Rica (Japan 1972)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 4/1/18
Cast: Rika Aoki, Masami Souda

Rica (Rika Aoki) is the bastard daughter of a woman who was raped by an American soldier, and her harsh childhood paved the way for her to become the leader of a female gang. When she gets arrested for street fighting, her followers are kidnapped and shipped to Vietnam as pleasure girls for American soldiers. While trying to rescue her girls, she finds a rival in another gang leader named Reiko, who constantly makes things difficult for her. Despite the bad guys' continued attempts to kill Rica, she keeps managing to come back, and everything comes to a head when she attacks a cargo ship heading for Vietnam.

It's a straight-up sexploitation flick, but not nearly as mean and nasty as other "pinky violence" films from that era. It feels more like the blaxploitation films of the 1970's, with funky fashions, cool music, larger than life characters, fierce female anti-heroes, and a certain amount of campiness. The sex scenes are fairly tame and the rougher stuff tends to happen off-camera. The violence is bloody and outrageous, with the highlight being several blood eruptions that spray all over the place. Those are always fun to watch. Japanese actress Masami Souda wears blackface and an afro wig throughout the film, which is unintentionally funny and offensive. It goes along with the recurring theme of mixed ethnicities, who are shunned and abandoned by society. Rika Aoki is a cute and feisty bundle of fury with a fantastic fountain of hair and a menacing glare. She does a wonderful job as the title character, whose many facets include being a schoolgirl, a gang leader, a juvenile delinquent, an inmate, a fighter, a lover, a victim, an avenger, and an awkward lounge singer. The action scenes aren't great, but Aoki doesn't hold back and comes across as a convincing and aggressive fighter. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and found it thoroughly entertaining.