Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky

Care for a mint?
Released: 
1991
Director: 
Ngai Kai Lam
Starring: 
Siu-Wong Fan, Mei Sheng Fan, Ka-Kui Ho, Yukari Ôshima, Frankie Chin
The Setup: 
Super-dude fights for the weak in this prison.
Discussion: 

A friend at my new job who has a predilection for some cheesy cinema sent me the trailer for this one day, saying it was the best thing he had ever seen, and the sight of some kung-fu guy punching folks so hard his fist goes right through their body, well, it appealed. To the top of my list it went.

We open with a police bus pulling up to a prison. There is an ominous huge blood stain on the ground. We find out that it’s 2001 AD [not, repeat NOT, BC!] and that prisons have been franchised. Which doesn’t really add anything to the proceedings, but we’ll play along. Ricky Ho, 21, convicted of manslaughter and assault, is on this bus. He has four bullets in his chest cavity, that he keeps for “souvenirs.” The rest of the prisoners, who bear a resemblance to what one might imagine an Asian boy band might look like, eye their new companion warily.

Soon after Ricky arrives, some thugs are terrorizing some old man in the lunch room. They engage in some old-style intimidation, with a new twist in ripping out a huge chunk of the old man’s forehead. They are, to say the least, unrepentant. Then the leader gets tripped and—wait a minute, who put that block of wood with six-inch nails sticking out of it right there? The leader has his hand nailed to his face through the eyeball, and this perturbs him. Turns out, it was Ricky, avenger of the meek. Then of course you have to picture Ricky showing up and seeing the old man being abused, hopping down to the wood shop to assemble his little nail board, and coming back up just in time to nail the big thug’s face. Or maybe he just keeps such nail boards on hand for such occasions? We just will never know.

So the baddies decide that they’re going to get Zorro [not THAT one, though how awesome would that be?] released so he can whup on Ricky. One of the baddies is peeing next to a guard when he says “Hey! When’s Zorro being let out?” to which the guard responds, quite pleasantly, “How’s tomorrow?” Zorro, who is rather large, is released and soon the old man is dead. This pisses Ricky off, so he punches through Zorro’s belly, leaving a huge gash across his gut, and punches his fist straight through the torso of another guy. It’s gory! Then, in intense spiritual pain, Ricky rages at the storm. And you’re like; “Did he even know this guy? What’s he so upset about?”

Now—a flashback! We see Ricky’s training with his uncle, who teaches him the art of Chico [the art of The Man will come later], which is like hidden reserves of strength only the…zzzzzzzzz. We see it demonstrated as the uncle hurls various headstones at Ricky and he punches through them. We see that back then, Ricky used to dress like Michael Jackson on the “Human Nature” cover, and had a girlfriend. He let her fly his model airplane, then displays a remote-controlled helicopter with a sickening love poem hanging from it. So romantic!

Back in the prison, we meet the warden, who has a claw for a hand and has a glass eye, which he uses as a storage unit for breath mints. Read that again. Yes, it’s true. Just another example of what you’re missing out on by dismissing the Asian cinema. And really, he’s got an empty glass eye, why should all that storage go to waste? That’s some Feng Shui, right there.

So Ricky has to face the power of the rather hot Oscar, which leads him to smack Oscar so hard in the back of his head that his eye pops out. He should have that thing secured! Oscar uses his knife to slice open Ricky’s arm, rendering him helpless! But Ricky does what you, me, or anyone might do in a similar situation, which is pull the veins out of his wound, tie them in a knot, and tuck them back, thus repairing his arm. Oscar slits his own belly open, and you’re like “Awww, he feels bad for hurting Ricky,” but no, it’s actually to allow himself access to his own intestines, which the uses to strangle Ricky. Maybe that’s why I always lose fistfights: because I limit myself to weapons found OUTSIDE my body cavity. Anyway, eventually Ricky kills Oscar, and we find out that Alan, Oscar’s godson, must feel terrible about this.

As a way of saying there’s no hard feelings, Ricky tries to befriend the simple Alan by teaching him to blow on a leaf and later giving him a flute, which makes the idiot boy happy. Alan opens his mouth and we see that he has no tongue, confirmed a second later when Ricky says “Ah! Someone cut out your tongue!” Hmm, thanks a lot, Sherlock. But this doesn’t prevent Alan from communicating to Ricky that the bad prison peeps are growing opium over in the west wing or whatnot.

SPOILERS > > > Meanwhile Rogan, the queeny little kung-fu master who made his entrance by flying up out of the ground, then crossing his arms before himself with a prissy little sneer, is annoyed at Alan for telling Ricky about the poppies. With one slash of his knife, he removes the bottom portion of Alan’s face. Man, Ginsu does have a knife for everything. Soon enough, Alan’s body is found in the courtyard, all skin removed, but with the flute still clutched tenderly in his, uh, rib cage. This pisses Ricky off, so he goes and burns all the poppies.

Rogan confronts Ricky in the courtyard, where we see Rogan do this fourple-exposure stuff that causes Ricky to observe: “Rogan’s kung-fu is unorthodox!” After they fight a while, the guards say they’re going to shoot anyone not in their cell, causing Ricky to shout “Bastards! You’re really pissing me off today!” Woah, HARSH words.

