Thursday, 13 March 2008

Story of Ricky (1991)

Q) Is this awesome? (Y/N)
A) Yes

(aka Riki-Oh, The Story of Ricky) is a film about, surprisingly enough, Ricky (Fan Siu-Wong), a man who is sentenced to prison and fights back against the bullying prisoners, the corrupt officials and the man. Not a wholly original premise, but when Ricky puts his fist through the belly of a monstrously fat prisoner, spilling a gallon of intestines and gore, you may realise that this is not your typical prison movie. In fact, this is one of the craziest, bloodiest and most outrageous films I've ever seen. It's a Hong-Kong film (one of the few films with a Category III rating and no sex), directed by Ngai Kai Lam and based on the manga Riki-Oh by Tetsuya Saruwatari. I'm not sure how faithful it is to it's source material, but since Saruwatari is the same guy who brought us The Fist of the North Star, I wouldn't be surprised if the manga contained the same level of insane ultra-violence.

Ricky used to have a happy life, flying model aircraft with his girlfriend while wearing matching yuppie outfits. One day, however, his girlfriend stumbles across a bunch of drug dealers, who chase her onto the rooftops and right off the side of a building. Seriously, she just runs right off the edge like she's in a Road Runner cartoon. Ricky immediately seeks revenge against the head gangster, punching a fist-shaped indentation in his skull. The crook shot him a bunch of times first, so you'd think that it would fall under the banner of self defence, but Ricky goes to jail anyways.

Straight away you notice that this is not your ordinary prison. As the opening crawl states, prisons have been privatised, and inevitably turned corrupt. The Assistant Warden is an obese asshole with a hook for a hand and a glass eye and what's more, they can't even afford locks on the prison doors. Hardened thugs walk around freely at all times of night and day, carrying concealed weapons and committing acts of wanton violence. It's like Cabramatta or something. The prisoners are kept in line by the Gang of Four, a group of colourful villains in cahoots with the Assistant Warden.

It's lucky then, that Ricky is a master of Chi Kung, which allows him to heal from fatal wounds and punch through torsos, which he demonstrates in short order. The Assistant Warden does not take kindly to his troublemaking. He lures him into a confrontation with Oscar, a tattooed Yakuza gangster and one of the Gang of Four. The fight goes pretty poorly for Ricky at first... Oscar sprays powdered glass into his eyeballs and cuts a deep gouge into Ricky's arm. Luckily, Ricky uses his Chi Kung powers to wash the glass out of his eyes and tie his tendons together with his bare hands. Once Oscar realises he is out of his depth, he commits seppuku with the knife and tries to strangle Ricky with his intestines. The movie only gets crazier from here.

Now, guys like Ricky and I, we're not just scowling bad asses with a propensity to put our fists through torsos, we've also got a sensitive side. He even gives a Oscar's mute godson Alan his flute (thankfully, how he smuggled it in glossed over) and in return Alan inadvertently reveals the location of the Assistant Warden's opium farm. Alan is consequently killed by the Gang of Four (Gang of Three now, I guess) and whenever a bit player dies, Ricky gives us a full-on, standing out in the rain, shaking fists at the heavens, "Nooooooo!" This happens twice in the film. Gee, dial down the drama, Ricky. Makes you wonder what he'd do if it was someone more than a passing acquaintance.

You've heard about the Assistant Warden, but what about the Warden? Well, he's been on vacation, but halfway into the film he returns with his odious, comedy-relief son. After gouging out some eyes and establishing himself as an even bigger asshole than the Assistant Warden, they set about subjecting Ricky to a series of Bond-villian-esque tortures including burying him underground for several days and filling his mouth full of razor blades. Ricky fails to crack and eventually escapes, lobotomising a dude with a single punch and popping out the Assistant Warden's good eye.

After letting the prisoners mutilate him for a while, Ricky takes the Assistant Warden to the kitchen. The Warden is doing a late night inspection and mincing a prisoner's arm in an enormous meat grinder (hm, I wonder if that will come in handy later). Unimpressed, the Warden shoots the Assistant Warden with a "compressed air" bullet, which causes him to inflate and explode. After dispatching the remainder of the Gang of Four, Ricky squares off against the Warden. The Warden has Chi Kung powers as well, but his manifest a little differently, transforming him into a hulking monster in serious need of a kleenex. After a short fight, Ricky tosses him into the meat grinder, and pulps him until there's nought left but a severed head. Holding his grisly trophy aloft to the rioting prisoners, he punches an enormous hole in the wall of the prison and informs them they are all free. I'm not saying that freeing a bunch of convicted criminals is such a hot idea, but why didn't you do that eighty five minutes ago, Ricky?

I started writing this review by cataloging all of the insane gory moments in this film, but it ended up ridiculously long. I've barely touched on all the different crazy ways Ricky pulps his enemies. This film came out about the same time as Peter Jackson's Braindead, probably the only film gorier than this one. Compared to Braindead the effects are laughably cheap, but thankfully it doesn't take itself seriously, and it's faithful to the spirit of graphically violent manga, for better or worse. I mean, the Assistant Warden stores mints in his glass eye! This film is worth watching just to see what crazy shit is around the corner, and it rarely disappoints on that front. They really don't make them like this anymore and I'll leave it up to you whether that's a good thing or not.

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