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Film / Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky

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Seppuku has never been more deadly.

"The alternative script for a logical Story of Ricky was two pages long, one of which consisted of the words "Ricky goes to prison, then decides to leave." The other was just a graphically detailed crayon drawing of a smashed brain."

In 1991, the same year that Tsui Hark made Once Upon a Time in China, a film that re-defined martial arts cinema as a dignified and genuinely artistic medium that portrayed kung fu as a metaphor for Chinese cultural pride, along came Lam Ngai-Kai, an obscure Grindhouse director, on the opposite end of the artistic spectrum. With the rights to a manga called Riki-Oh in one hand and a shoestring budget in the other, he set out to make the most faithful live action adaptation of a manga ever. 9 disastrous over budgeted months later, The Story Of Ricky was born.

Ricky (or Lik Wong in the original Cantonese version) was your typical red-blooded college kid with the strength of twenty men and ass kicking kung fu, who like nothing more than to frolic with his innocent girlfriend Anne (or Yin Yin) and play the flute all day long. That is until his uncle came and taught him Qi-Gong, a technique which hardens his body to damage by throwing grave markers at him. Unfortunately, his uncle forgot his own preachings of "Chi-Gong requires you to control your temper" when he taught Ricky the forbidden technique. Before you can say snap-crackle-and-pop, Anne is almost raped by a drug dealer and runs off a roof to escape. Ricky instantaneously loses his cool and then proceeds to literally snap-crackle-and-pop the drug dealer with his stone-shattering strength.

Our story starts when he is sent to prison. To quote the narration "By 2001 AD, capitalistic countries have privatized all government organisations. Prisons, like parking lots, have become franchised business." This basically means that since the prisons run themselves with no government interference, the wardens are allowed to be as damned sadistic as they like to the innocent inmates through "trustworthy" inmates, who enforce the rules.

After witnessing a helpless old man getting his nose shaved off by Samuel (aka Wild Cat), Ricky decides to trip the bastard over and have a dummy that does not look even remotely like him nail his hand to his face on a conveniently present board-with-nails. The next day, Samuel hires a literal horse-eating fat assassin called Zorro (or Silly Lung) to get Ricky in the showers. No, not that way. And it gets weirder from there.

Did we mention that every other prisoner, warden and guard, who is not Ricky gets popped like a balloon with one punch by our hero?

An unintentional classic of comedy cinema, which proceeded to destroy the director's career, doom the leading actor to B-movie mediocrity until he was cast as a villain in Ip Man, and be picked up by an American distributor to be given the most lovably hilarious dub to a Hong Kong movie ever.

For a more intricate synopsis, here's I-Mockery's review.

