Tiger Cage II
I do so miss those wonderful D&B action films
from the 1980s and 90s. 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.
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.
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 90s 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.
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 Wus 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 cant 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.
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 Shous 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
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
Distributed by WA - a Mainland company though
both the Media Asia and the Universe promos play within.
The transfer is fine - clean and reasonably
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.
The subtitles are Chinese or English.
There is no trailer for this film or other