Tiger Cage II


I do so miss those wonderful D&B action films from the 1980’s and 90’s. They may not have been heavy on plot or character, but they sure knew how to entertain with wall to wall action. Some of their best were Yes Madam, Black Cat, the In the Line of Duty series and the Tiger Cage series. This, the second one in the series is literally as close to non-stop action as one could wish for and most of it is very well done. After witnessing so many quasi action films from Hong Kong recently in which the actors are made to look good through quick edits, wires and CGI effects, there is a certain purity that is totally refreshing in viewing a film such as this. These are simply talented action actors who are allowed to go at one another until barely anyone is left standing.
Donnie Yen and Rosamund Kwan
Directed by Yuen Woo-ping (who in fact directs all three films in the series), he forgoes much of the fantastical over the top wire enhanced action that he brought to his as of late more famous wuxia films – ie. Tai Chi Master, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon – and instead relies on the basics – topnotch choreography and the wonderful skills of his actors. The action sequences here are a varied lot – some of it is quite comical at times, while other scenes are intense, bloody, exhausting and jaw droppingly satisfying.
Cynthia Khan and Robin Shou
The prime contributor to this joy ride is Donnie Yen. These days he gets his knocks from many Hong Kong fans for his own over stylized productions – but in the early 90’s he was without a doubt one of the best cinematic martial artists in Hong Kong. Yuen Woo-ping was largely responsible for bringing Donnie into the film business - starting with Drunken Tai Chi in 1984 and they worked together a number of times (including the execrable break dancing film, Mismatched Couples), but Donnie was never really able to establish a film persona that caught on with the audience. Perhaps this was due to his willingness to take on unsympathetic roles such as in Dragon Inn and Once Upon a Time in China II – but even when he plays the good guy you never really take him to heart – he always seems just a tad smug, surly and exudes little real warmth. Yet he is a pleasure to watch in action – his leg speed is astonishing and his ability to leap up and perform multiple kicks while in the air (without the use of wires) is amazing. In this film he has more than enough opportunities to display these skills and his two fights against John Salvitti and Michael Woods are classics.
David Wu (aka Ng), Rosamund and Donnie
Other than Donnie and Dodo Cheng appearing in this film (Dodo has little more than a cameo), this second film in the series has nothing to do with the first and they both play different characters. For the first five minutes, there is actually no action taking place in the film, but it is likely the longest stretch in which no one is taking a whack or a shot at someone else. David Wu and his subordinate arrive from America with a suitcase of dirty money to launder with Robin Shou. They all work for the same triad and report to Uncle Chiu (Lo Lieh) – but Shou has ideas about taking over the gang and this begins with having the money stolen. The heist goes wrong though when Wu’s subordinate is able to hide the money before he is killed. No one knows where the money is and who is to blame – but everyone is under suspicion.
Complications arise when two innocent bystanders – Donnie Yen and Rosamund Kwan – are thought by both the cops (Cynthia Khan) and the triad to be behind a murder and to know where the money is. The two – who of course initially can’t stand one another – are soon on the run and in constant peril. Rosamund annoyingly whines her way through the beginning of the film, but as the film progresses she becomes quite endearing and comical – and by the end is brutally fighting for her life. To help find them and to take out Uncle Chiu, Shou brings in two deadly glowering gweilo killers – Salvitti and Woods – to assist him out. This leads to all sorts of fun.
Salvitti and Woods
The plot is far from original but is serviceable and the interplay between Rosamund, Donnie and David Ng is a pleasant and often humorous diversion – but as I said earlier the name of this game is action. One early scene emphasizes this – Ng tracks down a feuding Donnie and Rosamund and a fight breaks out between him and Yen. This eventually leads to both being knocked out (accidentally by Rosamund) and they land on a handcart. Rosamund then spies a few of Shou’s men coming after her – and she then starts quickly pushing the cart down one of those steep alleyways and it gets away from her – goes crashing into the sidewalk – both men go flying into the street below – land on a truck and then bounce off onto the street and immediately begin fighting again. The bad guys show up – they fight them – then Donnie and Rosamund run away and hide in the sewer. Many films would have stopped here – but not this one – Ng follows them and gets into another fight with Donnie – and then the bad guys show up with guns and a game of deadly hide and seek begins in the sewers. This is just one of many fight scenes – but they save the best for last – a samurai like sword duel between Donnie and Salvitti, an incredibly exerting mano y mano between Yen and Woods and then a violent fight between Shou, Donnie and Rosamund.

For Cynthia Khan fans, this is a bit of a disappointment – she is involved in two fights but vanishes two thirds of the way through. John Charles mentions in his Hong Kong Filmography that there is an International version of this film in which her role is larger. Another source I came upon suggested that the reason that two versions were filmed is because Donnie goes beyond the law and is not punished for it - and so some other countries demanded that Cynthia be involved in the final fight as an authority figure.

For those who like their coffee black and their action without a lot of interruptions, this is a film for you.

My rating for this film: 8.0



DVD Information:

Distributed by WA - a Mainland company though both the Media Asia and the Universe promos play within.

The transfer is fine - clean and reasonably sharp.

Letterboxed

Only the Mandarin language track is available and I have to say listening to these actors being dubbed in Mandarin is disconcerting. Also the sound is fairly bad in the beginning - very echoey.

8 Chapters

The subtitles are Chinese or English.

There is no trailer for this film or other extras.