July 17th, 2009

SISTER STREET FIGHTER (1976) ***

An undercover cop gets kidnapped by some ruthless heroin dealers and the police turn to his karate champion sister, Tina (Etsuko Shihomi) to rescue him.  The drug kingpin has a diverse army of assassins around him at all times so he’s pretty tough to get to.  (He “collects killers as a hobby” don’t you know.)  Luckily, Tina has the ability to kick all sorts of ass and with a little bit of help from “The Street Fighter” (Sonny Chiba), she’s able to bring down the drug cartel.

 

First thing’s first:  This is NOT a sequel to the amazing The Street Fighter that starred Sonny Chiba.  Sonny does NOT play the same character he played in the other Street Fighter movies, even though a couple people call him “Street Fighter”.  He doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time but that’s fine because he still kicks people’s asses left and right whenever he is on screen. Also returning from the first movie is Masashi Ishibashi, who is also playing a different villain (named Hammerhead) that is constantly surrounded by henchmen who wear wicker trashcans on their heads.

 

Sister Street Fighter has a bizarre tone that seems more like a live action anime as opposed to the raw, grungy feel of the first movie.  Okay, I know I probably shouldn’t compare this flick to the original because they’re completely unrelated.  However, to me, any film that stars Sonny Chiba AND features the words “Street Fighter” in the title must be judged accordingly.  How does it hold up to the original you ask?  Surprisingly well.

 

There isn’t a lot of plot to get in the way of the Kung Fu sequences and the action set pieces are pretty consistent all the way through.  The film is also rife with odd touches that will leave you shaking your head in bewilderment, which is always a good thing if you ask me.  For instance, the bad guy smuggles heroin hidden inside of women’s wigs!  When’s the last time you saw that in a movie?   Then there are the title cards that introduce each of the villain’s henchmen and their particular set of skills (which include a group masked Amazon women).  The final battle between Sister Street Fighter and the evil smuggler is pretty whack too.  First, they fight in a cave filled with rubber bats on strings.  Then once outside, they jump hundreds of feet high in the air and Kung Fu each other while hurtling through the sky.  Like I said, whack.

 

The gore is fairly decent and while it doesn’t live up to the precedent set by the original film, it’s still pretty cool.  Sister Street Fighter throws forks into people, plants a scythe into someone’s forehead, and drops a sai on the top of a guy’s bald head.  The flick also features a good amount of boobies, and that’s always a welcome sight.

 

Although Sonny’s barely in the movie, Shihomi makes for a very appealing action heroine.  She does some damn fine martial artsy moves and is cute as a button.  There’s a great scene early on in the film where she catches flies with chopsticks (eight years before Mr. Miyagi made it chic) before inciting a barroom brawl that perfectly captures her charm and energy.

 

If Sister Street Fighter (the movie) does have a flaw it’s that Sister Street Fighter (the character) is virtually indestructible so there’s zero suspense.  At one point, she’s tied up and dangled upside down over a bed of spikes while the S & M Mistress assassin sets the rope on fire.  After the rope breaks though, Sister Street Fighter just somersaults over the spikes.  There’s no “Oh shit, how’s she gonna get out of this one?”  It’s more like “Oh yeah, this movie’s so goddamn insane that she can pretty much do anything!”

 

You know, when I first saw Sister Street Fighter as a teenager I remember being pissed that Sonny Chiba had such a small role.  Watching it now though, I admired the flick for doing its own thing.  If you go in thinking that it’s going to be a hardboiled sequel to The Street Fighter, you’re bound to be disappointed.  If on the other hand you just want a goofy, anything goes Kung Fu flick, you’re guaranteed to be entertained.

 

AKA:  Female Fighting Fist in Danger.  AKA:  Woman Certain Kill Fist.