Thursday, September 6, 2012

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky and Breathless: There Are Lots of Different Ways to Be Great

Wow, everybody, I'm not going to make a big deal of it, but Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is the 300th movie I've reviewed on I Probably Liked It. That's a lot of movies for someone to probably like in only 20 months! I haven't slowed down at all since watching it either. I still have almost 30 movies to review. I'm really wanting to be caught up by the end of this month, but writing takes a lot of time that I don't necessarily have, so we'll see.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky
, by Lam Nai-Choi, 1991

I've been hearing about this movie since I was in 9th grade. Back in the early, pre-Stewart days of The Daily Show, they always used to show a clip of a guy smashing another man's head with his fists like Ghallagher smashes a watermelon with a sledgehammer. The older geeks who were more in the know than I told me about The Story of Ricky, and thus a legend was born.

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, set in a hellish not-too-distant future of 2001, is about a good guy who is imprisoned for killing a crime boss. The prison is just as corrupt as the outside world, as Ricky soon learns when he comes to the defense of a poor old man who is just shy of parole. In doing this, he makes enemies of not only the worst of the prisoners, but also the evil warden and his lackies. Now Ricky must fight his way through these guys and out of the jail that would rather see him dead.

This movie is nuts! I don't know why it took me so long to see it. I guess because it was never sitting directly in front of me, until it popped up on Netflix. The violence is super over-the-top and hilariously fake looking. It's like if Evil Dead 2-era Sam Raimi made a science fiction kung fu prison drama/comedy. We're in a world where pretty much anything can happen. We see Ricky smash his fists through heads and torsos, and one of his foes tries to choke Ricky with his intestines at one point. Ricky has superpowers and is basically indestructible, unfortunately for these bad guys. You never feel like the odds are overwhelming for the hero, you just watch to see how he's going to eviscerate one boss after another.

I'm guessing my description isn't really selling Riki-Oh. You're probably wondering what's so appealing about it. It's hard to do this movie justice with words. Let me just say that it's weird and funny and culty and great to watch with a group of friends (inebriation optional). Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is off its rocker, and totally awesome for it.

Breathless, by Jean-Luc Godard, 1960

While I think you could say the Story of Ricky achieves a kind of greatness, Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless is the real deal. Sure, it doesn't have a scene where the hero shoves a bad guy into a meat grinder, but it has its own non-meat-grinder related merits. There's a reason this film is frequently voted by critics as one of the best ever made.

One of the films that kick started the French New Wave, Breathless is the story of Michel (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a guy who steals a car and shoots a cop and now needs money to get out of the way. He goes into the city to find someone to give him a loan. While he's there, he also tracks down Patricia (Jean Seberg), an American girl he's slept with a few times, and wants to come with him. Much of the movie is set in her apartment, as they smoke cigarettes like they're in a French movie and discuss their situation and she tries to determine whether she loves him or not, while the cops are out there tracking him down.

It says something about a movie when it is the source of all the stereotypes of what a certain kind of movie is. Breathless is like that. Every American parody of an "artsy" French film on TV, in cartoons, and in movies, is just doing its own version of Breathless. This is that movie. The philosophical voice-over narration of the hero, the frequent use of jump-cuts. Not only often parodied, but often used for serious. The way Godard used jump-cuts in his editing was a brand new thing at the time, though it's become recognizable and commonplace over the last 50 years.

I had seen Godard's Alphaville before this, and I liked it, but now that I've seen Breathless, Godard seems much easier to get into. It's bold, groundbreaking, and personal and it still feels that way half a century later. This would have been a much better film for me to start off with.


  1. Hey!

    Nick from here. Doing some scout work for the LAMB. We're wanting to make an email newsletter for community features as well as a list we're making similar to Sight & Sound's best movies of all time list. Just need an email! Email me at npowe131 at

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