Last night at the Silent Movie Theatre they showed Story of Ricky.  They showed the trailer for it a couple weeks back and I decided I was definitely going to have to return to see this rarely-screened Hong Kong kung fu movie from 1991.  Having seen it, I have four immediate thoughts:


1. What the hell is in the water over there?!?


2. It would be pretty damn interesting to see what Sam Raimi would do with a kung fu movie.


3. Isn’t it a little sad that my idea of expanding my cultural frame of reference tends more often towards Story of Ricky than Harakiri or Tokyo Story?


4. Seriously, back to Thought #1:  Asian cinema is capable of so much more weirdness than its Western counterparts could ever do.  (Except maybe those creepy Germans and some of the unholy stuff they’re into.)



The Story of Ricky is about a young hero who is thrown into a maximum-security prison for reasons to be uncovered throughout the film.  Yes, it’s the Shawshank Redemption of Hong Kong gore comedies.  The story is set in the far-future of 2001, but none of that is the point.  The point is that Ricky has super-human strength as part of his kung fu repertoire, so when the corrupt warden and the assistant warden and their henchmen, the super-powered boss prisoners, mess with Ricky, he can punch their guts out. 


I mean literally, punch their guts out.  Not for the squeamish, this one ain’t.  It’s so over-the-top and cartoony that in my opinion it’s hardly upsetting, but when violence happens in this movie, it’s more violent than the entire run of Scorsese gangster movies.  I haven’t seen a movie this gleefully gory since maybe Evil Dead 2.


Also, I haven’t seen a protagonist this androgynous in a movie since Corey Feldman in the bad-even-by-‘80s-body-switch-comedies Dream A Little Dream.  Remember that movie?  Co-starring the great Jason Robards, inexplicably?  Remember Corey Feldman’s Michael Jackson phase?  Remember how hot Meredith Salenger was in that movie?  I’m getting off-topic again.


The point I was making is, half the hilarity of Story of Ricky is the fact that the absurdly muscular Ricky who can punch people’s heads off also looks exactly like a pouty-lipped girl.


The movie follows absolutely none of the tenuously-established rules of screenwriting, but probably a few of the non-existent rules of video games.  Character allegiances and audience sympathies come and go as if on iPod shuffle setting.  There is absolutely no moral or meaning.  In short, this can’t be argued as a traditionally “good” movie, but would I rather watch this than anything Meryl Streep’s ever done in her life (excluding only Adaptation)?  Yeah man.


You watch this thing, which is hysterically funny, and you wonder, how much of that humor is intentional.  It’s dubbed over in English, and the dialogue that’s said is at least as funny and insane as what’s happening on screen, so it’s possible that this was once a straight-faced effort since been given the Mystery Science Theater treatment.  I haven’t done any research on the thing so I don’t know.  But I kind of doubt it.  I wondered over this question almost the entire running time, until the warden does what he does and turns into what he turns into, and then the answer became clear.  But I won’t go into that, because I hold out hope that you all get the chance to see this if you haven’t already, hopefully fresh like I did.

But again, be forewarned, and it bears repeating:  This movie is violent.  I’m talking about such relatively tame examples as the scene where Ricky faces the mighty Oscar, and Oscar cuts open his own stomach and tries to choke Ricky with his intestines.  Then he wounds Ricky in the arm, and Ricky has to make a tourniquet with his own vein.  That kind of violence.  If you don’t think you can handle that, stay far, far away.  I hear Meryl Streep has a movie out… Pansy.