Early on in "Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky," there's a scene where the title character has so much indisputable swagger that his barrel-chested opponent, Oscar, out of baffling, cartoon-like determination to win, slices his own stomach open and tries to strangle Riki with his intestines. At this point, the vice warden of the prison they're fighting in yells, "You've got a lot of guts, Oscar!"
This pun, if not already in the running for the "Okay, That Was A Good One" award, provides an indication of just how ridiculous "Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky" is. Set in a future where prisons and government organizations have been privatized by corporations, so prisoners are treated like cattle and run by a system of inept and corrupt prison guards—in that sense it's not too different from prisons today—"Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky" follows Riki, a recently incarcerated kung fu killer who vows to take on the Gang of Four—sultans of strange and kung fu masters that smoosh people's heads like grapes and run the prison along with the evil warden—and free the inmates from the tyrannical prison.
There's not too much context needed to grasp Riki's motives. There are flashbacks of him and his girlfriend, who inevitably meets a tragic fate, along with brief lessons between him and a kung fu master in an old graveyard where he develops his skills via chopping a multitude of headstones that are thrown his way. And there is a small origin story of Riki murdering a crime lord in some highly improbable way, which lands him in prison.
But other than that, Riki's just a limb-crushing powerhouse, an opium field-burning human bulldozer of an inmate who has a penchant for eviscerating any foe in the most volatile and repulsive fashion imaginable using deadly methods including, but not limited to, busting a Winnie the Pooh-sized tunnel through a morbidly obese man's stomach, punching the top half of a man's head clean off so that his entire brain spills out onto the floor, uppercutting someone from his throat all the way through (yes, through) his jaw, and punching all of a man's fingers off. There really is no limb that isn’t subject to complete obliteration by means of punching. If there is actually a School of Hard Knocks, Riki-Oh is Dean of the Kicking Ass and Taking Names Department and has just sent out a mass email to the student body about the addition of a four-credit course for the upcoming semester titled "I Just Tore Out Your Eye, Threw it Into the Sand, And Fed It To A Murder of Crows 301."
The film is self-aware and insatiable in its bloodlust. There's a part in the movie where Rogan, one of the Gang of Four, kicks a dog in half simply as a means of entering the scene. Yeah, it's hysterical, but why? It makes sense in the context of a movie where a character can pull out the eyes of a secondary character like lemon slices off the rim of a martini glass, only in the sense that this movie makes no sense. But still, why? A definitive "why" is nowhere to be found in a scene where a character is shredded from toe to head in a meat grinder and his severed head is paraded around like a flag. It's certainly not going to be found in a torture scene in which our hero spits razorblades at his captor. These things just happen. This is an eccentric, absurdly violent world where nothing makes sense, though it is oddly aesthetically pleasing. It also features some of the most dazzling, if not vomit-inducing, special effects of any kung-fu movie ever made. It's cinematic hyperbole and it's gratifying to just watch someone kick an institution-accredited amount of ass, even if it means watching them literally kick their foot through someone's ass and have the foot come out the other side.