Return of the Street Fighter (1974)

The fun that began with The Street Fighter continues with the logically-titled Return of the Street Fighter. Sonny Chiba is back in business as the unscrupulous and avaricious Takuma “Terry” Tsurugi. He’s still a pitiless ass-kicker and he’s still only in it for the dough, willing to take on nearly all comers in order to line his pockets.

Shigehiro Ozawa is in the director’s chair once again and he upholds ruthless tone throughout, but some of his pic can be hard to follow. Some sequences are shot in pretty shadowy conditions and some fight scenes are muddled. Still, there’s an unsophisticated quality to the action and Chiba’s callous style is worth checking out.

Terry (Chiba) is hired by mobster Isamu Ōtaguro (Hiroshi Tanaka) to take out a pair of targets so they can’t squeal. Ōtaguro has teamed up with the American mafia and is using the pretend construction of a martial arts centre to pilfer cash. This infuriates Kendō Masaoka (Masafumi Suzuki), Terry’s pal. Because Masaoka starts making trouble for the mob, they try to hire Terry to kill him. No dice.

With Terry not taking the gig, the mafia tries to off him because he knows too much. This leads to the reappearance of someone thought departed and an improbable coupling between our hero and flower child Kitty (Yōko Ichiji). While on the run, Terry and Kitty escape cutthroats and try to shelter Masaoka before the criminals collect on their terminal talents.

The violence of Return of the Street Fighter isn’t as off the page as it was in the first film and I’m not sure if this won an X-rating for its trouble, but there’s still a great deal of “video nasty” stuff to check out. There are a number of versions, including a 73 minute cut version that was released in the United Kingdom and an 88 minute version for the U.S. The DVD release runs about 85 minutes.

There are a number of grisly highlights, including a hysterical moment when Terry wallops a dude in the back of the head so hard that his eyeballs pop out cartoon-style. Ozawa sensibly loiters a while and we get a real good look at the gory details.

There are some cool martial arts demonstrations near the beginning of the film, even though they’re pointless except to remind us what the weapons are when Terry starts using them or defending himself against them. Breathing techniques come into play a lot, so a demonstration in detail serves as a nice foundation to look back on when it seems like Chiba’s going to cough up a hairball.

There are a lot of quality B-movie sequences, like when Terry gets his butt kicked by an old rival with a voice box (who is ironically loquacious) and has to make a comeback. With Kitty’s help and a banana that he takes forever to eat, he recollects a recollection from the first movie and starts to psych himself up. It gets serious when he pours alcohol all over himself.

Return of the Street Fighter isn’t as good as The Street Fighter, but it’s still a decent martial arts picture. Chiba’s character is as cold as ever, bringing certain anti-hero charm to the picture even as most other characters serve as little more than obstacles to kick, punch or throat-rip through. The plot is virtually the same as the first flick, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying about an hour and a half of martial arts mania.

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