Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky
Original Theatrical Poster
|Directed by||Lam Nai-choi|
|Produced by||Chan Dung Chow|
|Written by||Lam Nai-choi
Fan Mei Sheng
|Distributed by||Golden Harvest|
|Release dates||9 April 1991|
|Running time||91 min.|
|Box office||$2,147,778 HKD|
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (also known as Story of Ricky) (Chinese: 力王 Li Wang (Mandarin), Lik Wong (Cantonese), Strength King) is a 1991 Hong Kong martial arts film written and directed by Lam Nai-choi, and based on the Japanese manga Riki-Oh by Masahiko Takajo and Saruwatari Tetsuya. The film stars Fan Siu-wong, Fan Mei Sheng (Siu-wong's real life father), Ka-Kui Ho and Yukari Oshima.
Fan Siu-wong plays Ricky Ho Lik Wong (Lik Wong is the character's given name, but the subtitles use the anglicized "Ricky") and Yukari Oshima as Yomi (Rogan in the English dub). The English title given on screen is simply Story of Ricky but later releases were sold under the title Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky. It had a limited theatrical release in the US around 1993. It is well known for its extreme, brutal, and highly unrealistic violence, as well as its high camp factor and extremely poor English dubbing (although versions in Cantonese and Mandarin are also available). One scene, showing a character crushing another character's skull with his bare hands, later became a regular fixture on The Daily Show during Craig Kilborn's time as the host.
It was alleged that a sequel titled Dint King, Inside King (aka, Story of Ricky 2 or Super Powerful Man) was released in Hong Kong in 2005, however, the plot does not follow the events that supposedly occur after Ricky breaks out of prison, and is set in the distant future as opposed to 2001 for the first film. The film was never released in the United States or in Europe, but is available on DVD (without English subtitles) through Panorama Entertainment. Oddly, and possibly due to rights issues, the film is built as a stand alone project despite casting Terry Fan Sui Wong in the title role. Even the characters have different names (Ricky's name is He Shen in this film). Fan even sports the camouflage poncho seen in flashbacks and in the manga.
The plot closely follows the events depicted in the original Japanese comic and its anime adaptation, with some minor modifications in certain instances.
By the year 2001, all prison institutions have been privatized. Ricky Ho (Fan Siu-wong), a martial artist and former music student, is sentenced to 10 years in prison for manslaughter after killing a crime lord who was indirectly responsible for the death of his girlfriend Anne (Gloria Yip). Flashback scenes reveal that a group of thugs had captured her after she had witnessed their heroin deal. Anne was so scared in captivity that she ran upstairs and then leapt off the roof to her death.
One morning in the prison bathroom, an elderly inmate named Omar is viciously beaten by the captain of the cells, Samuel. As Samuel leaves, Ricky trips him, and Samuel falls on a piece of wood with nails on it, hand and face first. As Samuel devises a plan to get back at Ricky, one of the inmates suggest that they should have Zorro, a dangerous, morbidly obese inmate, kill him. Omar is later informed by the guards that they turned down his probation after Samuel tells the guards that Omar was spreading rumors although this was untrue. Stricken by grief, Omar hangs himself.
The next day, Zorro attacks Ricky, but is quickly killed along with Samuel. Shortly after, a member of the fearsome Gang of Four named Oscar, the leader of the North Cell, suggests that Ricky should see the sadistic one-eyed Assistant Warden Dan. After Ricky confronts Dan, he suggests Oscar to kill Ricky. Outside the prison yard, Oscar and Ricky engage in a fight, which ends with Ricky defeating and killing Oscar.
Later on, Ricky soon discovers that the Gang of Four is growing illegal opium for profit. Rogan, leader of the West Cell, discovers that Ricky had set the poppy garden on fire and they both fight. As the fight goes on, Brandon, leader of the South Cell, throws his needles and ties Riki-Oh up with them, leaving him defenseless. Meanwhile, the guards report to Dan that the Warden is returning from his vacation in Hawaii, prompting Dan to raise the Zero Alarm. While the fight continues, Tarzan, leader of the East Cell, interferes, claiming that he wants to fight Ricky. As the Zero Alarm goes off, Ricky and the Gang of Four part ways for now.
