Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991) – By Cary Conley

This Hong Kong Category III film is legendary amongst collectors of Chinese exploitation films.  Based on a popular Japanese manga, the film tells the story of Ricky Ho who studied the martial arts with his famous uncle.  He becomes so adept that he can knock down walls with a single punch, punch a hole through someone’s stomach, or cave a head in with one blow.  While the particular martial art he learns isn’t specifically named, it is akin to yoga as he can control his breathing and even his hunger and thirst.  These feats of physical and mental strength come in handy when Ricky is put in a maximum security prison for killing his girlfriend’s murderer.

The prison has four units, each controlled by a powerful leader and a gang of thugs.  The four leaders are referred to as the “Gang of Four.”  Right away Ricky starts being picked on as the “new guy” by gang members as well as the assistant warden who is flexing his muscles while the warden is away.  Ricky doesn’t take any crap from the thugs or from the assistant warden, meeting each challenge head on.

Once the warden—and his bratty kid (played hilariously by a grown man with razor stubble)—return, the assistant warden wastes no time in ratting Ricky out as a troublemaker and the warden then tires to exert his power using the Gang of Four to torture and punish Ricky.  Eventually, there is an all-out brawl between the gang and Ricky before Ricky is able to kill all the thugs, break through the prison wall, and escape along with all the other inmates.

Produced in 1991, The Story of Ricky takes place in the near future (2001!).  While there isn’t much futuristic design in the sets, they do look nice, if a bit cheap.  Sometimes the walls shake as people brush against them.  The story itself is fairly threadbare and exists merely to move our hero from one conflict to another.  The acting is typical of Hong Kong exploitation fare:  it is very over-the-top and way overacted, with each and every character almost reacting hysterically in every scene.  In fact, this may be one of the worst-acted and cheapest-looking Category III films I’ve ever seen.

But the real reason this movie exists is for the gory setpieces.  As I state before, Ricky is truly powerful with superhuman strength.  So if Ricky hits you in the head, your head is crushed; if he meets your fist with his, your arms is split up to the elbow; and if he punches you in the gut, your innards are spilled onto the floor.  And while the other thugs aren’t as strong, they are just as violent, stripping the flesh from one elderly man’s face and crucifying another.  The effects are outrageous and very gory if a little on the cheap side, with tons of blood and guts spilled across the ground.  In fact, in one scene, Ricky punches a hole in a thug’s stomach only to have the thug pull his own intestines out, wrap them around Ricky’s neck and try to strangle him.

I’ve had this film on bootleg video for nearly two decades but only recently tracked down the DVD, which is becoming increasingly hard to find.  It’s not the greatest transfer, and as with most import DVD’s from Hong Kong, there is very little to offer in the way of special features, but the film itself is a fun and violent way to spend an evening as long as you can forgive its exploitative shortcomings.  I thought it was highly entertaining.