Amoral Justice

There’s no law in The Street Fighter. The few police set up a public hanging in the opening scene. How unpleasant. Soon, corruption takes over and anti-hero Takuma (Sonny Chiba) is busting through Hong Kong gangsters like a hyper-violent Batman.

Firmly planted in the early-to-mid ‘70s, Japan and Hong Kong messily interlock. Takuma bounces between them, ripping out throats (and worse) as he tracks down a kidnapped oil heiress – but only for a bounty.

In a backdrop of an over-industrialized county during an international oil crisis, The Street Fighter depicts a nation in total turmoil. It’s partly economic. Japan and Hong Kong endured a rise in organized crime and drugs during this period. It’s also cultural. Takuma invades karate schools, he wears fashion of a century before, and ultimately feels out of time. He’s breaking down (what was then) a contemporary influence of western capitalism while simultaneously taking advantage of dirty money. A ninja for hire, hypocritical, unseemly, and cruel.

The Street Fighter’s rawness doesn’t let the good through

Where previous martial arts cinema celebrated form, style, discipline, and finesse, The Street Fighter throws it all out. There’s another cultural shift – the beauty of Japanese movement and fighting styles turned sadistic, fierce, and bloody as Asian countries endured a wave of mafia influences. Part of that came from necessity as theater patrons dwindled in numbers. To separate from gentler television programing, Japanese films upped their violence quotas. The Street Fighter certainly does.

It’s uncomfortable, at times. The lone black character is an animalistic rapist. There’s not a woman in the script who isn’t sexual fodder or a villain. As for Chiba, he punches like a tank. He shows no remorse when ripping out a throat, of which the camera zooms in and hovers on explicitly as the flesh quivers in his hand. The Street Fighter’s lack of subtly suggests vigilante justice to solve an issue of growing underground crime. Maybe not with kung-fu or split skulls – that’s the grindhouse fantasy – but using outright anger to eliminate mob rule.

Chiba’s perfect here. He’s bulky and imposing, wearing primarily black and able to contort his face to convince an audience of his overwhelming strength. The gore doesn’t hurt either, that artificial, seeping, bright red outpouring from foreheads or gunshot wounds. The Street Fighter loves the hyper-real.

By the end, Chiba’s hardly earned empathy. He wins, but crime still runs rampant. The finale takes place in a typhoon, washing away the blood and dirty oil money, if not enough to restore balance. The Street Fighter’s rawness doesn’t let the good through.


Shout debuts a new 2K scan from various elements as the disc itself indicates when first booting The Street Fighter. The print displays scattered damage, pleasing in keeping a rough aesthetic. Nothing is severe other than some discoloration, confined to a single scene. The rest comprises of specks and the occasional scratch, enough to deliver an attractive grindhouse look without compromising quality.

Of all the things Shout does here, it’s the color saturation that sticks out. Arguably, the saturation runs too high. The blues and reds reach a hearty tier, glowing even. Costume selections certainly accentuate the vividness, with red suits and multi-colored karate gear. Flesh tones produce unusual vibrancy. This gives The Street Fighter new life, even if things seem a little rich.

Likewise, contrast follows a similar path, with a touch of clipping in spots. Black crush too invades the image. Like the grit left on the print, this gives The Street Fighter a hefty, weighted look of low-budget filmmaking. Over exposed and under exposed adds charm. The Blu-ray keeps that intact.

Heavy yet preserved grain looks natural without falling toward noise. Shout puts the series on individual discs, giving them plenty of room to breathe. Behind that, the 2K scan reveals splendid definition. Texture pours from this transfer, with exquisite detail in close.


Three flavors of DTS-HD mono reside here. Two of them provide English dubs, one from the ‘70s, the other of the ‘90s. The third then is the original Japanese, the most natural of the lot, if mushy and coarse. An awesome guitar theme is a bit of a mess as it comes through the speakers. The treble is too much for this well aged track.

What’s here in terms of dialog sounds dry, definitely analog, and appreciably vintage. That’s fine. When paired with the video, the two work in tandem to preserve a specific period.


Shout sits down with Sonny Chiba for a half hour interview, tracking his career, his start, and of course this series. Oddly, the more interesting interview comes from Jack Sholder who handled the trailer’s editing. It’s a rarely discussed topic, and he even chats about his work censoring violence or sex from these films. Sit down with this one for 13-minutes.

Japan and US trailers join a stills gallery at the end of the bonus menu.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Street Fighter
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Sonny Chiba’s defining role in The Street Fighter came as Japan suffered from an influx of criminal influence and dwindling theatrical profits.

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