Monday, May 10, 2010

Live Action Anime Adaptations

Riki-Oh: The Story Of Ricky (1991)   * * * *

Cast: Fan Siu-Wong, Mei Sheng Fan, Ka-Kui Ho, Yukari Oshima, Phillip Kwok

Directed by Ngai Kai Lam

The Story Of Ricky is simply put one of the all time greats in the Kung Fu movie genre. I don’t like to throw around four star ratings but if there is a movie that deserves the ultimate rating, it is The Story Of Ricky which is the ultimate gore epic. The story is some half-assed fable about Ricky a super powered kung fu expert who takes on the gang of four (one of them a gay kung fu expert who runs opium and is played by a woman) as well as two sadistic wardens (Fan and Ho, one who has a hook for a hand and keeps mints in his glass eyeball and the other who morphs into a Godzilla version of himself) while staying in the corporate prisons of 2001 A.D. The Story Of Ricky is just great fun all around. The film could perhaps be taken as a sheer camp fest but the only problem is that with the whole Hong Kong film genre, I’m pretty sure this was done as tongue in cheek fun, hence a lot of the laughs are intentional. Also the film hits a nerve (or tendon) with the sheer over the top nature of the violence, heads are crushed, meat grinders are used to convert people and limbs into hamburger, people strangle one another with their intestines and most importantly the movie’s soundtrack, dubbing and style of fight sequences all are done like 70s Kung Fu movies. This then leaves the gore effects that is sometimes hilariously fake but no matter the case still add to the experience of the film. Also let it be said a lot of the gore effects are pretty decently done (Ricky Vs Silly Lung for instance) Indeed this is a very entertaining movie, the kind that you wish they would make more of. The film also must be praised for the zany sense of humor and the added goofiness that make the movie so enjoyable, for instance as soon as an eyeball is knocked from the socket, vultures fly quickly to devour such literally seconds after the eye hits the ground. It’s moments like that as well as the surreal climax which make this one of the all time best kung fu movies of all time. The Story Of Ricky is then in its own way , some kind of wonderful genius.

Crying Freeman (1995) * *1/2

Cast: Mark Dacascos, Julie Condra, Rae Dawn Chong, Mako, Tcheky Karyo, Byron Mann,Yoko Shimata

Directed by Christophe Gans

The second movie in our binge of Anime movies adapted to the big screen is Crying Freeman, a visually stylish film but empty and lackluster on all levels. Dacascos stars as a weepy assassin (literally because he cries every time he kills someone) who ends up falling for the artist (Condra) he is assigned to kill, meanwhile the Yakuza and such get involved in a film that seems to try too hard to create the world of the Crying Freeman. The biggest problem with said movie is that Condra and Dacascos’ complete lack of chemistry. Indeed this is the part we are supposed to believe in most but while Dacascos and Condra apparently got along very well (As they got married and have been since 1998) they really don’t have any erotic chemistry as their love story is flat and dreary, which also kills any momentum the film might have. The action too is infrequent and only adequate when it should be outstanding. I think is the same sentiment with the film, For it is fairly faithful to the Anime in mood and story but yet it just doesn’t work because the two leads lack any chemistry, indeed the supporting characters involving Chong, Karyo, Mako and Shimata are far more compelling and interesting than the love story that supposedly drives the movie. Crying Freeman then isn’t terrible, but it is fairly disappointing and certainly a missed opportunity.

