August 20, 2013

Cornetto Week: RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY Is A Demented Miracle

"You've got a lot of guts, Oscar!"
Yes, the picture above shows a prison inmate using his own intestines to strangle the main character.  And the pull quote is what the assistant prison warden says in response to that action.

Consider that your litmus test.  If this isn't your particular brand of awesome, turn back now.

Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky was Edgar Wright's suggestion and I will be eternally grateful to him for making me aware of this movie's existence.  The title sounded vaguely familiar when he said called it out, but in truth I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.  As previously mentioned, I started watching this the previous night, but once I got through the first two scenes I knew that this was a movie whose sheer and total lunacy had to be shared with at least one other person, as opposed to watching it all by my lonesome.  Fortunately Warren O'Reilly, my partner-in-crime for Lawrence Of Arabia, was on hand to witness the violent glory that is Riki-Oh.

I almost have no idea how to describe just how fucking great this movie truly is.  It's adapted from a series of manga books set in a dystopian future in which global warming has devastated much of the planet and crime is on the rise worldwide, while major corporations have taken over many public institutions like the prison system.  The movie ignores the post-apocalyptic elements in order to keep the focus on the prison, which is where we meet our hero Ricky Ho,* a young man with superhuman strength who's been put in prison for the murder of a drug dealer who both killed his girlfriend and then put five bullets in Ricky's chest, bullets which Ricky refuses to have removed because, "[they're] souvenirs."  Immediately upon arriving in prison he's faced with both ruthless gangs and the corrupt administrators who spend their time torturing and exploiting the rest of the prison's helpless inhabitants, a number of whom seem to be in jail on technicalities or non-violent offenses.  But Ricky won't stand for their bullshit and quickly becomes the people's champion, willing to use his formidable power to take on anyone who stands in his way.

Now that all sounds pretty good, but it doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the film's utter madness.  In fact, I'm hesitant to really delve into any of the events that follow because a) the film's ability to shock and surprise you really cannot be overstated and b) any possible description I might give would never be able to do justice to the film itself.  It's the kind of thing that simply MUST BE SEEN to be believed.  What I will say is that Ricky Oh is one badass motherfucker.  There is only a very slight supernatural element here, on par with a Jedi knight's manipulation of the Force but without all the telekinesis or Jedi mind tricks.  Ricky essentially has the strength to punch and kick through solid objects, and while you might think I'm talking about stuff like walls and doors, I'm also talking about stomachs and faces.

Needless to say, this is not a movie for the squeamish.  Director Ngai Choi Lam utilizes endless gallons of blood, piles of rubber and/or animal intestines and even a few well placed mannequins.  It's cheesy to be sure, but it's also incredibly charming.  Yes, the physical effects are all super cheap, but the completely ridonkulous ways in which they're being utilized are so fucking hilariously demented that it actually enhances the experience.  If this stuff were done today with lifelike CG it would be seriously disturbing.  I mention this in the tweets below, but it totally reminded me of the Black Knight scene from Monty Python And The Holy Grail.  The reason that scene is so great is because it's like a live-action Looney Tunes cartoon.  The guy loses all four limbs but his improbably free-standing torso is still trying to goad Arthur into a fight.  The same kind of things happen frequently in Riki-Oh (one character loses both arms and his jaw but is still able to use his shoulders to prop up the giant steel ceiling that's being lowered down in an effort to crush him) but the difference is that here the violence is not played for laughs.  That's not to say it isn't funny, (it's fucking HILARIOUS) but the film's tone is far from slapstick.  It's deathly serious...which only serves to make the whole thing more awesome.

I dream that someday I'll find Riki-Oh playing at the Brattle or Coolidge Corner and I'll be lucky enough to see it in a packed house, as this is a movie that cries out for a crowd of laughing, screaming film fans.  But above all else, the biggest compliment I can pay Riki-Oh is that it's not only the kind of movie I'm definitely going to revisit many, MANY times, but it's the kind of movie that I simply cannot wait to share with other people.  When someone tells me that they've never seen it, I will happily sit them down on my couch and fire up my Netflix, and I will be insanely jealous that I'll never again get the chance to experience what it's like to watch Riki-Oh for the very first time.

That's the mark of something truly special.

*He was originally named Riki-Oh in the graphic novels and while that name remains the film's title, the actual character's name was changed for reasons that will baffle me for years to come.


Live-tweets follow below, but I'd implore you not to read them if you haven't seen the movie before.  Trust me, this is a film that's best seen with absolutely no foreknowledge of what's to come.  For the same reason, I'm not embedding a trailer at the bottom because everything I found just gave away all the best parts of the movie.

Title: Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky
Director: Ngai Choi Lam
Starring: Siu-Wong Fan, Mei Sheng Fan, Ka-Kui Ho, Chi-Leung Chan, Tetsuro Tanba, Gloria Yip, Phillip Kwok
Year Of Release: 1991
Viewing Method: Netflix Instant - TV

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