Then Ricky and some other huge killer [we’ll call him Muffy] are in this cell when the windows open and the room fills with wet cement. You might be surprised to learn that most modern prisons are now being outfitted with rooms that can be filled with wet cement on a moment’s notice. Ricky breaks through the wall and rescues Muffy, and the next time we see him, he’s all bound up in a cell, encased in cement.

In here, somewhere, the Warden has arrived. Turns out the guy with the glass eye / ocular mint storage unit is not actually the warden. The Warden has an idiot spoiled brat son who is about 16 but acts and dresses like a bratty 6-year-old. I feel I’ve neglected to mention, because it almost goes without saying, that the entire movie is marked by horribly off-synch dubbing throughout.

So the Warden and son and eye dude visit cement Ricky in his cell, but Ricky soon breaks free and grabs the Warden’s throat. Unfortunately Ricky simply doesn’t HEAR Muffy breaking through the BRICK WALL a few feet away, and soon they are locked in combat. Muffy threatens to smush Ricky’s head through the too-narrow bars [“Ricky’s head is going to explode now,” eye man helpfully narrates for the Warden]. But not Ricky—ho no!—he turns the tables on Muffy by punching him through the neck, his fist coming out Muffy’s mouth. Immediately after this, the anguished Ricky turns to the Warden and screams “We’re human beings!” I’m tellin’ you man, this is a STATEMENT. Well, Ricky’s in-throat-out-mouth move has won Muffy’s RESPECT, and he joins Ricky in helping to survive the crushing ceiling of doom, sacrificing himself in the process. It’s too bad, because I just know they could have been friends. Ricky is aflame with moral outrage at the way prisoners are just “used and discarded” by the Warden. I think now you’ll understand why this film is an essential document to the U.N.’s task force on human rights abuses.

So then they take Ricky and bury him alive. Now, it might surprise you to know that a movie in which a guy strangles another guy with his own intestines can be boring, but miracles, well, you know what they say. Here it’s just tedious to watch Ricky be buried because we KNOW he’s going to get out. So like, why do we have to sit through it? Luckily the movie has cooked up a little entertainment for us while Ricky is seven feet underground. We have a flashback to what happened to his girlfriend, which is supposedly the reason Ricky’s in prison, although none of it really makes any sense. She was taken prisoner by thugs, where she saw them shooting up. The implication is that they were going to use her body in all sorts of unseemly ways, so she escapes, runs to the roof and promptly jumps off. Her BLAM on the street below raised a huge chortle out of me because 1) she fell at a totally different angle than that she jumped from, and 2) it’s such an obvious doll they threw down into the street. Then Ricky is all pissed and goes after the bad guys, and this is where he got the several bullets in him. It’s ALL falling into place.

So seven days later they dig Ricky up and—he’s fine! And you at home are looking at your watch going “Well if he’s so strong, why does he take all this?” But he’s about to take some more, as the queeny one stuffs a bunch of razors into his mouth, and as if that’s not enough, beats Ricky so that the razors come out his cheeks! This causes Ricky and his prisoners to use the harshest language they know: “You bastards!” It’s another hilarious strain of this movie, everytime the prisoners are really upset, they spout out “You rotten bastards!” Boy, THAT has really gotta sting.

So it’s time for the big showdown. The warden has these bullets that explode inside the body, and the eye guy, after having his arm removed, is shot up with them. His body exands, then explodes, shooting gore all over the room, but amazingly leaving the crisp white shirt of the Warden, standing a mere five feet away, as clean and fresh as a mountain spring. How DO they get their whites their whitest, even in the face of an onslaught of blood and organ matter? Maybe THAT’S the ancient Chinese secret.

Ancient Chinese secret, huh?

So Ricky faces off with the Warden, who—for some completely inexplicable reason—blows up into this huge orge-man. This does not deter our Ricky, who punches through his chest cavity, lifts him over his head, and dumps him in the industrial-grade meat grinder, which just happens to be nearby. The Warden is ground into chuck [suitable for Chilis and Hamburger Helper], except for his head, which Ricky displays to the other prisoners. They take it to crafts class and make a planter out of it for Mother’s Day. Actually they don’t, but if they did, no one would be surprised.

Then Ricky moseys over to the prison wall and, with his special glowy fist [he's got The Glow!] punches a huge hole in it. He turns in extra-special slow-motion, hair glamorously falling into place [and slashed cheeks now completely healed], and says “You’re all free now!” Only the dubbing is so poorly matched it really robs the climax of it's undeniable power. And you’re like: “They’re all free now—well, why now? Why couldn’t Ricky just saunter over and punch the wall as soon as he arrived at the prison, thus saving me the need to go through all this and leaving me time to apply anti-fungal ointment to my feet?” Because the journey IS the destination, grasshopper. Besides, then we wouldn’t have any blood and guts fun.
< < < SPOILERS END

It was mostly amusing, but as I said, even watching guys get their cranium slapped off their shoulders can get boring after a while. Not to mention the whole thing that Ricky is presented as so all-powerful there really never is any tension, and the entire running time is suffused with pointlessness. But it’s generally amusing [at least for a while] in the “WHAT kind of cultural history resulted in something like THIS?” way. What if mankind is destroyed and THIS is the first thing aliens see when attempting to learn about our race?

Surely they’ll shake their tentacles in anger and shout “You bastards!”

Should you watch it: 

If the idea of a guy getting his entire body stuffed into a meat grinder, etc., appeals to you.