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  Story of Ricky, The Glutton For PunishmentBuy this film here.
Year: 1991
Director: Nam Nai Choi
Stars: Fan Sui-wong, Yukari Oshima, Bin Shimada, Cheng Chuen Yam, Frankie Chan, Mui Sang Fan, Philip Kwok, Gloria Yip, Tetsuro Tamba
Genre: Horror, Martial Arts
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: The year is 2001 and privatised prisons are the way that the world punishes its convicts. Into one of these enters Ricky (Fan Sui-wong), who has been sentenced to reside there for manslaughter, but it's not long before he is shaking things up by causing mayhem amongst the gang leaders. Standing by the victims of the corrupt prison regime, Ricky becomes their champion, and the authorities are desperate for a way to get rid of him, which is difficult, because Ricky has superhuman powers...

This film, scripted by the director from a Japanese comic book, earned a deserved reputation for being one of the most violent films ever made, as it's not simply the traditional martial arts movie, oh no, this goes through violent and out the other side, much in the same way that the hero punches his fist straight through his assailants' bodies. With the help of variable yet gory special effects, these characters do an unheard of amount of damage to each other - you've never seen so many rubber heads being ripped open in the name of entertainment as there are here.

One one level, the film could be taken as a searing expose of the depths that private prisons will sink to in the future. The warden, his assistant and his guards all take bribes, keep order by allowing the strongest prisoners to pick on the weakest with out any fear of reprisals, and even have a lucrative heroin operation going in the prison's grounds, where poppies are grown in the gardens. Ricky, a moral force for good, is having none of this, and does his best to implement penal reform by smashing the villains' heads in.

On another level, this is pure, brute force taken to its most absurd extreme. We first see Ricky in action when he is confronted in the showers by a huge blubbery bloke, who has his guts torn out for his trouble - this gives you an inkling of what's in store. There then follows a series of fights, all with bloody consequences - in one instance Ricky's opponent pulls out his own intestines and tries to strangle Ricky with them, and one unfortunate hulk has his jaw punched right open.

The baddies are crudely drawn and cartoonish. Cyclops, the overweight assistant warden, has a glass eye he keeps mints in, and a claw-like metal hand which he uses to drag people around with. The sadistic warden himself has an obnoxious son and can turn into a monster with a runny nose whenever he feels the need. Backing them up is a gang of expert fighters led by an androgynous character who has a way with kicking the living daylights out of the inmates.

Ricky is a sensitive soul at heart, as we see in flashbacks. He had a loving girlfriend who he used to gambol in the meadows with, until a tragic occurence which led to his incarceration. But Ricky always sticks up for the prisoners, and he gains the respect of the ones he beats in combat. Since he has superhuman strength, you wonder why the warden bothers to chain him up when he just bursts out of his bonds anyway, and why does he allow himself to be buried alive overnight when he could escape at any time? In fact, why does he go through any of the torture at all? But logic is not this film's strong point, being outrageously over the top is. In many ways, it's remarkable - it's just not reasonable.

Aka: Riki-Oh, Lai Wong
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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