Story Of Ricky (1992)
At 18, Ricky is a normal young boy with a sweet girlfriend, an interest in playing the flute and a strong sense of justice. Oh, and super strength. At 21, Ricky is sent to prison for murder, and now seems to be a quivering ball of sullen rage. What could have happened to make him like this? And does he still have super strength?
The answer to the first question does come eventually, but it hardly matters because the answer to the second question is a resounding "Yes!". At the dawn of the 21st century, prisons have all been privatised and are run for profit, with the prisoners being a source of cheap labour. The prison that Ricky is sent to is run by a corrupt, sadistic warden (is there any other kind in movies?), who keeps the prisoners in line with the help of his Gang Of Four - a group of powerful fighters. Despite his major change in attitude, Ricky still has a strong sense of justice. And super strength.
The rest of the plot writes itself, really... or it would, even if it hadn't already been written as a manga called RIKI-OH. Director Lam Nai-Choi was clearly a fan of Japanese manga/anime, and also unusually interested in special effects for a Hong Kong director. He gets to indulge both these interests to the full in STORY OF RICKY. I haven't seen the Japanese anime versions of the story, but this live action film certainly feels more like an 18+ anime such as FIST OF THE NORTH STAR than it does any other film that Hong Kong has ever produced. I can't think of anything else quite like it from anywhere when it was released in 1992... it wasn't really until Takashi Miike produced Ichi The Killer a decade later that there was any live action film that STORY OF RICKY could easily be compared to.
What STORY OF RICKY is about is gore. Ricky's super strength is truly formidable, and a blow from Ricky's fist tends to reduce whatever body part it impacts to meat. Dead, bloody meat. People get eviscerated, decapitated, amputated and generally destroyed when they cross Ricky... and his opponents are typically no less thorough in their brutality, though most of them require the assistance of weaponry to achieve the level of injury that Ricky can inflict with his fists.
Japanese manga has been at the forefront of violence and gore for a very long time, and extreme body disruption is nothing too suprising there. It's a lot harder to achieve the same kind of effect in a live action movie, largely because most actors would object strongly to having their entrails pulled out to strangle somebody with. Lam Nai-Choi clearly wanted to try to recreate the manga/anime feel though, and his special effects and makeup team show great creativity in realising the style.
There's no CGI here, just good old fashioned props, prosthetics and make-up effects. ICHI THE KILLER showed some of the creative violence that could be wrought with computer graphics, but that was clearly outside the realms of practicality for a Hong Kong film in 1992 (even a big budget Hollywood film would have struggled at that time). Even with the remarkable advances in CGI since 1992, there's still something more satisfying about 'real' special effects anyway, even if modern digital effects look more realistic. The current king of gore is undoubtedly Japan's Noboru Iguchi, whose low budget productions like The Machine Girl are all based around prosthetic and make up effects, and all the more enjoyable for it.
I suppose we have STORY OF RICKY to thank for films like MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD and Tokyo Gore Police, albeit indirectly. To the best of my knowledge it was the first film to make violent, silly gore the central focus of the entire film, and certainly set the bar for what effect a super strong punch to the jaw ought to produce. In most other respects the film is probably a turd, but who has time to even notice that when people are getting their faces sliced off? STORY OF RICKY earned its semi-classic status simply by being quite unlike anything else out there - and that's always a good thing.
Director Lam Nai-Choi was always something of an enigma... he made a few almost great films, but he never really seemed to be part of the Kong Kong film-making community, and I know absolutely nothing about him. STORY OF RICKY appears to have been about the last film he ever directed, which is a shame.
STORY OF RICKY was probably the first starring role for Fan Siu-Wong, who had clearly worked hard on his physique since his appearance as a scrawny kid in Righting Wrongs six years earlier. He's in great shape, and shows some fairly convincing martial arts skills - I always wondered why he was never more of a star than he was. I think he worked mainly in TV, though he's racked up quite a few movie credits in the intervening years - mostly in supporting roles though. He's not the world's greatest actor, but he's clearly a skilled martial artist and surely handsome enough to justify more lead roles (though perhaps his slightly Thai looks aren't considered handsome in his home country?).
Still, with a credit like "Ricky in STORY OF RICKY" on his resume, nobody's career could ever be considered a failure :-)