From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
In the 1974 martial arts action classic The Streetfighter, Sonny Chiba (the Anti-Bruce Lee) stars as infamous Assassin for Hire Terry Tsurugi. We are introduced to Terry as he goes undercover as a Buddhist monk to give the last rites to an inmate named Junjo (Masashi Ishibashi). Terry is challenged by Junjo to a fight in the cell until he reveals that he's on Junjo's side. He then gives Junjo a secret karate punch that puts him into a brief coma. The reason he's doing this is because he's been hired to save Junjo from being executed. The special coma punch doesn't kick in until Junjo is seconds away from being put in the noose. He is soon whisked away in an ambulance and intercepted by Terry's faithful sidekick Ratnose (Gerald Yamada). Ratnose beats up the ambulance drivers and gets out of there in the vehicle with Junjo in the back.
The reason for all this havoc is because Terry has been hired by Junjo's siblings to get him out of jail and to a safe haven in Hong Kong. When Junjos brother and sister show up at Terry's apartment, they explain that they don't have the rest of the money they owe him, so they get into a big brawl and Junjo's younger brother accidentally jumps out the window while trying to kick Terry. Terry then takes Junjo's sister and sells her to a prostitution ring to make up for their insult. Now you know why he is considered a "real mean bastard".
Mr Mataguchi (Fumio Watanabe) wants to hire Terry for a job. An oil baron named Hammett has died and his estate has been given to his lovely young daughter Sarai (Yutaka Nakajima). Mataguchi's employers are a Hong Kong branch of the Japanese Yakuza and they want to kidnap Sarai so they can get her to sign off on her father's business. Terry decides not to take the job because he simply doesn't trust the Chinese.
Since Terry has refused the offer, Mataguchi decides to kill him because he knows too much. A group of Mataguchi's thugs are sent to take care of Terry so they burst into his apartment and our anti-hero proceeds to kick their asses. He rips them apart and in one scene he punches a dude's teeth out. They fall out like so many chicklets! This is where you'll see how Terry "redistrubites his chi" by his scratchy breathing technique. It's totally over the top and cartoonish. It's actually 100 times more exaggerated than Bruce Lee's trademark yells. Sonny Chiba's unique performance is incredibly entertaining and often downright funny.
After surviving the Yakuza attack, Terry is out to get revenge on Mataguchi, so he does the best thing: he joins the side of right. Sarai's uncle Masaoka is the head of a Japanese Karate School. Terry and Ratnose sneak in and there's a great sequence where Terry goes apeshit on Masaoka's students, kicking their asses one by one. All the while, making over the top kung fu poses, screeching, growling, snarling, and snorting. Masaoka looks like the Japanese William Conrad, he's a fat little bald guy who knew Terry's dad back in the old days. He and Terry battle it out and Masaoka comes out on top. Since he feels bad for Terry after remembering how his parents were killed when he was just a child, he gives him the job of protecting Sarai.
Meanwhile, Junjo has been hiding out in Hong Kong and he finds his sister in the same brothel he's been hanging out in. Junjo swears to get revenge on Terry for what he did to her. The climactic battle between Junjo and Terry aboard the oil boat in the rain is one of my all time favorite fight sequences/endings. And just wait until you see the final scene!!
The action sequences in the film are very exploitative and to me that's AWESOME! You'll see bones snapping, skulls crushed (one in X-Ray vision), throats ripped out, balls ripped off, teeth punched out and lots of BLOOD squirting all over. If you want brutal Grindhouse Japanese karate fighting, The Streetfighter series is for you. This is my favorite out of the three Streetfighter films with Chiba. The others being: Return of The Streetfighter and The Streetfighter's Last Revenge.
Peter Roberts is the co-founder/editor-in-chief of the Grindhouse Cinema Database (GCDb) and contributor to the GCDb's sister site Furious Cinema. A Massachusetts native, he is an avid film fan that has been immersed in the world of entertainment and pop culture his entire life. He is currently majoring in Communications and Interactive Media Design.