Anime News Service – Riki-Oh West Coast Theatrical Premiere Report
A Night Out With Ricky
By Daniel Zelter
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is based on an incredibly obscure manga and anime. I didn’t even know about the live-action film until I read about it in one of my HK movie guides. It looked campy, but my peers were calling it “the best kung fu movie ever”. (Whether they were being sarcastic is something I still am not sure about to this day.) So I decided-through my connections-to get myself a bootleg. Now at the time, Media Blasters didn’t own the movie, and the import dvd was already out of stock. (Even if it was in stock, Media Asia-the original distributor-is infamous for putting out inferior transfers.) When I first saw the movie, I was a little shocked and very disgusted. You see, Riki-Oh is disgustingly and absurdly violent. If you’re looking for another romantic martial arts movie like Crouching Tiger, this is NOT it! If you’re looking for a big-budget movie with decent special effects like Spiderman(which sucked by the way), this is NOT it! However, if you’re looking for a movie where the protagonist is so powerful, he literally punches holes in his enemies, washes glass shards away from his eyes, and sews his own wound with his veins, then Riki Oh is the movie for you!
So if I was obviously disgusted the first time, why did I see it again? Because my friend with whom I shared the bootleg would occasionally reference it, so I wanted to give it a second chance, and gradually its cheesiness eventually grew on me. So much so that I eventually got the dvd. (Available at Amazon for those interested.)
Basically, The Story of Ricky is about a powerful martial artist who gets arrested, because he killed a drug lord who kidnapped his girlfriend. In prison, the Assistant Warden(who has a claw for a left hand and a plastic eye for his left socket) sends his Gang of Four to exploit the inmates for labor and for torture. The Gang of Four include a guy with a dragon tattoo and a machete, an androgynous guy with some weird martial arts, a bearded behemoth, and a guy with blonde highlights who uses ropes and needles as weapons. For some reason, Ricky tends to be pacifistic, rather than defend his fellow in-mates and attack the guards. But when his life is threatened, he fights to the death.
If the blood being splattered like tomato ketchup wasn’t enough, the campiness is further extended when you see Ricky’s flashbacks with his girlfriend and uncle who trained him, not to mention Ricky’s closeness with his friends. The male relationships seem so blatantly homoerotic; and yet I doubt even the most hardcore yaoi fans would want to depict any of these muscled brutes together. And the violence is laughable at times, because they use damaged rubber dolls for close-ups.
Also, despite the name changes, the dub is the only way to see this movie! It just adds even more hilarity and unbelievability to the film. That’s why I decided to go-well that, and to mock what was on the screen.
The Nuart is primarily known for screening the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a film where you shout obscene and funny comments at the screen. When I actually got to the Nuart, a line was already forming, gradually becoming long enough to have to be pushed back into the alley. Obviously, the majority of the audience consisted of men (including one of my friends who works at Broccoli and the webmaster of www.arrogancy.net); but there were a few women who came along for the ride, including a girl who was making out with a guy in line in front of me. One of the guys in line was a true Riki Oh fan, because he had a t-shirt. We had to wait a little bit past the show’s starting time, because the audience for the first movie hadn’t left.
But once we got to our seats, the excitement began. People were coming up with quick lines. My favorites include the scene where Ricky is meditating to heal from his last battle, and some guy in the audience shouts, “Damn Mexican food!” when he winces in pain. I also liked the part where Ricky is blowing his flute, when all of a sudden, a guard tells him to be quiet, and someone in the audience exclaimed, “You jerk!” Of course, people were also laughing at the dubbed voices, cheering everytime Ricky exerted his power, or expressing their disgust when people died in brutally violent ways. But by the end, everyone was really into the movie.
In the end, I still go by my warning that this movie isn’t for everyone. (It’s unrated for a reason!) But if you happen to find the movie playing near you, and you’re genuinely interested, go for it.