Tiger Cage II
AKA: Tiger Cage 2
Year of release: 1990
Director: Yuen Woo-Ping
Action directors: Phillip Kwok, Donnie Yen, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Yuen Shun-Yi
Producer: Stephen Shin
Writers: Fong Chi-Ho, Patrick Yuen, Kim Yip
Cinematography: Mark Lee, Lee Kin-Keung, Chow Kim-Ming, Chang Ji-Chung
Editor: Kwok Ting-Hung, D & B Film Editor Group
Music: Richard Yuen, Tang Siu-Lam
Stars: Donnie Yen, David Wu, Robin Shou, Rosamund Kwan, Carol Cheng, Cynthia Khan, Leung Lam-Ling, Lo Lieh, Michael Woods, John Salvitti, Dickson Lee
Rated II for violence and language
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For years, Tiger Cage II has been a bit of a holy grail for English-speaking fans of Hong Kong action movies since the quality of the home video versions (when they were actually available) has been negligible. At least for now in late 2010, that matter has been corrected with Fortune Star's recently released remastered DVD, which lets a whole new audience check out one of the best Hong Kong action films from the early 1990's.
Even with a script that apparently took three people to write, Tiger Cage II's story, like many movies of this type, is pretty simple. Robin Shou plays Waise, a Triad money launderer (or "white washer" as the still poorly translated subtitles put forth) whose shipment is robbed, and ex-cop Dragon (Donnie Yen) and his divorce lawyer, Mandy (Rosamund Kwan), are implicated as the thieves. So for the next ninety or so minutes, Dragon and Mandy literally fight to clear their names, leaving a wake of cold bodies in the process.
For the most part, the exposition scenes are short, and that's a good thing in this case, since mainstream Hong Kong releases of the time tended to favor melodrama and broad comedy. While this method was tolerable for the average audience member back in the day, it is getting harder to sit through scenes anchored by plodding and clunky exposition, especially when compared to more modern releases, where the balancing of story, acting, and action into coherent and compelling packages is becoming an aspect of Hong Kong film-making that is given more and more importance.
Leaving that aside, if you're looking for action, and if you're reading this review, I'd wager you are, Tiger Cage II delivers in spades. I sincerely hope the stuntmen got some hazard pay or at least a couple of cases of Tsingtao for their efforts, because it looks like they got their asses kicked three ways to Sunday on this production. This is the sort of stuff that you're going to alternatively wince and cheer as the film-makers pull out yet another way to brutally yet beautifully portray on-screen violence.
Some other reviewers have pointed out how fake the weapons employed by the actors look, especially during the final sword fight between Donnie Yen and John Salvitti. Especially with the new cleaned-up picture on the Fortune Star DVD and upscaling via my Blu-Ray player, I did notice elements of that, but it didn't take anything away from my enjoyment of the action scenes at all, which are some of the best I've seen in quite a while. Despite its' flaws, Tiger Cage II is an outstanding entry in the world of Hong Kong action movies and will remind you of why you got into the genre in the first place.