Onna hissatsu godan ken / Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist (1976) - Entertaining action thriller unrelated to the franchise - 6/10 (27/06/19)
Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist is only an entry in the critically acclaimed franchise about empathic, resilient and tough martial artist Li Koryu on paper. This movie doesn't involve the same characters at all. There are however three similarities between this film and the three previous movies. They are all produced by Toei Company, they all feature Etsuko Shihomi as lead actress and they are all about a female martial artist who faces off against a sinister criminal organization.
In this case, the protagonist is actually named Nakagawa Kiku. Her parents desperately try to marry her to a socially awkward banker and then to a misogynist police officer who claims that women certainly desire cooking meals for their husbands and raising children because all women are the same. The protagonist couldn't care less however and prefers training at her karate dojo where she is however stalked by a clumsy undercover police officer. It only makes sense that she enjoys spending time with her best friend who she considers being her sister and her half-brother. The siblings share the same Japanese mother from Okinawa but the sister's mother was a white American soldier while the brother's father was a coloured American soldier. They got racially intimated as children and moved away but dream of returning home and opening a restaurant to prove by their actions that they are good people. Their ambitious dreams are shattered when the brother is hired as a hitman by an organization that smuggles cocaine hidden in Buddha statues to assassinate an international narcotics investigator. The brother manages to kill the investigator but is surprised in the act by the protagonist and other witnesses and has to go into hiding. Since he has now become a liability, the organization that hired him decides and manages to get rid of him. His sister is heartbroken and her best friend decides to help her have her revenge while the misogynist police officer and the clumsily stalking officer also get involved.
If compared to the Sister Street Fighter films, this movie features less fight scenes and rather focuses on its numerous characters and their ties. The film also follows the police investigation that takes place in art shops, during parties and in a Korean bar. The movie actually shows a lot of cultural diversity and criticizes racism towards multiethnical children, features several dialogues in English with Japanese subtitles and shows Korean dance and music performances. The misogynist police officer sticks out like a sore thumb. The movie also has a few mildly humorous scenes involving the clumsy officer and the protagonist's father who is afraid of his wife and helps the protagonist get out of embarrassing situations from time to time.
The movie certainly has its merits since its characters are intriguing and locations diversified. However, most people would never have watched the film if its misguiding title weren't associated to the internationally successful Sister Street Fighter series. While being decent, the movie certainly lacks the drive of that franchise and the protagonist pales in comparison to the charismatic Li Koryu.
After all, it certainly isn't essential to watch Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist. If you have watched the original three Sister Street Fighter movies, you don't need to watch this one. However, the movie is entertaining enough thanks to its investigative plot and fascinating characters. The final fifteen minutes or so feature some decent fight scenes but the rest of the film is certainly lacking in that department. This movie is a solid action-thriller of the seventies but can't be considered a great martial arts movie. I would recommend this film to fans of Japanese cinema and culture and those who can't get enough of Etsuko Shihomi who finds yet again the perfect balance between empathy and brutality.« Kaette kita onna hissatsu ken / Return of the Sister Street Fighter (1975) - The perfect balance between brutality and empathy concludes the franchise on a solid note - 7/10 (27/06/19)Spinning Man (2018) - Stimulating your brain but not much else - 6/10 (29/06/19) »