Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist Blu-ray Review


Fifth Level Pass

It’s not until a minute past the hour mark that Sister Street Fighter star Etsuko Shiomi throws her first kick. Fifth Level Fist is not the same type of movie as its predecessors.

Replacing the weird, even psychotropic absurdity is a balanced, realist look at the Japanese drug trade. Rather than send Shiomi in alone, a torrent of cops track down shifty movie producers, masquerading as such to shift product through to the Americas. Fifth Level Fist doesn’t dissolve into fantasy. Few die. Instead, criminals find themselves cuffed and hauled off to jail. How mundane for a series specializing in wild violence.

At times, Fifth Level Fist is more a reset. Shiomi isn’t playing the same character, leaving this stranded as an unofficial sequel. Here Shiomi finds herself fighting not gangs, but her parents who wish her to be more traditional. The men in this film all want the same. Someone tells Shiomi to seek out the domestic life. “Women are women after all,” he says, butting heads with the openly brash feminist take of the Sister Street Fighter series.

Fifth Level Fist doesn’t dissolve into fantasy

Fifth Level Fist goes as far as to reduce Shiomi to a damsel, pinning her to a log as a saw threatens to cut her in two. No, that doesn’t only happen in cartoons. Funny as the cliché seems, Fifth Level Fist delights at the chance for laughs. Comedy is more frequent, yet bounces off the weightier elements, including a plotline dealing with Japanese racism. Partly touching on nationalist bias toward Okinawans (and those of color) those elements too soon dissipate. Exploration of the topic is limited to a scene of mourning and flashback.

That leaves Fifth Level Fist flat and tired. At only 76-minutes, it takes ages for anything to happen. Two entire stage shows take place in front of the camera, languishing in pace in a hunt for any energy. Shiomi’s perkiness isn’t enough.

Released in 1976, it’s a movie that feels repulsed by the continuing drug trade. There’s no sense of adding color to the proceedings. Gangsters look and act as such; Shiomi won’t fight any ninjas this time. Instead, the serious approach attacks the reality of illicit drugs – cocaine in this case – with a fleet of cops and a mere assist from vigilante martial artists. It’s not something to poke fun at. Cinematography follows, darker, ominous, and roughened up. Fifth Level Fist exists on literal unstable ground with a wobbly camera. At times, it’s disinterested in even capturing the actual fights. With that, out goes the identity of Sister Street Fighter.

Video

Darker aesthetics challenge Arrow’s compression, unlike the other two films bundled on the same disc. Artifacts, while not common, do impede detail. Smoke and haze breakdown into noise. Grain shows stability for most of the runtime, with a few rough spots.

The rest is fine, on par with expectations. Bright, natural color defies age. Primaries stick out against a dreary, industrialist Japanese backdrop. Kimonos worn by Shiomi flatter the screen with their intensity. Flesh tones stay appealing and neutral.

Detail is evident, if not prominent. Clarity (from this remarkably clean print) never loses focus. The master appears modern from a great source, with adequate resolution for this format.

Audio

Part of the score involves some vocals. That’s a clear sign this overly aged PCM track is struggling to stay alive. Wobbly, pitchy singing and what sounds like out-of-tune instruments strain this best effort attempt. Highs fall even when at not at their peak.

Age batters the Japanese dialog (no English dub is available), outright awful in the opening scene before clearing up to an acceptable level.

Extras

Only the original trailer is offered.

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Sister Street Fighter: Fifth Level Fist
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
2

Movie

Unofficial as far as sequel goes, Fifth Level Fist lacks the wacky charm of the other Sister Street Fighter kung-fu flicks.

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