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Home » Culture and Criticism

Return of the Street Fighter: Electric Chiba-loo

Submitted by on April 4, 2011 – 3:15 PMNo Comment

Before I get to the review proper, a quick explanation of why, after my recent dreadful trip to the Republic of Chibastan, I watched yet another Sonny Chiba movie

I have a handful of weird compulsions about my Netflix list, one of which is that, if I visit my queue and a title is listed with a short or long wait, I cycle it up to the top — just to keep the order fresh (and force myself to watch sensible high-fiber cinema like The Children's Hour that I "need to" watch, but might not choose to otherwise). I don't even look at the title; I just bump it to the head of the line. Well, that'll learn me, because I sent back The Bored-yguard and immediately got Return of the Street Fighter.

After glaring at it for a full minute, I decided, fine, I'll put it on while I give myself a pedicure, and if it's still a suckfest by the time I start to paint my toes, I give up.

It's pretty good! There's much more fighting than in the other two, and said fighting is shot much better — not well, quite, because it goes to handheld too often and you can't tell what's going on, but it's a marked improvement. The scene in which Chiba knocks out most of the clientele of a gym/spa-type place while wearing stripey clown shorts is amazing (mostly because he's only wearing stripey clown shorts), and one of the primary villains, a vengeful former opponent with an artificial voicebox, is also quite amazing. Chiba does have an irritating wannabe sidekick, a "girl" whose proposed merger of Pippi pigtails and JJ Walker's wardrobe might work a bit better if she didn't look my age, but even she's not totally horrible (it helps that she totes a portable 8-track player around with her). The plot is unnecessarily byzantine, again, but Chiba making crazy-eyes turtle-face while licking blood off his fingers, plus the scene in which he angrily eats a banana while glaring at the sidekick he's just realized is a Yakuza spy, make up for many of the narrative shortcomings.

It's not great, and the pacing has problems, but wow, what a difference. If it's on TV — or better yet, playing at a rep theater near you — give it a shot.

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