Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Retro Review: Tiger Cage (1988) #Hongkongcinema

Tiger Cage (Dak Ging Tou Lung)
Cast: Donnie Yen, Simon Yam, Carole Cheung, Jacky Cheung
Genre: Action
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $11.5 million

Plot:  A team of cops get brutally exposed to violence after raiding a drug operation and discover a link between some members of the police force and an American crime syndicate dealing with drug trafficking

'Underrated & Overlooked - If Typical '80s Hong Kong Kung/Gung Fu Cop Flick'

Tiger Cage is one of many films you will have not heard of before because it doesn't have Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan or Jet Li in it. What it does have though is Donnie Yen, who you might have seen in XxX: Return of Xander Cage and the recent Star Wars film, Rogue One that was released last year. Tiger Cage is one of Yen's earlier movie outings that ushered in the new wave crime era of Asian cinema and one that earned over $11 million in box office takings when it was released in Hong Kong in 1988.

Hong Kong cops Fan, Shirley and Terry are the chosen few to be selected for a narcotics squad. As they nail the dealers, they unearth a more sinister conspiracy involving police corruption and a drug trade between Hong Kong's officers and U.S dealers at the very end of the scale.

I actually enjoyed Tiger Cage; it definitely reminds me of those other 1980s action flicks in Police Story, starring Jackie Chan being one example with the cop thing fighting for justice.

The shootings and killings are bloody and brutal (one of them is when a young woman is tossed onto the car out of a balcony and dies), the violence is almost akin to John Woo's films, which is no-holds-barred and the opening first 5 mins are indicative of this and the film doesn't let up one bit, though the story does have some lull moments it is also very intricate. Thus, it can be difficult to follow and yet this is executed extremely well. This is not one of your typical Hong Kong chop-socky kung-fu action films; but rather a film with lots of dialogue, of characters talking, some fighting and action and a very deep story.

There are some light scenes to alleviate the tension but for the most part, this is a straight up action fest; Yen's fighting style is more mixed martial arts based, although he does demonstrate that flexibility that has long been associated with Jackie Chan. Unfortunately, no sooner is he then killed off; however, the rest of the film unravels with a few twists later on into the film. The main stars of this film are Jacky Cheung (whose name is similar to Jackie Chan almost by pronunciation) and Carole Cheung; Jacky is the singer/actor most Asians either love or loathe, and not forgetting his physical likeness to Jackie Chan. Here, he shows off some cool moves and can fight well enough.

The film is solid overall, fast-paced with plenty of bone-crunching action and the fighting scenes are great and the standard one comes to expect from Hong Kong action martial arts films. This is a typical cop movie and for an action film that is almost 30 years old, Tiger Cage remains solid and a martial arts/action film that is slightly different to the many other popular offerings from Hong Kong and U.S.

Final Verdict:

Quite different to what one would normally expect from a Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat, Bruce Lee and Jet Li flick, although Tiger Cage's fight scenes do lean more towards the Police Story/Jackie Chan end of the spectrum.

Still, this is at times a riveting, tense but gritty and action-packed kung-fu offering from Yuen Wo Ping and hailing from the golden age of Hong Kong cinema. More than just John Woo's Hard Boiled and Police Story; if anything, this film combines the best elements from both worlds and that along with its somewhat unique take on the cop formula and the end result is one that will keep you glued to the very end.

If you can get by Donnie's character dying (although he shows up in In The Line of Fire) and enjoy that '80s style of Hong Kong action films that has gone amiss these days, then be sure to check this one out.


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