Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It’s the Dead Alive of kung-fu movies

Illustration for article titled It’s the Dead Alive of kung-fu movies

Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Before gawking at the bone-snapping mayhem of The Raid 2, get your adrenaline fix with some ultraviolent action movies.

Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky (1991)

Gorehounds seeking a quick fix usually turn to horror, the genre most likely to dump buckets of blood over its actors. But as far as cartoonish carnage goes, there’s little beating Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky, a kung-fu cult classic that packs all the bodily mutilation of a zombie film festival into one brisk, 91-minute movie. Eyes are knocked out of their sockets. Jaws are punched clean off. Entrails are used as a strangulation device. The mayhem never lets up, but it also never bears the slightest resemblance to reality: This is Hong Kong action cinema by way of Troma Entertainment, featuring violence so absurdly over-the-top that only the squeamish could truly be upset by it. (The film’s closest analogue may be Peter Jackson’s hilarious splatter comedy Dead Alive, which came out only a year later and similarly builds to a climactic, monstrous transformation.)


Yanked from the pages of a Japanese manga, the plot is purely functional comic-book silliness: In a grim dystopian future of privatized prisons, the titular martial artist (Fan Siu-Wong) gets thrown behind bars for murdering a kingpin; he makes enemies fast in the clink, using his superhuman strength to punch gaping, bloody holes through an army of incarcerated thugs. Technically speaking, Riki-Oh is a prison film, pitting a merciless warden (Ho Ka-kui) against a rabble-rouser threatening his corrupt system. But the story is perfunctory enough to be negligible, its sole purpose to provide narrative tissue between scenes of outrageously graphic combat. And though not, strictly speaking, a comedy, the film has a sensibility more Tex Avery than Texas Chainsaw: Characters burst through walls like the Kool-Aid Man, fall down trap doors, and put fist-shaped craters in each other’s faces. It’s Grand Guignol slapstick, so ludicrously “extreme”—so proudly, dementedly gross—that it strikes the funny bone instead of the gag reflex.

Availability: Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky is available on DVD and to stream through Netflix.

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