sequel was inevitable and promptly showed up in the same year, but while Return Of The Street Fighter strived to try and smooth out some of Terry’s rougher edges (no selling a defeated, female, enemy into the sex trade here), he still proved to be every bit of a fucking animal he always was.
When we catch up with Terry Tsurugi once again, it’s apparent that he’s back to his old trick again – ripping people to pieces with his bare hands for money. We know this because in order to fulfil a contract on an informant in police custody, he gets himself arrested by breaking into the station (by somersaulting over the games from a speeding motorbike, no less) and beating the living shit out of any cop dumb enough to get within reach. After finding the informant and guaranteeing that he’ll never squeal by punching two holes in his vocal chords with nothing but his fingers (I guess they didn’t accept written confessions in 1970’s Japan), Terry kicks his way out of an upper story window and heads off into the night in order to fill out yet more bloody contracts with his bare hands.
However, once again it seems that his life of wayward violence will soon catch up with him as he finds himself working for a mobster who is running a scam that’s seeing him embezzling cash from various charities and martial arts dojos. When Masaoka, a sensei of one such dojo and coincidentally the only man Terry ever trusts, cottons on to this scheme and defies the crooks, the Yakuza order the maniacal Tsurugi to kill him – big mistake.
Turning down the hit thanks to a rare bout of honor, Terry soon finds himself once again targeted by the mob for knowing too much and subsequently has to fight off countless numbers of wannabe killers while continuing to go about his day to day business of hanging out in saunas and banging strange, random women he finds in hotel lobbys. However, matters get serious with the return of his old enemy Junjo, who wasn’t about to let a small thing like having his entire throat torn out at the end of the last movie deny him of his vengence. Equipped with a mechanical voice box and a burning desire to stick his sai daggers into something vital, Junjo is just one of many maniacs that go to unbelievable lengths to take out our vicious hero.
Right off the bat, it’s an unavoidable fact that Return Of The Street Fighter is an inferior movie when compared to its predecessor; what little plot there is is shamelessly cripped from the first movie wholesale and it can’t even manage to come up with a different reason for the mob wanting to kill our murderous hero – let’s put it this way, if Terry had a buck for everytime the mob tried to kill him for knowing too much, wouldn’t need to brutally maul informants for money. Still, between this, copious lengthy flashbacks to the first film and the introduction of yet another, quirky, simple-minded, devoted sidekick in the form of Kitty (sporting the most annoying pigtails in cinema history), it becomes fairly evident that originality wasn’t high on the list of director Shigehiro Ozawa’s agenda.
However, without the need to put together a framing plot that contains a shred of originality, the filmmakers are freed up to deliver a movie that’s essentially a ninety minute beat-down that provides Sonny Chiba with plenty of opportunities to rearrange the human form with his club-like blows. However, compared to the bestial attitude of the first movie – which saw equal amounts of groin ripping, skull crushing and more rampant misogyny than was strictly comfortable – it seems that Terry’s mellowed a little with the film featuring a reduction in the levels of sadistic levels of jaw-dropping savagery. But the side effects of this reduction of synapse tearing gore oddly means the movie’s fight sequences play way smoother and features more impressive choreography than the first film’s.
However, while Revenge Of The Street Fighter is admittedly not a match for its brawnier precursor, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a bundle of maniacal fun and taken on a level of pure enjoyment, its actually a way more enjoyable experience with virtually every scene featuring some sort of ridiculous aspect. For the last two-thirds of the film, it’s literally just Chiba fending off an endless stream of hopeful goons who would be able to find him if he just laid low for two minutes – however, as awkward as it is for Terry, it’s a goldmine for those seeking a series of outlandish, chuckle inducing, smackdowns that get more cartoonishly violent and comically absurd as they go along.
After travelling to the top of a mountian on the world’s most dangerous looking ski lift (for no reason), Terry fights off various assassins in the snoe while wearing a woolly hat and mittens, eventually finishing the fight by punching a dude’s eyes clean out of his head! Later, after laying out a dozen thugs while relaxing in a gym, he drags every single one of them into a sauna and then promptly scalds them all alive by fiddling with the temperature valve. Later still he beds a pretty woman he’s just met and yet seems genuinely surprised when it turns out that also out for Terry’s blood (“So, the mafia works through you!?”), so he responds by breaking her arm like a bread stick and stabbing her with her own knife. Elsewhere we also get aging, sensei Masaoka beat up a room full of gunmen despite being built like Danny Devito and the reveal of the movie’s big bad, Don Costello, a mob boss who looks like a member of The Magic Numbers has turned to crime a subsequently looks as threatening as a Furby. However, this doesn’t stop Terry from plucking out both his eyes and roasting him alive in a truck explosion (that also presumably kills the very innocent driver) in the absolutely bonkers climax.
It takes a film with a certain detachment from reality to make a character with robot vocal chords seem like one of the most normal aspects of the story, but Return Of The Street Fighter proves to be an utter gold mine of ultra violence and outlandish logic. I mean, how can you not enjoy a film that has its wounded hero awake from a coma and instantly get himself fighting fit by pouring alcohol all over himself while screaming?