You beat a man, they call you tough...
The plot revolves around one Terry Tsurugi (Sonny Chiba), an assassin who uses a particularly deadly form of karate to take out any target, as long as the price is right. Terry becomes intertwined in a mob war as the Yakuza (Japanese mob) tries to recruit him to abduct the beautiful heiress of an oil tycoon, a job which Terry refuses (for some reason). The mob goes after him because he knows too much and Terry tries to save and protect the heiress. At least, I think that's the plot. Let's face it... who watches this movie and pays attention to the plot?
What's fantastic about Terry (Sonny) is that he's a collossal jerk in this movie. In one scene, Terry breaks into a dojo run by the heiress' uncle (who is a master of karate himself). He not only beats the crap out of all the students on his way to the heiress, but when he gets to her, he forcibly smooches her until the students bring the uncle to fight him. That takes profound testicular fortitude.
Et tu, Bruce
It's obvious that Sonny took some acting cues from Bruce Lee. Not only does Sonny look a lot like Bruce, he also uses many of the same mannerisms and expressions while fighting. For example, Sonny has the "I'm so badass that I can look at you out of the corner of my eye and still beat your ass" look down pat. But there was a scene in which Sonny took off his shirt while working out, and his physique wasn't nearly in the same league as the grotesquely-muscular Bruce Lee.
Sonny's fighting style is a bit of a departure from Bruce's, though. He concentrates more on karate moves which are less theatrical than Bruce's kung-fu. But his style is certainly cheesy, as he has sort of a weird crouching stance with his hands covering his face that either seems super-badass or super-cowardly, depending on your perception. He also doesn't do the Bruce Lee "aaaoooh", instead opting for sort of a weird hissing noise. Way to differentiate yourself, Sonny!
Less like Street Fighter, more like Mortal Kombat
The gore is where this movie shines, with lots of great throat-ripping, eye-poking action. There's a heaping helping of that 70's style orangish viscous blood. There was even a scene where Terry punches some poor lacky in the stomach, and instead of blood gushing from his mouth, he pukes! You don't see enough puking in these movies, I say. And for the organ-ripping, they obviously used real pig or cow organs for a realistic touch. Nice.
The music is downright awesome with a great 70's-style theme track and musical exclamations when Terry gets down to business. And like many great 70's flicks, The Street Fighter gets strikes an emotional cord with the audience when Terry's partner dies. Sonny's expression in this scene, which looks like Bruce Lee pouting over a broken cookiee, simply must be witnessed.
You beat an army, they call you Street Fighter!
This movie is so perfectly cheesy that it entertains all the way through. As far as 70's exploitation films go, it doesn't get much better than this. And as a side note, Sonny Chiba's movies apparently helped inspire the Kill Bill movies. In fact, Sonny Chiba was Hattori Hanzo in the first Kill Bill! It's too bad we didn't see Sonny in action!
I give The Street Fighter 4.5 out of 5 Splattered Blood Stains.