Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky is one of those films that have been spoken of in slightly disbelieving tones among cult film devotees for decades. Now, it’s available on Blu-ray in glorious high definition, with each increasingly implausible explosion of gore looking absolutely fantastic.
As far as plot goes, Riki-Oh keeps things fairly simple. It’s the year 2001, and the government has privatised most services, including prisons. Riki (Siu-Wong Fan) is sent to one of these correctional facilities, which is run by the monstrous deputy warden (Mei Sheng Fan) and four thugs, each with their own distinct fighting style and prison wing to look after.
We’re mere minutes in before our hero is fighting for his life in increasingly gruesome and elaborate ways, fighting towards some vague vengeance against the heroin dealers who are responsible for the death of his girlfriend, and to bring down the whole corrupt goddam system, one head-exploding punch at a time.
There’s a point about half an hour into the movie when Riki’s opponent commits sepukku, removes a handful of his own intestines and attempts to strangle the lead. As a first time viewer, we wondered if the film could top this. The short answer is: yes. Most definitely yes.
Given the proliferation of absurd gore films that end up being frankly joyless (Tokyo Gore Police, etc), it’s great to be reminded that movies like this exist. Riki-Oh has the energy, glee, and buckets of gore of early Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi, pushing the practical effects to their limits to achieve ever more outrageous heights. It’s never mean-spirited. It’s just insane.
There’s also a wonderful selection of villains for Riki to work through, ensuring that each confrontation is distinctive and disgusting. There’s the brutal chief warden and his ravenous manchild son, the assistant warden with his hook hand and fake eye that doubles as a container for mints (no, we don’t know either), all the way down to the prison bully who gets his face ripped off very early on. There’s never any sense that Riki is any real danger, there’s no sign that he’s going to lose any of these fights at any point. The joy comes from the glee with which director Ngai Choi Lam keeps topping each successive set-piece.
It’s the kind of film that has a very specific audience, but if you think that you might be someone who would have a good time with Riki-Oh, you need to watch it as soon as possible. Fortress‘ intestination has never looked so tame.