TIGER CAGE 2 (1990) review

In the eighties, director and martial arts choreographing god Yuen Woo Ping was trying to push forward in the limelight one of his most gifted disciples, Donnie Yen. First, Yen worked for Yuen as a stuntman, then the pair collaborated on three urban action films under the banner of the ill-fated D&B Films Company: Tiger Cage, In The Line Of Duty 4 and Tiger Cage 2. The latter only has a vague thematic kinship to Tiger Cage: it is not properly speaking a sequel, as Donnie Yen doesn’t even play the same character. Or does he? The truth is, in those late-eighties thrillers Yen always played more or less the same character: a tough, naively macho cop, with an almost childish inability to properly communicate with women. Here he is surrounded with a fairly interesting cast including Shaw Brothers legend Lo Lieh, future Once Upon A Time In China star Rosamund Kwan, the highest-paid actress in Hong Kong (at the time) Carol “Do-Do” Cheung, as well as the Michelle Yeoh-wannabe Cynthia Khan and Robin Shou of Mortal Kombat fame.

They all play cops, lawyers, mob bosses and corrupt businessmen in a very throwaway plot involving a suitcase full of cash and, er, little else. Predictably, Tiger Cage 2 is all about the action scenes, but still, watching it is made painful by a cardinal sin fairly typical of that era of filmmaking in Hong Kong: the uneven tone constantly hesitating, or at least failing to mix, a hard-edged cop thriller, a borderline retarded comedy and a sweaty martial arts flick. At least more recent Donnie Yen vehicles such as S.P.L. and Flashpoint understood that it was better to stick to one tone, or at least mix those which work well together (namely cop thriller and martial arts). Not only does Tiger Cage 2 fail to mix those three strands, it also fails individually at each of them.

As a cop thriller it’s too simplistic, as a comedy it’s never even remotely funny, and the martial arts scenes, although well choreographed (that’s Yuen Woo Ping we’re talking about), are most of the time very obviously undercranked, meaning they’re shot at a lower frame-per-second rate so as to make it look like the actors are faster than they really are. Still, the individual talent of martial artists Donnie Yen and Robin Shou shines through, especially in their sadly much too short face-off at the end. It’s a pity Robin Shou got drafted in Paul W.S. Anderson movies in Hollywood and third-rate Taiwanese action films, because for all its faults, Tiger Cage 2 is evidence that he is a charismatic and stylish martial artist.

Long Story Short : A cheesy, throwaway action film with a fatally uneven tone, to be seen only to witness the budding talent of future superstar Donnie Yen and the underrated Robin Shou. *

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