Rica 2: Lonely Wanderer Review
When Rika (Rika Aoki) escapes from the Aiyu Reform School on her swanky Harley, she learns from her close friends that Hanako (Masami Souda) had gone missing on a ship. Somehow this incident is related to another which involved an explosion on the Tohoku vessel, and so Rika sets out to discover what happened. Her friends, however, are mysteriously murdered one by one as they get closer to the suspects. Enter the Shimamura gang which is currently being run by Yukie (Kaoru Hama), daughter of Boss Shimamura (Taiji Tonoyama) who is currently sick. The Shimamura have ties with Mr Tanaka (Hitoshi Takagi), who is known as “King of the Tohoku District”. Something big is going down, made even more apparent when Yukie appoints her best assassin Goro (Haruhiko Tazaki) to take out anyone interfering with their plan. Meanwhile Rika gets help in the form of a young man named Hachiro (Ryunosuke Menegishi) and local singer/entertainer Kazumi (Kazumi Toshi). Will Rika be able to fend off top assassins and yakuza scum and get to her friend in time. In all likelihood she probably will.
Shortly after Rica‘s apparent success, Koh Nakahira returned to directing duties, while Kaneto Shindo provided the script once more. As the second part of a trilogy, Rica 2 does at least offer a sense of progression, in that old faces are brought back to further the adventures of the eponymous heroine, but what really makes this instalment all the more fun is that Nakahira appears to be acknowledging the concept for how utterly ridiculous it obviously is. Rica might have had its silly moments and entertainment value, but it was a partially unfocused film. At least with its sequel the director tosses everything out of the window and builds it up as mad-cap comedy; and hey, if I’m even being slightly presumptuous on his part it’s still bloody funny. From the opening scene involving Rika chase a Lupin-style assassin and fight him with bad karate (even holding her dodgy stance neck-deep in water!) to hilariously throwing prospective stalkers and gropers in front of trains no less than three times, Rica 2 simply feels like a more self aware production which embraces action clichés and silly plotting, while offering a much tighter paced experience across its relatively short run time.
All of that makes anything else it presents just that little more forgivable. The film mildly addresses the usual social worries, touching upon racial discrimination - and to a lesser extent unfair tax laws and eco concern - but the attempts at depicting such a reality in all of this is made somewhat redundant by the fact that it sparingly uses one or two Japanese actors in dark face paint to make its point, not to mention having various foreigners speak in laughably poor English tongue. Likewise, Yakuza clichés are put to the test as the feature practically makes a mockery of such organisations with its liberal amount of totally inept mobsters and assassins who so easily fall victim to Rika’s unbelievably poor fighting skills, while the Yakuza code is upheld by a single benefactor, who is one of the few to have retained any sense of honour. Of course there is a plot and it’s as simple as they come, being something of a detective thriller, though not many could attest to having a tearaway delinquent looking for clues with her transvestite sidekick. Yes, it’s all very bizarre, but engaging nonetheless.
Furthermore the series’ star Rika Aoki comes across far more confident and intimidating here, and it’s a good thing too seeing as she has to strut her stuff in a cape, boob-tube and bell-bottoms, while locking herself into her karate stance at every given opportunity; you name it, even with a gun pointed at her. But she’s utterly brilliant all the same, and endearingly so as she’s clearly trying hard to indulge her director’s rather oddball sensibilities.
It’s dawned on me that Exploitation Digital are being a little unfair toward labelling Rika as a juvenile slut on their packaging, as so far we’ve seen nothing to suggest that whatsoever. Anyways, on to the DVD.
The film is accurately presented with an anamorphic ratio of 2.35:1 and once more comes across as something of a mixed bag. Again it’s an interlaced effort, though the digital noise which plagued it before for example is largely absent here, but there are still a few spots of noticeable compression artefacts, including minor Macro issues, though these aren‘t nearly as bad as previously. However, the image on the whole is softer and I would expect room for improvement regardless of the fact that the film is almost 35 years old. Crikey! The colour palette is also a little off, and in comparison to the first film on DVD we have highly saturated skin tones and if I’m not mistaken a slightly yellow-ish tint all round. Again, not an easy one to judge and a transfer I’m not entirely convinced reflects the original source material in a kind manner.
The Japanese mono track is about on par with the previous release. Nothing particularly jumps out at the viewer, but the dialogue is never less than clear and Jiro Takemura’s lively score comes across adequately. The optional English subtitles offer another fine translation also.
As before we’re treated to very little, with just a stills gallery, trailers for all three films in the series and a selection of other Exploitation Digital titles, which are mainly Emmanuelle films.
Rica 2: Lonely Wanderer I’d have to say is more enjoyable than the first feature in this relatively obscure trilogy. Oddly enough it is considerably toned down in terms of bloody violence and sex, having next to nothing of either, but it appears to be placing its emphasis on providing comic fun, which is helped all the more by its larger-than-life performances and crazy-paced antics.
7 out of 10
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