Retro Review: ‘Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky’

In 1991 the manga series Riki-Oh was brought to the big screen courtesy of veteran director Lam Nai-choi. The result was one of the most bonkers, bizarre and outrageously violent martial arts flicks ever committed to film. This Hong Kong action movie, has garnered a reputation in global cinema for it’s pure insanity and gore.

Sentenced to a decade in prison for manslaughter, Riki soon teaches his fellow inmates that he’s not locked in there them, they are trapped in there with him. Gifted with super strength and an ability to withstand pain, Riki has no problem easily opening a whole 6-pack of Whoop Ass on anyone who challenges him in the pen. This puts him at odds with the notorious Gang of Four as well as the sadistic hook-handed deputy warden. The plot is simple and mainly exists to get Riki from one hard-hitting outlandish fight scene to the next taking on different cartoonish bosses along the way.

Director Lam Nai-choi leans hard into the heavy cartoonish violence and futuristic 2001 stylization of the film’s source material. True martial arts flicks are notorious for their bloodshed, but Riki Oh takes it to hilarious levels. We have eyeballs knocked out of their sockets, a man being shot in the butt which causes him to explode, an assassin carving out his own intestine to strangle someone, Riki punching a clean hole into an attacker and most famously Riki forcing the mutant warden into a giant meat grinder. Make-up fx artists Chi-Wai Cheung and Fung-Yi Cheng do not have the biggest of budgets to work with, but that does not deter them from going all-out with the gore fx. There is a reason this actioner achieved the rare Category III in Hong Kong’s rating system. Riki Oh is often ranked among the greatest prison movies of all-time but differs from the likes of Shawshank Redemption and Brute Force through its pure glorious insanity. Sure there is a statement to be made about the inherent corruption of privatized prisons, but the reason at the end of the day people watch this film to see Riki bust some skulls.

While the fight scenes are far from clean and concise that is not the main concern of this flick. Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky has become an international cult classic on the strength of its violence and mayhem. It paved the way for similarly over-the-top martial arts flicks and video games which followed. This is a movie which is pure bloodsoaked, ludicrous insanity.