Sister Street Fighter
(Onna hissatsu ken) (1974)
Directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi

Artistic Value: * * ½
Entertainment Value: * * * ½

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After her brother Lee disappears, Tina Long (Etsuko Shihomi), a young martial arts expert living in Hong Kong, learns that he had been working for the police and might have been kidnapped by a gang of drug smugglers. In order to save him, Tina hurries to Japan, where Lee went missing, and tries to infiltrate the smuggling ring herself. She soon, however, discovers that the boss of the gang collects killers as his hobby and is willing to use them against her. Fortunately, Tina is helped by another martial artist, Sonny (Sonny Chiba), whose fighting skills are as considerable as are her own.

Kazuhiko Yamaguchi's Sister Street Fighter is amorphous, often poorly made, and consistently fun.


To be frank, even though the story the director relates includes some wonderfully sleazy elements, including a meeting in a strip club that gives the viewer a chance to ogle a stripper dancing without her top, the rape of a screaming young woman by a porcine gangster while her father is made to look on, and the villain's forcibly injecting Tina's brother, who is being held captive in a cell beneath his mansion, with a variety of drugs, it is still painfully simplistic and largely forgettable. In fact, the narrative does little more than provide Yamaguchi with excuses to insert his numerous action sequences into the movie.


Happily, these action sequences are, almost without exception, wonderfully fun to watch. The lead actress is especially talented. Whether she is taking on a single opponent or a whole army of enemies, Shihomi displays real skills as a martial artist. What is more, her fights are often amazingly well choreographed and packed with one impressive stunt after another. They are violent, balletic, and bewitching.


The movie does, however, have more to offer than the fighting skills of the lead actress. I will grant that the performers range from mediocre to awful, and that their characters are little more than caricatures. Nonetheless, many of the actors are amusing, thanks to their performances being laughably bad, and many of the characters are a delight, thanks to their being wildly exaggerated. The cackling villains, in particular, are all so overblown and evil that, like cartoon supervillains, they are a real hoot. I also enjoyed the way each of them, or each group of them, has a particular look and specialty. One band of killers is made up of persons each of whom wears a wicker basket on his head, and the members of another group, all of whom are women, are dressed in fake leopard skins. The particular technique used by these rogues, and by every one of the other killers, is announced onscreen with subtitles when the individual (or group) is introduced. All of these things give the film a wonderfully hammy cartoonishness.


Though Sister Street Fighter is hardly a good movie, it is still entertaining.


Review by Keith Allen

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