The next day, the Warden and his spoiled, overweight son return from their vacation. Dan informs the Warden about the incidents during his absence, including the poppy garden which infuriates the Warden. Dan escorts the Warden to Ricky's cell. As the Warden questions him, Tazan bursts through the wall and fights Ricky once again, which ends with Ricky brutally defeating Tarzan. The Warden then activates a ceiling trap to crush Ricky. As Ricky struggles to stay alive, Tarzan regains consciousness and saves him from being crushed by the ceiling, at the cost of Tarzan's life.
Later, the Warden orders the inmates to bury Ricky alive, which they reluctantly obey. The Warden claims if Ricky survives by staying underground for a week, he will consider freeing him from prison. As the week quickly passes by, Ricky survives, but the Warden does not free him. Later that night, Ricky is chained in his cell. A fellow inmate, named Freddy, brings him food so Ricky can regain his power. However, another inmate sees this and informs Dan about it and in response, Dan kills Freddy. Dan, dragging Freddy's body with his hook, then opens Ricky's cell to show the body to him. However, Dan and the other inmate find that Ricky has broken free from the chains, and Ricky kills the inmate and knocks out Dan's remaining eye. As the guards rush to the scene, the inmates rebel and violently ambush Dan.
In the kitchen, Ricky, the prisoners, and Dan burst through the wall and the Warden shoots Dan with a gas-pressured bullet, causing him to inflate and violently explode. Rogan and Brandon then confront Ricky one last time, which ends with Ricky gravely injuring Rogan. Brandon, realizing Ricky is far too powerful for him, flees from the scene, but not before the Warden shoots and kills Brandon. The Warden, revealing that he too, is a martial artist, transforms into a grotesque creature and battles Ricky. The fight quickly ends with Ricky throwing the mutated Warden into a meat grinder. In the finale, the prisoners rebel once again and start to attack the guards. Ricky then breaks the prison wall, allowing all the prisoners and himself to go free.
The film is notorious for its excessive use of graphic violence and gore, primarily due to the fact that the lead character is practically invincible, has superhuman strength and can virtually withstand all pain, which is partially explained by Ricky being a practitioner of a mystical kung-fu style known as Qigong. This leads to attempts by other characters to subdue him which end up being extremely gory and over-the-top.
Aside from the aforementioned head crushing and meat grinding scenes, most notable is a fight scene between Ricky and a knife-wielding prisoner named Oscar. During the fight, Oscar slashes Ricky's right arm, but Ricky uses his teeth and left hand to tie the tendons together. Oscar then charges at Ricky, but Ricky slaps him in the back of the head, popping one of his eyes out, leaving it to be eaten by crows. Seeing himself at a disadvantage, Oscar attempts suicide by disembowelment. However, when Ricky approaches Oscar to try and stop the suicide, Oscar grabs his own intestines and wraps them around Ricky's neck in an attempt to strangle him, prompting the assistant warden to exclaim: "You've got a lot of guts, Oscar!".
In another fight scene, Ricky lands an uppercut on the giant prisoner, Tarzan, with such force that his jaw is torn off his head.
Another scene includes the warden's graphic death which depicts Ricky throwing him into a meat grinder. Ricky shoves the warden's body inside, only leaving his head. In that scene, so much fake blood was used that Fan Siu-wong could not get the blood off his skin for three days.
The film's low budget shows in the scene where Ricky's girlfriend Ying jumps to her death. For this scene, an obvious mannequin wearing her clothes is thrown off the top of the building. A dummy is used every time there is a close up.
Box office and reception
Riki-Oh's Category III rating (the Hong Kong equivalent of an NC-17) greatly inhibited its ability to make money at the box office. It was one of the first Hong Kong movies that used Category 3 film rating system for non erotic media. It grossed $2,147,778 HKD in Hong Kong.
The film, however, has received surprisingly positive reviews overseas. Michael Atkinson of The Village Voice called the film "a rather astonishing, starkly stylized blood flood set inside a privatized prison." Kurt Ramschissel of Film Threat gave the film 5 stars, saying that "the violence comes fast and furious and is just as outrageous and over-the-top as Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson ever were." Rotten Tomatoes currently has the film rated at 89% fresh on their Tomatometer.
Home video and online streaming releases
Tokyo Shock released it on DVD in 2000.
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky became available in its original Chinese with hard-matted English subtitles on Netflix's Instant Streaming service in mid-2012.
- 100 Greatest Movie Fist Fights – UGO.com
- New York Movies – Taboo Ya!
- Film Threat – Story of Ricky (Lai Wong)
- Rotten Tomatoes.com – Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky
- Film & DVD Review by Xavier Desbarats (http://www.devildead.com)