The biggest problem with The Street Fighter is that Sonny Chiba's violent protagonist is an utter scumbag who's no better than the villains, leaving no-one to root for, which rather reduces it to sitting back and waiting for the next fight between two sides of equally bad guys. How bad is Chiba? When his clients ask for more time to pay for a prison escape he arranges, he kills the brother and sells the sister to a bunch of rapists to make up what they owe him. The only thing the film offers in mitigation is seeing his father killed by the Japanese during the war, which doesn't really cut it (and if you're planning on seeing all three films, you'll be seeing a lot of that scene). Even when he fights on the right side, it's with the intention on getting a little payback on the mafia and maybe kidnapping the girl he's tasked to protect himself. Which more or less leaves the film to stand or fall on the strength of its many no-holds barred action scenes.
Unlike Hong Kong martial arts films this isn't about the elegance or discipline of the moves or the moral philosophy - it's all about the violence, as brutally over the top ultraviolent as only the 70s could be. A rapist has his penis and scrotum ripped off, one skull smash is shown in x-ray and Chiba proves adept at ripping out any number of bad guys internal organs while much unconvincing stage blood flows. It's the sheer so-far-over-the-top-it-practically-circumnavigates-the-world-twice nature of the violence that makes it seem less offensive than it should, or you suspect, wants to be. If you're not interested in the fights, there's probably not much else to attract you - the plot is a rudimentary coat hanger for numerous bouts with assorted scumbags, the Hong Kong villains are played unconvincingly by Japanese actors and Chiba's Bruce Lee breathing exercise impersonations seem almost comical at times. But if you're happy with an hour-and-a-half of gratuitous violence, it certainly delivers.
Return of the Street Fighter is a typical quickie sequel - two more Street Fighter films were churned out in the same year as the original - that shows the speed of its production in the slightly shorter running time, use of a flashbacks from the first film and limited screen time for Chiba. This time the bad guys (well, badder guys) are a group of crooks using a proposed Martial Arts centre as a front for some dodgy Mafia fundraising and initially using Chiba to take care of potential squealers ("Not the Mafia again," sighs Chiba as he stabs a woman he's just slept with). This time round the ultraviolence includes stabbing someone with a gun and a moment of literal eyepopping absurdity that wouldn't be matched until Friday the 13th 3D, with Chiba easily beating huge numbers of disposable bad guys in various different locations (snow-topped mountain, gymnasium and sauna, the top of a petrol truck). The fights aren't quite so good this time, but are plentiful enough for the film to get by on quantity over quality. The film also has one neat injoke when one of Chiba's victims watches one of Fukasaki's Battles Without Honor and Humanity series which also featured Chiba...
The Street Fighter's Last Revenge isn't a particularly long film, but it increasingly feels like one. Action scenes are few and far between, and unimpressive when they do arrive, the violence toned down, Chiba's character softened and the tone falling somewhere between a bad Bond spoof and an episode of Mission: Impossible (Chiba spends much of the film wearing masks). There's little to connect it to the previous films, with Chiba's ruthless S.O.B. reinvented as a more likeable adventurer with his own lair with gadgets and cool sliding metal doors - he even wears a white tux at a nightclub, leaving the impression that producers Toei simply took an existing spy script and tried to squeeze Chiba's character into it so they could churn out a third film in the series in less than a year. There's some surreal novelty in a hired American killer who dresses in a black Mariachi suit with a huge sombrero and shoots lasers from his hands and there's a nice twist on the incorruptible public prosecutor who wants to bring down a corrupt company with mob links, but this is easily the most dispensable of the series.