May 15, 2002
Arts and Entertainment
By Patrick Macias
AT ANY GIVEN moment, Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky might be the stupidest movie ever made or the most violent, the goriest, the greatest, or the worst. Take your pick. Either way, you have never seen anything quite like it before. Unless, that is, you went to a prison-cum-opium farm once and made someone's head explode like an overripe watermelon. Based on the first two volumes of a notorious Japanese manga, this even more disreputable 1991 Hong Kong film treats viewers in much the same fashion that Riki (played by Fan Siu-wong of Organized Crime and Triad Bureau) is handled by his sadistic prison keepers: it pins you down, stuffs your mouth full of razor blades, tapes it shut, and slaps you silly with a monkey wrench. Set in that far-flung, barely conceivable year of 2001, where hellhole jails are run like Taco Bell franchises, our story begins with new inmate Riki nursing serious physical and psychic wounds (he keeps five bullets embedded in his chest, a souvenir of his tragic, mysterious past). Luckily, he's also got superhuman martial arts skills learned at the feet of special guest star Tetsuro Tanba and Riki proceeds to make mashed potatoes out of various corrupt guards, prison staff, and criminal gangs. But he'll still have to save his strength for the ultimate foe: the brutal assistant warden, who is grotesquely overweight, has a hook for a hand, and keeps a handy supply of breath-freshening mints in his false eye! Only Peter Jackson's splatter zombie-fest Brain Dead comes close to the delirious depths routinely breached in Riki-Oh, and Dead was an intentional comedy. Riki-Oh totally earnest prison drama that it is plays the material like it's Shakespeare. Even better, it ends the way every good-versus-evil conflict should: with the loser pushed feet first through the long, dark meat grinder of the soul.
As part of its ongoing "Kung Fu Kult Klassics" series, the Four Star proudly presents Riki-Oh uncut and dubbed into English. And what dialogue it is. Performed by the usual gang of karate movie idiot dubbers, who repeatedly call the title character "Riki-Ho," it makes you want to run out and tell everyone (at the water-cooler or in the principal's office), "Someone paid me 30 pounds of rice to finish you off and turn you into mincemeat and put you into a pie!"
'Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky' plays Thurs/17, Four Star. See Movie Clock for show times.
Patrick Macias is the author of TokyoScope: The Japanese Cult Film Companion.