You have not seen The Story of Ricky. Okay, maybe you have. Then you are only reading this for a graphic description of someone’s head exploding. Or getting strangled with entrails. Boy, they really don’t make movies like this often, do they?
For the uninitiated, that intro might scream of torture porn, the sub-genre that has been populating mainstream horror for a while now. But Ricky-Oh is not an acolyte of such shockers. It instead operates in that strange realm occupied by the likes of Ichi The Killer and Lone Wolf & Cub (Shogun Assassin): a pretty faithful and inherently twisted adaptation of an incredibly violent manga series — a comic book movie done right.
Ricky’s story starts with a series of events that land him in jail. This is where we find him, being inducted in a harsh futuristic privately-run prison. Corrupt from top to bottom, any unfortunate inmate has to toe the line of the gangster bosses and cruel officials in charge. But Ricky is not unfortunate. He is a student of some obscure martial arts style that makes one super tough. No, really — in one scene our hero ties his nerves back together. Or were those tendons? It doesn’t matter, unless you are picking a fight with this guy. You’ll come up short — and very brutally so.
Riki-Oh was shot on a small budget and its special effects are laughable — and yet also incredible. If anything, this low-tech approach removes the film from those torture-porn sagas. You are less likely to cringe. Instead you’ll be shouting “Oh my GOD!!!” and cheer on our hero as he pounds a bad guy into an oversized blender. This kind of stuff can’t be made up.
The brutality of Riki-Oh apparently led to Hong Kong authorities inventing a new age rating beyond that of the normal 18-only restriction. It seems laughable today considering the low-budget effects that were more in place with poorly-made slasher rip-offs from the early Eighties. But something about Riki-Oh resonates far deeper than those shameless cash-ins. It’s a movie of such profound focus and moxie that you can easily gloss over its shortcomings. The sheer outrageous brilliance masks its feeble frame, which has earned Riki-Oh a permanent spot among cult movie aficionados.
This article was originally published on The Movies.