Onna hissatsu ken / Sister Street Fighter (1974) - Tough lady dueling eccentric assassins in exotic locations - 8/10 (27/06/19)
Hong Kong martial arts movies were incredibly popular all around the world in the mid-seventies to a point that millions of fans enrolled in martial arts schools to learn kung fu. Japanese Toei Company jumped on the bandwagon in order to promote Japanese karate skills and created the commercially successful Street Fighter franchise consisting of three surprisingly brutal movies featuring cold-blooded Sonny Chiba. In response to these brutal and pitiless films, the company also brought the Sister Street Fighter series to life. Lead actress Sue Shiomi had a short role in the first Street Fighter film and Sonny Chiba now has a minor role in the first film of the new franchise. This movie as well as its two sequels are less brutal and more warm-hearted. That doesn't mean that there aren't some graphic torture scenes and incredible fights however. The Sister Street Fighter series are actually much more balanced than the Street Fighter series and even though both are great, I tend to prefer Sue Shiomi's empathic performances over Sonny Chiba's rude character.
In many films back then and still today, female lead actresses are supposed to look beautiful and weak but you will get the exact opposite here which is quite refreshing. Lead character Li Koryu, known as Tina Long in international versions, is shown as tough heroine with an empathic side that never tries to seduce or dress well. Ironically, this natural and self-confident approach is exactly what makes her so sympathetic and even attractive. Even by contemporary standards, her character feels fresh and is intriguing enough to make audiences care about her fate. After three successful movies, fans were craving for more to a point that Fifth Level Fist, a movie completely unrelated to the series but featuring Sue Shiomi in a similar role, became an unofficial sequel and is now often seen as fourth entry in the franchise. This proves that this franchise might have been even more popular than the original Street Fighter series.
The story is entertaining, fast-paced but nevertheless by the numbers. Li Koryu is asked to find her brother who disappeared when investigating a shady company that imports heroin hidden in wigs. The locations of the movie are quite intriguing and vary from sinister dungeons over traditional martial arts schools to shady pubs. The characters are also interesting and feature a series of martial arts hitmen with unique skills who all face off Li Koryu. Several actors from the Street Fighter series are featured in this film such as Sonny Chiba who plays a mysterious stranger who helps out the heroine but has his own motives, Milton Ishibashi who was involved as resilient villain in two Street Fighter films and plays the main hitman asked to kill the heroine and Asao Uchida who was also present in two Street Fighter films and has a quite similar role here as wise leader of a martial arts school with an intact moral compass that offers the heroine shelter.
If you like the Street Fighter series, you will adore this movie as much as the original franchise. Martial arts fan will certainly appreciate the numerous fights showcasing different weapons, techniques and locations. The movie also flirts with spy films from the sixties and seventies and you will get an eccentric antagonist living in a gigantic mansion who assembles unique assassins around him. This movie really represents the dynamic spirit of the cinematic seventies but has aged quite well thanks to its fresh heroine. The new BluRay boxed set including all four films of the franchise by Arrow Films is highly recommended.« Gyakushû! Satsujin ken / The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (1974) - It's better to burn out than fade away - 9/10 (22/06/19)Onna hissatsu ken: Kiki ippatsu / Sister Street Fighter: Hanging by a Thread (1974) - Funky adventure with sinister antagonists - 8/10 (27/06/19) »