Story of Ricky (1991)

Also known as:
King of Strength
Li wang
Riki O

They don't come much more violent and twisted than director Ngai Kai Lam's Story of Ricky. We're talking near-insane levels of gore in this Hong Kong adaptation of a Japanese Manga comic. You'd have to call this film an ultraviolent, action-kung fu-comedy - albeit comedy of the blackest kind. It's the only time I've seen someone try to strangle his opponent with his own intestines. Come on, you must want to see the film now. I'll explore some of the plot, and see if I can convince you further.

It's 2001, I guess in Hong Kong. All prisons have been privatised, and we are soon to learn how corrupt this causes them to become. Ricky Ho (Siu-Wong Fan) is newly incarcarated in one of these prisons. As the guards scan his body for metal, the alarm goes off and they begin to club him - his strong arms fend the clubs off as is they were foam rubber toys, and the x-ray machine reveals multiple bullets lodged in his body. How could he have survived them? Ricky soon realises what a violent hell-hole he has descended into. An old man, who accidentally killed someone years ago racing his pregnant wife to hospital, is almost out on probation, but offends one of the lower ruling inmates. As the old fellow is beaten to a bloody pulp, Ricky defends him and trips the perpetrator into tripping eye-first onto a loose board with nails sticking out of it ... ouch!

Later, the one-eyed prisoner wants revenge on Ricky, and sends a hugely obese inmate after him, thinking the behemoth unstoppable. Ricky proceeds to punch his way through his attacker's stomach, completely disembowelling him. In a flashback scene, we see Ricky placing flowers on his father's grave. He's visited by his "Uncle Ghost" who offers to tutor the already super-strong youth in a fighting style that channels energy inwards into the body, making the practitioner virtually invincible. The stronger the opponent, the stronger will the fighter be. Ricky accepts the challenge and soon progresses to smashing tombstones with his bare hands.

Ricky is taken to see the Assistant Warden (Mui Sang Fan), who has a twin-pronged hook for a hand, and keeps mints in his removable eyeball! He demands that Ricky tells him about his powers and history, plunging his hook through Ricky's hand, and smashing the young man's face bloody with his one, many-ringed hand. The stoic hero merely smashes through the table, frees himself and walks away, not before making his tormentor's nose bleed with a non-contact punch. After remembering good times with his girlfriend after a tranquil moment in his cell, Ricky is challenged the next day by one of the "Gang of Four", the four prisoners who rule the jail in cahoots with the administration. One of the prisoners who defended Ricky is crucified and near death in the fighting arena. After having his eyes stabbed, and his arm practically cut off by the giant tattooed fighter, Ricky calmly washes the blood out of his healed eyes, ties his severed arm-tendons back together and proceeds to fight anew! After witnessing this, what else would you do as an opponent? Cut open your stomach, of course, and try to strangle your incredible foe with your intestines! Needless to say, this doesn't work on Ricky, and one member of the Gang of Four is swiftly despatched. Ricky attempts to save his crucified friend, but it's too late.

Some time later, a mute inmate called Sai, who was the dead gang leader's godson, gives Ricky an opium flower in exchange for Ricky's flute. The gang had already cut his tongue out years ago, but finding this out, the rest of the gang skin him alive - Sai had alerted Ricky to their heroin ring. Ricky burns the building housing the poppies to the ground, and swears to kill them all. He fights the three remaining gang members, who all have different fighting techniques, but ends up falling in liquid cement with the largest, Tarzan. Displayed before the returning Warden (Ka-Kui Ho) and his idiot son, Ricky breaks out of the concrete, but is subdued and buried alive for seven days. In his solitude, he remembers how his girlfriend witnessed a drug deal and was chased to her death, falling off a high building ledge. He then went to kill the dealer - and received the embedded bullets - and wreak vengeance on local criminals. Pulled out of the earth in chains, he is tortured further for information, but with the help of the now-rebelling inmates, turns the tables on the corrupted officials. He destroys the remaining gang of four, sees the assistant warden bloodily exploding with an inflating elephant-bullet, then has to take on the Warden himself. The arrogant villain then inflates himself through sheer willpower into a huge humanoid monster with the same powers as Ricky! Who will survive, and who will go into the giant meat-grinding machine that menaces the combatants?

If you have a sick sense of humour, you'll certainly get something out of Story of Ricky. Fists punch straight through heads and stomachs, eyeballs pop out, tendons fly, limbs are crushed, pulled off and severed. Jaws are smashed clean off, skin is flayed away like tissue paper. Ricky has amazing powers of healing. One minute his face is a bloody mess through some sort of hideous mistreatment, the next scene he's his old, pretty self again. It could only be intended as comedy. The gore effects vary in quality, but somehow it doesn't really matter. The camerawork is very crisp and clean, the film is obviously made with some care. Acting is utterly over-the-top as you'd expect for a film such as this, although Siu-Wong Fan approaches it as though he is a serious, heart-felt action hero. I appreciated this approach though, you need someone to identify with in this gallery of rogues, although his powers are beyond anyone in this reality.

Definitely high on the gore-splatter quotient, this one doesn't have any of the sex and nudity of some of these classic Hong Kong Category III movies, but is still well worth a look for the surreal, non-stop puppet-show of ultraviolence. You may find your own jaw dropping as you watch someone else's jaw flying off!

© Boris "Intercepting Fist" Lugosi, 2006.


Review written: 02/28/2006 21:13:56