Tropes Associated with The Story of Ricky

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Back in 1991, when this film was released, 2001 was still so far away.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: If Ricky is so strong, why doesn't he escape the prison in the first place like he does towards the end of the film? In the manga where the film is adapted from, Riki-oh only stayed in prison so he can get important information from the Prison Warden.
  • Aerith and Bob: The dubbed version alternates mundane American names like Ricky, Dan, Freddy, Oscar, and Brendan with Zorro, Rogan, and Tarzan. (In the penultimate example's case, given that it's a Chinese adaptation of a Japanese comic, it's possibly a mistranslation of "Logan".)
  • Angrish: After finding a dead inmate who hung himself and breaking his handcuffs, Ricky throws what appears to be an anger tantrum and screams incoherently.
  • Balloon Belly: After Assistant Warden gets shot with a gas-pressurized bullet, his belly inflates so big until it explodes.
  • Berserk Button: Ricky becomes enraged when he finds out dead prisoners are buried with their handcuffs on, and that opium is being grown in the prison. The fact that Oscar and Tarzan are used and discarded by the Warden despite having relatives who depend on them pisses him off even more.
  • Big Bad: The Warden, being the one in charge of the Hellhole Prison everyone's in, serves as the main driving force of the film and the Final Boss.
  • Big Word Shout: BAAAASSSS-TAAAARD!!!!
  • Bloody Hilarious: It's so completely over-the-top and ridiculous that all of the Gorn ends up looping back around to funny. As Brandon Tenold shared, so much fake blood was used that the actors involved couldn't get rid of all of it for three days.
  • Bond One-Liner: Many, of which "Alright, you got a lot of guts, Oscar!" is only the silliest.
  • Booby Trap: For whatever reason, some of the prison cells seem to be equipped with these. One fills up with cement, and another has a crushing ceiling.
  • Captivity Harmonica: Our titular character is typically seen blowing on a folded leaf in this manner and pulling it off fairly well.
  • Charles Atlas Superpower: Ricky is pretty strong. Like punching through concrete strong. And apparently, this is all done through special kung-fu.
  • Chromosome Casting: Ricky's girlfriend is the only female character of significance, and honestly, calling her a "character" is a bit generous.
  • Creepy Crows: When Oscar's eye is slapped out of his head, a few crows dive to his eyeball to eat it.
  • Crosscast Role: For whatever reason, the villain Rogan is played by a woman (probably because no actual man was pretty enough.)
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: By both Ricky and the villains. Deaths include getting your head horizontally sliced in half with a punch, being skinned alive, getting your head smashed with two hands, getting your belly ripped open with guts spilling out, being put in a meat grinder, and being shot with bullets that cause you to inflate until you explode.
  • Death by Adaptation: Brandon and the prison snitch are killed off by the Warden and Ricky respectively, while Rogan's limbs are severely mangled by Ricky and in this scenario is probably as good as dead. The original manga counterparts for Brandon, Rogan and the prison snitch simply just disappeared by the middle of the first story arc, which the movie adapts from.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Rogan. Probably because he's played by one.
  • Driven to Suicide: Ricky's girlfriend.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Warden cares deeply for his Manchild son, and even kills one of his own men for making his son cry.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas : Tarzan's last words before getting flattened by the collapsing ceiling:
    Tarzan: "Goodbye, mom! I'm sorry..." (splat)
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: His love for his son is the Warden's only redeeming quality.
  • Evil Laugh: Gloriously goofy ones in the Mandarin, Cantonese, AND English versions.
  • Expy: Ricky of Kenshiro, although his method of doing damage is very different in that it involves Super-Strength rather than Pressure Points.
  • Eye Scream:
    • A few prisoners, including the one who was punished by the Warden.
    • Ricky pops out one of Oscar's eyeballs by simply smacking the back of his head.
    • The Assistant Warden loses both his eyes in separate incidents.
  • Fat Bastard: Zorro, a fat drooling slob who is hired by Samuel to kill Ricky.
    Zorro: "Ricky! Someone paid me thirty pounds of rice to finish you off and turn you into mince meat and put you in a pie."
  • Fingore: During Ricky's fight with Tarzan, their fists collide. Tarzan's is obliterated, and we're shown several of his fingers landing on the floor.
  • Four Is Death: The Gang of Four.
  • Gag Dub: So much so that it's difficult to discern whether the English dub is so hilariously bad intentionally or not.
  • Gorn: The movie was clearly intended to be gorntastic, but unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) it runs afoul of its own terrible special effects and acting so the effect is lost completely.
  • Head Crushing: The movie has multiple examples, thanks to it being a gornfest with the characters having Super-Strength and not afraid to actually use it for killing. Ricky notably defeats Oscar by smashing his skull in (intersect with an X-ray shot of his skull breaking) and later on Tarzan claps a random prisoner's head and mashes it like a melon.
  • Improbable Weapon User: The prisoners seem to acquire bizarre weapons with the greatest of ease. Brandon uses knitting needles on strings, Tarzan shows up in one scene with a giant two-pronged pitchfork, and ill-fated minor character Andrew is about to chop the Fink's head in half with a giant saw blade when Oscar turns the tables on him.
  • Invincible Hero: Ricky, who can gargle razor blades and be buried alive for a week and still live.
  • Jabba Table Manners: The overweight Assistant Warden and the Warden wolf down banquets while their prisoners starve on rice rations and mysterious meat made in the prison's kitchen. Heck, even their dogs get steak for dinner!
