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Friday, 17 August 2018

Retro Review: Tiger Cage II (1990) #Hongkongcinema

Tiger Cage II aka Sai Hak Chin
Cast: Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan, Robin Shou, David Ng, Michael Woods, John Salvitti, Cynthia Khan, Carol Cheung
Genre: Martial Arts Action
Hong Kong Box Office Gross: over $6.3 million

'Hong Kong Actioner That Has Its Claws Out. Kind of'

I very much enjoyed 1988's Tiger Cage, a relatively little-known '80s Hong Kong action crime movie that operates as a standard drama as well.

Plot-wise, it is rather similar to the first movie with the corrupt cop versus the good guy and his accomplice/s. The only difference being here that Tiger Cage II has that uneven tone of drama and action meshing with humour, which mars this film, but is also rather typical of Hong Kong action movies of the 1980s and early 1990s with shades of The Lucky Stars series, Police Story with Jackie Chan and even Yes Madam!.

Dragon (Yen) is a former cop, who is accused of a robbery that he didn't commit and both he and a lawyer, Mandy, who becomes embroiled in the wrongdoing, go on the run. It also turns out that a shady businessman (Shou) is involved in a money-laundering scheme, alongside two beefy accomplices who exist to take out Dragon. 

I didn't like how this film is much more light-hearted than the first movie, which was gritty and serious and that galvanised the movie so much. What should have been a hard-edged action thriller undeservedly and unnecessarily descends into a comical farce with fast-paced action sequences. Although after being unceremoniously killed in the first Tiger Cage, Yen reappears again, this time as a character under a different name and as the main star, and he delivers quite a performance. Alongside a female sidekick in Kwan and a lighter type of action film, Tiger Cage II functions and plays out like a conventional Police Story-like Jackie Chan vehicle. 

It's nowhere as great as the first film and it was slightly disappointing that Yuen Woo Ping opted for a lighter tone, after the broody, bullish and seriousness of the original Tiger Cage, which made it fitting. It was brutal, no-nonsense and whilst the goofy humour in Tiger Cage II makes it a tad more casual, it also takes away from that sharpness and spark that Tiger Cage originally emitted. Some of the unintentional comedy was okay, but it does feel that this didn't really need it. Also, the love triangle thing just wasn't really necessary and thus, it eats up so much time. 

The relentless and at times over-the-top action, however, is terrific and amazing to watch at times and this slightly makes up for the not so strong narrative. The flying kicks, punches, hand-to-hand and sword to sword combat and some really good stunts, one of them involving a bus that is Police Story-like, with Donnie Yen flinging himself from one bus to another and taking on a group of bad guys. 

Strangely enough, also, the score here sounds awfully similar to the one in Tango and Cash with Sly Stallone and Kurt Russell. 

If you have seen the first movie, then you might be disappointed with this offering; having said that, if you are an avid Donnie Yen fan, you will be pleased to know that, rather unlike the first movie where he is killed off, he is the central figure and has a bigger role to play; plus it is great when he beats the villains up and he unleashes his martial arts skills. In that respect, therefore, Tiger Cage II will delight fans and admirers of Yen's. 

Tiger Cage II falls more in line with Yen's In The Line of Duty 4 as opposed to Tiger Cage - only take away Cynthia Khan and her amazing martial arts skills and replace it with Rosalind Kwan and of her character acting sheepishly and being dim. Even though there are no big surprises and the plot twists aren't that shocking, it still works, thanks to the performances and Donnie Yen's charisma, the stunts and action sequences. & it's hugely entertaining. Although I was a little underwhelmed that Cynthia Khan was underutilised and didn't feature in it as much as I'd anticipated. She does, however, gets to chase down a mysterious motorbike killer in her car & shoot him dead. Robin Shou (Liu Kang of Mortal Kombat) plays the arrogant slimeball bad guy and one some may find irritating. 

Final Verdict

It's also silly and the silly and broad humour would have complimented Jackie Chan far more so than with Donnie Yen, who is better and far more comfortable at playing it straight and serious. And regardless, for all of its silliness, the second instalment of Tiger Cage is still fun, accessible and a really good entertaining and action-packed watch for martial arts and action martial arts movie fanatics. 


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