Certain movies require a little investigation before viewing. You shouldn't just walk into the video store and grab whatever you see. If you do, you may very well walk out with something like "Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky." Never has such a level of gore been attained in a feature film and unless you know what you're getting into, you probably shouldn't be putting this one into the DVD player.
The year is 2001. Governments have run out of money and certain functions, like prisons, have become privatized. Ricky is sent into one of the cruelest facilities this planet has ever seen for killing a drug dealer that sent his girlfriend to her death. After witnessing the brutality forced on the inmates by the warden and his "Gang of Four," Ricky lashes out, taking down anyone who tries to stop him.
Ok, so this isn't fine cinema. It only exists to move on to each fight sequence to show off ridiculous amounts of gore. This is a movie that shows a man rip out his own intestines and strangle an opponent with them. Seriously. If that gets you excited, this is likely your kind of movie.
There's little story here and countless plot points go absolutely nowhere. Where exactly Ricky managed to gain the strength to punch out people's eyeballs and barrel through prison bars is never explained. Though it's brought up multiple times, where Ricky disappeared to for two years of his life is never given an explanation either. Some of this is likely explained in the Japanese comic book this movie is based on, but for those of us not in the know, a primer would have been helpful.
This is also an extremely low budget production so all of those hilarious gore effects are as cheesy as they come. The final battle between Ricky and the warden has to be one of the funniest things ever filmed (though his death is one of the greatest). Rubber hands, obvious dummies, plastic eyeballs, and various other prosthetics all bring the film to, uh, life, just never in a very realistic manner. Then again, it's never really meant to be.
Here's a movie that would likely traumatize a kid for life if they ever got a hand on it. Actually, maybe we should show this to every kid in America while they're young and tell them this is what prison is really like. That'll keep them out of trouble. Seriously though, you'll know from reading this whether or not you'll have 90-minutes worth of entertainment here or not. If you have the guts to give a shot, then you probably have the proper mind set to enjoy it for what it is. (*** out of *****)
This is a 1.85:1 widescreen presentation with serious issues. Notably, the contrast is ridiculously high, drowning out color and blinding viewers with extremely white hues. Scenes without a bright backdrop fare a bit better. The color is usually stronger here, like it was intended. Regardless of the issues, the blood always comes through nice and red. The transfer is very soft, almost making the film look out of focus. Compression is generally under control, but the print is pretty beat up. You can find worse, but you will have look pretty hard. (**)
Three languages options exist (English, Cantonese, Mandarin), each one in 5.1. That's kind of a waste since almost everything is centered. The English track is really nasty, barely even audible through the speakers. It has a scratchy, muffled quality to it. Switching to the original Cantonese language is a bit better, though it still sounds like the treble has been set too high. The rear speakers never get any use and the stereo channels won't see much action either. (**)
Not surprisingly, extras are sparse. The original trailer makes an appearance along with some cast and crew information. There are four other trailers for related features and an oddball synopsis of the story. It's not like this is a deep story, so the explanation is a bit odd. (*)
If you ever had the urge to watch a mutated human being get fed into a meat grinder, "Riki-Oh" is the movie you've been looking for. You'll get plenty more for your money too. It's a shame the DVD doesn't present it any better, but it's a small gripe. Gore has never been this much fun.