Riki-oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

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As I’ve mentioned before, when it comes to TCM’s Underground programming, I like to go in blind and not have a clue what to expect. All I usually know going in beforehand is that the movie they’re showing is on some level considered a cult classic.

This, however, is the once instance where I had somewhat of an idea of what I was getting into before the film started. And by saying “somewhat of an idea”, I mean that I was aware that it was a martial arts movie and not some sort of documentary as the name could lead you to believe. Needless to say, “martial arts movie” doesn’t quite cover what I was in store for. What I was expecting was regular exchange of punches and some severe starring matches. What I got was that, a huge pile of fist ground meat and more. It was terrific.

The summary of The Story of Ricky is really quite simple: In the far distant future of 2001 (*snort*), prisons are now privatized, no longer subject to even the most basic of government regulation. The prison (seemingly assembled from the “High School Gym Décor” catalogue) is governed by not only the violent and sadistic warden and assistant warden (claw hand and all), but also by the “Gang of Four”, ruthless and twisted inmates that oversee the four separate wings of the prison along with their roving gangs.

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But their greatest crime was their taste in fashion.
…Also, he is inexplicably a woman, but that’s beside the point.

Enter Ricky, a quiet young man just recently incarcerated after having killed somebody. Ricky takes one look at all the tyranny around him, decides he and the other inmates shouldn’t put up with that sh*$, and goes to town.

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The most artful shot of the whole film.
Don’t say I never give you art house fans anything.

During the course of the movie we also learn how Ricky came to be so strong, why he was incarcerated, and the sad and tragic circumstances regarding his girlfriend.

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She suffered the horrible affliction of being turned into a mannequin and awkwardly tossed off a building.

Actually, it’s really a scene you should witness for yourself.  Play it a few times. It’s worth it.

Did you get all that? Good. Now forget about it, because it’s totally pointless. The post-apocalyptic prison and savior inmate plot is just an excuse to string together a series of increasing violent, gore-filled, bloodstained, death matches between Ricky and anyone who does him or one of the ‘innocent’ other inmates wrong.

Martial arts films are violent by nature, but Riki-oh takes everything to it’s most extreme and goriest conclusion. Spikes are driven through flesh,

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He then yanks it out with a comical ‘squeeeeeeak’.

….people commit seppuku and try to strangle their opponent with their intestines,

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You’ve got a lot of guts, Oscar

…heads are hit so hard that their eyes literally pop out,…

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…skulls are treated like Gallagher treats watermelons,…

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In short, it’s the most violent martial arts movie I’ve ever seen, though the violence isn’t treated to seriously. If you couldn’t tell by that convenient gif up there, all of the most violent of violent acts are simulated with clay, prosthetics, and a butt-load of red paint. Faces and body parts aren’t even molded to even remotely resemble whatever said body part is currently being cut, pierced, maimed or punched off. They’re like life-sized, bleeding, sculpted forms of Gumby, who are constantly getting squished to a bloody pulp.

It’s still violent as hell, sure, but it adds another layer to a pervasive comical nature of a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously with it’s violence, but does take itself seriously with the rest of the plot. Ricky in particular encapsulates this. At times he’s calm and stoic: playing his flute, helping fellow inmates, teaching another how to whistle with a leaf. Then the scriptwriter seems to say f&*$ it, and has Ricky leap through a steel door. Things like ‘subtly’ and ‘realism’ aren’t really the kind of ideas this film was going for. Something that’s no more evident then when witnessing their giant, clay ogre.

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The f*&%….

Even the crappy early 90’s CGI manages to add to the film, miraculously managing to blend into the movie’s campy vibe, rather than take away from it.

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This scene is never explained.

Riki-oh, or The Story of Ricky is based on the Japanese manga, Riki-oh by Masahiko Takajo and Saruwatari Tetsuya. It was also graced with two OVA adaptations. 

If you’re wondering if the movie is anywhere as violent as it’s predecessors, then a simple Google search should assure you that it is.

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As if that surprises anyone.

Ultimately, Riki-oh is a prison movie that basks in its awesomely unrealistic, over-the-top violence. It’s campy, cheesy, and so ridiculous in its depictions of martial arts violence that I’m not sure what to make of it. Is it supposed to be funny (I mean, without the English dub track)? Is it supposed to somehow be taken seriously? I’m not quite sure. All I know is that people get their body parts punched off. A lot.

And it’s fantastic.

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Yes, yes he is.

Riki-oh: The Story of Ricky is available via streaming on Amazon through various channels.

It is also available on DVD and Bluray.

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Michi

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