Fist Of The North Star (1995) * *1/2

Cast: Gary Daniels, Costas Mandylor, Chris Penn, Malcolm McDowell, Downtown Julie Brown, Clint Howard, Isako Wishio

Directed by Tony Randel

Fist Of The North Star’s fairly incomprehensible plot details around two rival kung fu schools that can never fight, to which Mandylor breaks the rules and badly beats Daniels to which Daniels wanders around sulking around for vengeance or something like that. Honestly this movie makes no sense whatsoever but works in a surreal WTF way. For instance narrations are explained over and over again and yet the result is the same mainly ridiculous nonsense that is merely an excuse to see bizarre things happen to various actors in a burned out apocalypse world. North Star would be a full-fledged recommendation, if Gary Daniels weren’t such a boring lead, where as Jean-Claude Van Damme or Dolph Lundgren have larger than life presence as heroes, the role of Kenshiro could’ve certainly used that. Daniels though is merely boring and looks rather ungainly and un-kept which detracts from his heroic plight. Worst of all is that he clearly has no sense of humor or indeed a sense of style to make the concept work. Even more surprisingly is how his martial artistry is underused and that these sequences are merely decent as opposed to mind blowing. The whole film does look great, as Hellbound:Hellraiser 2’s director Tony Randel knows how to build mood (Indeed if Randel directed Crying Freeman, they might’ve had something) and the sets, lighting and overall look are distinctive. Indeed the directing in the gore sequences as well as the action is crisply directed. Another plus that makes the movie sort of fun is the late great Chris Penn, playing Bondage-Face, a bad guy who is easily the most enjoyable character in the entire movie. However when you strip away the film’s stylish sets, the nifty directing and the kung fu battles, the truth of the matter is that this is all just one big mess of a movie that lacks a coherent whole and that doesn’t have really any plot to drive it from point A to B. Worst of all though is Gary Daniels, a humorless lead that couldn’t be any duller as a hero.


  1. I remember seeing that head smashing scene during Craig Kilborn's 5 Questions that he did when the Daily Show first started, and I thought two things: Craig Kilborn is awesome, and I gotta see that movie. Alas, when I was in LA in 2001, my buddy and I got tickets for the audience in Kilborn's CBS show, and it was a total disappointment; and when a friend got a hold of Riki-Oh, I was as disappointed. There was just a certian point where I said "This is too much." Maybe it was when Riki gets razor blades shoved in his mouth. I agree that it was so over-the-top (Stallone style) that it didn't make me squeemish. It was more like an extra-large bag of Doritos. They taste great, but there's a point where I say "even if I am an adult and can do whatever I want, I can't eat a bag of Doritos for supper, I need to eat something else too", and there was no something else too, just 90 minutes of Doritos. Silliness is great, but too many Doritos can make you ill.

    Funny enough, I just read my Fist of the Northstar review, and it almost shaped up exactly as yours here. I said essentially if you'd like Fist of the Northstar for it's silliness, why not go all the way and see Riki-Oh.

  2. Riki-Oh isn't like eating doritos, it would be more like eating a grande pack at Taco Bell. It actually has some substance if you watch it subtitled. If you watch it dubbed it's often unintentionally hilarious. However that torture scene was awesome, he gets razor blades shoved in his mouth gets smacked and then spits them into the warden's face.

    Story Of Ricky is an awesome movie, and I think you should revisit such as well as review it. I don't know the first time I saw it, it was surreal but I never thought it was like too much of a good thing, just a good thing. Say what you will it's memorable and on that terms well worth seeing.

    With Crying Freeman and Fist Of The North Star, both aren't awful but I don't recommend them. (3 star is the cut off, I'll bet G.D fans will be pissed that I recommended Epicenter over Fist, but to be fair I expected more from Fist) Anyway I can send you a link to see Story Of Ricky, cause such is pretty spendy. Though I think it's excess is what makes it so much fun.

    I guess a film that matches your description of too much of a good thing in terms of action, would be City Hunter with Jackie Chan.

    I would argue though that Story Of Ricky should be seen in both dub and subtitled versions, in the subtitled version you find the atmosphere is actually well done, where as the dub just makes it a demented kung fu theater type.

  3. I own Riki-Oh. A friend gave it to me a while ago. And I will say even a Grande Meal at Taco Bell can be too much. Eventually those tacos get moist, cold, and gross, and no amount of hot sauce will save them. The question really is, when do they become unappetizing?