  • Kick the Dog: The Warden and the Assistant Warden rarely do anything else. The Gang of Four do their share of dog-kicking as well, even Oscar and Tarzan, who aren't all that bad compared to Rogan and Brandon, who skin Oscar's poor mute godson Alan alive when he refuses to kill Ricky. Rogan even literally kicks a dog...IN HALF.
  • Large Ham: Almost everybody. Even more so in the dub.
  • Manchild: The Warden's son and a pretty obvious one at that, as he still dresses as a schoolchild and throws tantrum fits when he doesn't get his way.
  • Made of Iron: Qi-Gong allows Ricky to shrug off fatal injuries and regenerate damage like Wile E. Coyote. In one scene, Oscar slashes Ricky's arm open — so Ricky ties the tendons in his arm back together and the arm is good as new.
  • Made of Plasticine: Most people get killed in especially spectacular ways, and since the majority of the special effects involve Harryhausen (on a shoestring-budget) style stop motion, they are LITERALLY made of plasticine.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: Ricky's backstory contradicts itself in the very next scene.
  • Nice Guy: Ricky was sweet enough to try and save the life of a guy who tried to kill him twice.
  • One-Winged Angel: For no established reason, the Warden turns into a giant ogre creature at the end.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Tarzan saves Ricky from Rogan because he doesn't want him dead before they have a chance to fight each other.
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Ricky putting the Warden in a meat grinder. The actor playing Ricky took three days to wash out the fake blood.
  • Papa Wolf: The Warden dotes on his overgrown Manchild of a son and is fiercely protective of him. During his intro he kills one of his mooks for making his son trip and cry.
  • People in Rubber Suits: The Warden, post-transformation.
  • "Pop!" Goes the Human: The Warden's "elephant gun" seems to do this to people, as the Assistant Warden and Brandon find out firsthand.
  • Private Profit Prison: As the narration states, this is the setting.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: The toughest opponent Riki fights in the prison is the warden because as everyone knows "The warden of any prison has to be the very best in kung-fu". This is a double subversion as the warden is not physically imposing and constantly takes pills for some sort of health condition. Indeed, at the beginning of their fight it appears that Ricky has easily defeated him with one kick. Then the warden transforms into a huge monster and the fight is really on.
  • Rated M for Manly:
    • Blood and guts are the order of the day in this movie. You won't find women here unless you count Ricky's dead girlfriend.
    • Has there ever been a more hardcore method of attempting to dispatch an opponent than by pulling out your own intestines and strangling him with them?
  • Red Right Hand: The Assistant Warden's hook and glass eye.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Tarzan holds up the crushing ceiling long enough for Ricky to escape.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: As Ricky literally tears the prison apart after some of his buddies are killed.
  • Rule of Cool: What the movie tries to achieve with all its gory special effects, weird fighting styles, and hammy acting.
  • Seppuku: Oscar cuts himself open and tries to strangle Ricky with his own intestines, to which the Assistant Warden encouragingly shouts in the dub:
    Assistant Warden: Alright!! You got a lot of guts, Oscar!!
  • Splatter Horror: Between the Manga aesthetics, the Made of Plasticine nature of Riki's foes, and the Refuge in Audacity nature of many of the setpieces, this film shapes up to be an unintentional splatstick masterpiece.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: Ricky can get rid of chains and handcuffs, hold a Descending Ceiling, tear a hole in the prison wall... yet a prison cell is able to hold him. Also, in one scene he removes a nail from his hand nonchalant, but is affected by a spiked weapon later.
  • The Speechless: Alan, on account of missing a tongue.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Ricky's girlfriend, who doesn't think about escaping or hiding from the drug dealers for her life and instead jumps off the roof to her death.
  • Treated Worse than the Pet: The prison warden and superintendent treats the prisoners atrociously, killing random prisoners in ridiculously graphic ways for the pettiest of reasons and allowing their lieutenants to maim and torture anyone in their way just for fun. When a prisoner complains "even the dogs gets steak" and is overheard by the Warden, the Warden then shoves the prisoner's hand into a meat grinder while taunting him "he can provide the extra meat".
  • Uncertain Doom: Rogan is the only high ranking prison official left alive by the end of the movie, but since he got crippled and had a leg chopped off by Ricky and the prison is in the middle of a full-scale riot, his chances of surviving are pretty slim.
  • Wardens Are Evil: The Warden is the Big Bad. He grinds his prisoners up in the kitchens to make food out of them.
  • We Can Rule Together / Klingon Promotion: After Ricky kills Oscar, the Assistant Warden offers him the dead man's place in the Gang of Four.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Oscar has some degree of honor and a great respect for Ricky, and tries to keep order in his wing of the prison.
    • Tarzan also skirts this at times.
  • World of Ham: Try to name one character who doesn't overact or scream like there's no tomorrow.
  • Wretched Hive: The prison is filled with corrupt guards and prison gangs ready to screw you over at a moment's notice. On the other hand, prisoners apparently have control over the lights in their cells, and they're always wandering around the prison unsupervised.
  • You Killed My Father: Averted. Oscar's godson - a quiet little guy - forgives Ricky for killing Oscar.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Used to introduce the Gang of Four. Also hilarious.
    Assistant Warden: "Tarzan used to open coconuts this way. Ricky's head's going to explode now!"

Alternative Title(s): The Story Of Ricky