Riki-Oh: The story of gruesome kung-fu beatdowns

Thu, Apr 30, 2009

Dolbey, Featured, Reviews

dolbey1I’ll see a movie every once in awhile that, once after viewing it for the first time, I cannot wait to watch it again. This happened when I watched “Road House,” the cable TV classic that is quite possibly the best action movie ever made.

“Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky” is one of those movies. This movie pits hero Ricky as a prisoner in a prison corrupt with evil wardens and gang members subjugating prisoners, with opium somehow involved.

This kung-fu movie ratchets up the fake Asian violence, somehow topping every ridiculous kill and beatdown with an even more over-the-top one. Some examples of the beatdowns and kills: punching through a sumo wrestler’s stomach, a choking attempt by one’s own intestines, punching a dent into a bad guy’s head and shearing off a bad guy’s hand when two fists collide.

Normally, I wouldn’t say check out a clip this early in a review, but I think it’s necessary. So, here’s an awesome clip on YouTube to show you what kind of movie we’re dealing with, with an appropriate classical soundtrack. Spoiler alert: awesomeness and foreshadowing of how the movie ends ahead.

One friend said that if he just listened to someone describing these scenes, he’d have laid money down that it was some middle-schooler’s dream action movie, not an actual film. You have to understand this about the movie, this clip doesn’t even show Ricky tying together arm tendons that were severed in a fight and tightening them in his teeth like tying a knot in fishing line.

rikicoverThere are several severe emotional beatdowns, too. After an older man is told he is going to be denied his parole by a gang underboss, it appears he killed himself in despair.

“Riki-Oh” contains classic kung-fu attributes, going from one beatdown at a time against increasingly difficult enemies as our hero Ricky increases his strength. Many times, it’s like fighting a tough boss, then a tougher boss and so on.

Ricky is arrested for what many would say is a “just” killing. After witnessing his fighting ability and strength, it is wholly unclear how he could have ever been captured. This lack of common sense normally bodes well for action movies.

Ricky is more of a superhuman than kung-fu master. He possesses superhero strength, he doesn’t show any scars (even though he has razor blades pummeled into his mouth and face in one scene) and he can easily break through metal, concrete, survive for a week without food and is seemingly impervious to bullets. “If you just try harder, you can defeat death,” his creepily homoerotic uncle said. This would be bad advice for anyone else.


Riki-Oh tastes the blood of Bruce Lee.

Despite Ricky’s penchant for punching entirely through bodies, he is, like many action heroes, a humanist at heart. He would easily stop pummeling enemies and offer a helping hand, but they keep coming after him. He often justifies his face smashing by saying that his rival just won’t quit, “will you?”

Ricky also came from meager means. We know this, because a guard reading his personal information said, he “growed up in an orphanage.”

The prison itself eludes logic. The cell doors seem to rarely be closed or locked, the guards are ineffective and it really looks like the prisoners can walk around wherever they please.

Actioneers, be warned, this might not be for all action fans. I loved it, though. It is filled with so much cheese, bad lines, unconvincing acting and the best special effects $20 could buy. It’s not for people who dislike kung-fu movies (Action Girl being one of them), and one has to have a high tolerance for dubbed dialogue. Action Girl asked why a training session with his uncle was in a graveyard. If you have to ask that, then you just don’t get it.

I’d say there is an average, if not below average, number of kills and an average number of beatdowns. However, the fantastical way the beatdowns and the kills occur more than make up for it.

Notes from the Blood Bank:

  • 19 total kills, 8 by Ricky
  • 52 total beatdowns, 17 by Ricky
  • 18 broken gravestones during a single training session
  • Ricky’s special abilities include playing the flute and also “playing” leaves like Zelda’s Ocarina of Time

To those who want to see it now, it also appears that the whole movie is available on YouTube.

While I think this movie is deserving of four Jason Stathams, I’m giving it three Jason Stathams and a bonus Bruce Lee, because Ricky tastes his blood after getting punched.



I had the pleasure of watching this movie with Action Girl. She had the opposite take. “How many Asians have to die before we have prison reform?” she asked, before concluding that the movie is the “Great Leap Forward in Asian sucking.”

She gave “Riki-Oh” three Asian people with SARS masks on, which I can only imagine is bad and I further begin to suspect that Action Girl is an unhinged racist.


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