RIKI-OH: THE STORY OF RICKY
Reviewed July 11th, 2001 by Brett Coon
“Ricki-Oh” (onscreen title “Story of Ricky”) is one of the most ridiculously over-the-top films I have ever seen. It features heads being crushed and blown up, disembowelment, self-surgery, eye gouging, and a touching scene in which a leaf is played like a flute, just to mention a few highlights. Fans of cheesy violent Hong Kong action films will likely find it a must-have addition to their collection, while those looking for compelling story, competent acting, attractive cinematography, or something to show the family would be best advised to look elsewhere.
The basic story is set in the future, when all government functions, including prisons, have been privatized. Ricky Ho, a man who has superhuman strength for no apparent reason, is sentenced to a brutal maximum security prison after avenging his girlfriend's death. The prison is run by a collection of evil characters, some of whom also have superpowers of their own to keep things interesting. Naturally, Ricky's arrival leads to a series of violent clashes, each featuring plenty of low-budget gore effects.
The story is apparently based on a Japanese Manga, which helps explain the outlandish characters and general cartoonishness of the film. The special effects are all low-budget and vary widely in their effectiveness. An early scene of a man doing a face-plant on a bunch of nails is hilariously bad, while other scenes show a lot of creativity given the obviously limited resources.
The DVD provides English, Mandarin, and Cantonese soundtracks, and subtitles in English, Traditional Chinese, and Simplified Chinese. I originally watched the film in Mandarin with English subtitles, as I normally do in the hope that someday the Mandarin will start making sense. I later sampled the English soundtrack on several chapters. It appears the English subtitles are a fairly literal translation of the Chinese, while the English audio track is adapted somewhat for English audiences. For example, one of Ricky's early opponents is referred to as “Zorro” on the English soundtrack, while his name in the subtitles is the less imposing “Silly Lung”. Overall, it's hard to say which is the better way to enjoy the film, but I lean slightly towards the English audio.
My DVD player claims all three audio tracks are 5.1 Dolby Digital, but I wouldn't have guessed that from listening. The audio is roughly what you'd expect from a Hong Kong action film, having little dynamic range but generally getting the job done. I didn't really notice any directional effects. I suspect the original audio is stereo at best.
The movie is presented in widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The video shows a fair amount of print damage, in the form of specs and scratches, plus a little bit of frame jitter. I also noticed a few compression problems, mostly in the form of crawling backgrounds. None of these problems is particularly distracting, though clearly this is not the disc you bring out to demonstrate the wonders of DVD technology.
The extras on the disc are pretty poor. The highlight is easily the movie trailer, which does a good job of setting your expectations for the film. Other extras include a useless story synopsis, a sparse cast and crew section that only provides extra details on the star, Fan Siu Wong, plus trailers for four other Hong Kong films. “Story of Ricky” is presented with nine chapter stops, though the chapter titles aren't listed on or inside the box. The DVD box proudly displays the movie's four star rating from Asian Cult Cinema, as well as the fact that Comedy Central's The Daily Show features “the hilarious exploding head scene” from this film. There is no printed insert in the DVD box.
Overall, this is a must-see movie for fans of the genre, and a must-avoid movie for most others. I enjoyed it a lot, and suspect many readers (you know who you are) would also find it well worth their time.
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