Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky


  Okay, yeah. Wow.  I had seen this movie on a few imdb lists for extreme gore and such, but never figured it would be like this. It's a guts & gore manga-come-to-life, it belongs next to such relentlessly bloody classics as Evil Dead II and Dead Alive, and surprisingly it's not a horror movie. No ladies and gentlemen, this is a kung-fu prison movie.

  In a "futuristic" (made in 1991, set in 2001) prison, owned by a corporation and run for profit, a young man, Ricky, is imprisoned there for killing the drug dealer that caused his girlfriend's death. Trained in a special style of Kung-Fu to the point of being superhuman, Ricky uses his freakish strength and amazing Kung-Fu skills to endure torture and brutal beatings from fellow inmates and the sadistic warden. Eventually, Ricky turns the tide and blazes a bloody trail through the movie leaving mangled corpses in his wake as he fights not only for himself, but to free everyone from the corrupt grasp of the crime riddled prison.  It's honestly a very thin plot, and his backstory is revealed entirely through flashbacks. While this isn't a problem at all, it feels like the movie could've played fine chronologically. Maybe even better.

  First of all, Siu-Wong-Fan plays Ricky with an intense level of coolness. His gaze sizzles and his onscreen presence is palpable. His acting itself can fall under question and scrutiny all the haters want, but there is no denying this guy exudes badassery.  I say the only other man in the history of chop sockey beat-em-ups who could've made an audience ignore how ridiculous punching someone's jaw clean off looks, perhaps would've been Bruce Lee himself. But Siu-Wong-Fan does an amazing job. We're so focused on his intensity, that the apparent laugh factor is gone almost entirely.  It shouldn't be wince-worthy because it's so obviously fake looking, but it IS.

   Maybe that's just me. Maybe there are more desensitized people out there who would find this movie to be a comedy instead of an action movie.  But given it's relentless pace, and continuous gore, Riki-Oh actually also manages to be creative. Granted, it's creative in an insane and bloodthirsty way that only horror movie franchises (looking at you Saw) manage to get after all story and nuance has been sucked clean out of them. It may be a sign of a failing horror franchise when the gore is more creative than the story, but in this movie, it's the bread and butter.

  People get shredded, disemboweled, exploded, and skinned. Limbs are snapped off, cut off, punched off, broken, and ground into burger. None of that... is exaggerated in the slightest. If you're a gorehound like me, you'll love the hell out of this movie.  It's not possible though, to take it seriously AT ALL.  The hero is literally way too powerful. The things he does are so far beyond belief that "bullet bending" (See: Wanted) seems plausible by comparison.  As a result of this, the movie stops trying to be serious and just goes for broke. This works most of the time, but a good example of when it doesn't is the final fight.

   It's just... too corny.  I mean, there I laughed. I couldn't help it. It was ridiculous to such a degree that it bordered on insulting.  But given as how we abandoned seriousness and plausibility like... AGES ago, one can't really complain when they get THIS for their climax.  I've seen more convincing suits on TOHO monsters. But if you don't mind that, and are in the mood for a bloody fun time, then go seek this movie out. Also worth mentioning, is how it manages to create so many interesting set pieces in just a prison.  Torture chambers galore, there is no end to Ricky's suffering, or how creative the villains manage to get in ways to inflict general pain and suffering. But noooo... fear not. Ricky makes Superman look like a 90 pound asthmatic with spaghetti noodles for arms. Step aside Goku, Ricky's way more hardcore.

  And he doesn't need to turn into a blonde to literally punch a hole in someone. Ricky withstands insane torture that involves razor blades, a metal wrench to the face (about 50 times), and even being buried alive for a week. You can see how plausibility is consistently worn down to just about... nothing. It's non-frickin-existent. Which helps some people stomach the gore. It's diametrically opposite to anything resembling 'realistic'. By the time the movie ends, you'll be about a hundreds ways smarter on how to kill someone with your bare hands if you were superhuman.  It's quite educational in that respect.

  Overall, this movie exists to be one big bloody, gory, guts-in-your-face, mess. It gradually builds up to a point where you've given up trying to explain the acts on display, let alone try to rationalize or even take serious the most mundane stuff in this movie. It's cheesier than a bad TOHO flick, and bloodier than an old Peter Jackson flick, Riki-Oh has carved out a name for itself in the annals of cult classic movies. Carved right out of some poor sap's bare flesh of course.  I loved it. You might too if you're still interested after this review.

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