Tiger Cage 2 (1990)

Starring Donnie Yen and directed by famed choreographer and director Yuen-Woo Ping, this HK classic gem is the in-name-only sequel to the original “Tiger Cage”, boasting its fair share of serious martial arts action and light-hearted comedic moments. When it comes to Donnie Yen films, many of us would probably by default think of “Ip Man”, “Flash Point”, “SPL / Kill Zone”, “Iron Monkey”, etc but don’t forget about “Tiger Cage 2”!

Trailer

Cast

Donnie Yen has a reputation for playing hard-boiled cops like Ma Jun and Ma Kwun in “Flash Point” and “SPL” / “Kill Zone”and his role in “Tiger Cage 2” is no different as he stars as hot-headed ex-cop Dragon Yau.

Rosamund Kwan is divorce lawyer Mandy Chang who teams up with Dragon. Mortal Kombat star Robin Shou stars as antagonist and gang leader Waise Chow. David Wu portrays David, who forms a trio with Dragon and Mandy Chang after being betrayed by Waise Chow. Lo Lieh plays Chow’s superior Uncle Chiu.

Returning along with Donnie Yen from the original “Tiger Cage” are Carol Cheng as Chow’s girlfriend, Mandy’s friend and fellow lawyer Petty, and Michael Woods as one of Chow’s henchmen, with the other henchman portrayed by John Salvitti. Gary Chow plays Dragon’s colleague Tak, and last, but definitely not least, we have “In the Line of Duty 4” star Cynthia Khan making a brief appearance as Inspector Yeung.

Plot

Dragon Yau is a hot-headed ex-cop whose attitude is costing him his marriage. During a trip to his wife’s divorce lawyer Mandy Chang, Dragon and Mandy are witnesses to a shooting and attempted robbery involving laundered money.

After being framed for the murder of Mandy’s colleague Petty, the two find themselves pursued not only by the police, but also gang leader Waise Chow, Petty’s ex and the mastermind behind the robbery. In order to clear their names and stop Chow, Dragon and Mandy form an unlikely alliance with David, a former member of Chow’s gang.

Battle blades!

Battle blades!

Action

Donnie Yen and Yuen Woo-ping aren’t just big names in martial arts cinema, they have collaborated on multiple projects, with their mutual credits including Donnie Yen’s very first film “Drunken Tai Chi”, “Mismatched Couples”, “In the Line of Duty 4”, “Ip Man 3” and the original “Tiger Cage”. “Tiger Cage 2”, is, unsurprisingly another hit that demonstrates the good work Yen and Yuen are capable of together.

If you like to see fight scenes every few minutes, and if you love “Flash Point” and “SPL”, then you’ll love “Tiger Cage 2”, for it mixes standard HK choreography with practical MMA-esque combat.

There are a few rapid-fire sequences, but most are of decent length, with major fights at just the right moments. Our first taste of hand-to-hand combat occurs during the robbery where David Wu fends off a group of gunmen in an elevator during the midst of a gunfight. Donnie Yen hops onto the action bus as he takes out an enemy with a flurry of roundhouse kicks.

Donnie Yen and David Wu then have two scuffles against each other before finally teaming-up, with the first fight involving Donnie humorously being handcuffed to Mandy Chang, who clings onto him for dear life impairing Donnie’s full fighting manoeuvrability such that he is forced to fight David with one hand and falls on a flying side- kick attempt. Another film that implemented a single-handed fighting style besides “Tiger Cage 2” was “Cradle 2 the Grave” starring Jet Li. “Tiger Cage 2”, however, did it better.

Practical combat is the order of the day in the second encounter, when knee strikes, headlocks and a big take down are used. After the pair of Yen vs. Wu showdowns, Donnie trashes a group of punks at a restaurant, having taken them out with a trash sack containing rotten food and used dishes in a manner somewhat resembling Steven Seagal striking thugs in the teeth with a pool ball in “Out for Justice”. This fight scene doesn’t stop there though, as gangsters sent by Waise Chow immediately kidnap Mandy, prompting Donnie to unleash his FU-sion of Bruce Lee and street fighter by throwing fast, raw punches and kicks as well as some knees and headbutts in a frenzy that’s taken all the way onto a double-decker bus, not to mention that Donnie Yen also reels in a bunch of striking combos similar to those in “Flash Point”.

We finally get a taste of Robin Shou’s fighting skills as Waise Chow around halfway into the film as he easily overpowers his henchmen John Salvitti and Michael Woods into obedience.

Despite John Salvitti being the katana expert, Robin Shou stops him with a much smaller switchblade, hence the adage, it’s not about the size of the weapon, it’s all about whose hand is holding it, that counts. Speaking of Cynthia Khan, she fortunately manages to add in a short, but impressive girl fight during her brief appearance.

Other highlights of “Tiger Cage 2” include an intense fight scene where Donnie Yen, David Wu, and Rosamund Kwan have to fend for themselves against a bunch of angry, sword-wielding thugs. The blades swing fast enough that our heroes really have to stay alert in order to not get sliced into slivers!

David Wu has a final battle against Robin Shou. Despite the noticeable difference in size, the two are almost equal in speed and power and put on a display of intense and frenetic fisticuffs that plays satisfyingly even for Chow’s henchmen.

To top it off we have the grand finale, with Donnie pitting himself against Chow’s henchmen one by one and finally, Waise Chow himself. Instead of being one-dimensional, each enemy has a unique style with which to give Dragon a challenge. Our first match up sees Donnie Yen vs John Salvitti in an adrenalizing, epic sword battle. Both men unrelenting in trying to kill one another with the swords clanging hard and fast. The struggle seems real and visceral; blood is shed with each cut inflicted keeping the audience riveted.

Next up is Donnie Yen vs Michael Woods. With a muscular build, Woods comes off as a professional wrestler who happens to possess agile kicking abilities, much like (ex WWE star) Rob Van Dam. He ties Yen’s hands with metal chains and proceeds to throw, slam and spin-kick Yen around like a rag doll -almost like a personally inducting Yen into a no-holds-barred WWE smackdown! Donnie Yen, despite being cuffed, answers back with a flurry of fast kicks. After that part is said and done, we have the Donnie Yen vs Robin Shou fight we’ve all been waiting for. As the two exchange punches and kicks, Donnie Yen adds some bare-knuckle boxing to his kicking repertoire -as noted by the boxing punches and evasions- calling forth yet another awesome moment of hard-hitting mayhem.

Summary

An action-comedy that is actually more serious than comedic, “Tiger Cage 2” presents an edgy, high-energy, dramatic mix of Hong Kong old school fight choreography and more practical combat. With lightning kicks, whipping fists and grappling and striking reflective of the art we now know as MMA, you can evidence the seeds that were sown with “Tiger Cage 2” setting down the basis of Donnie Yen’s trademark wushu/MMA hybrid style. Some 27 years on, this is still an entertaining blast.

Trivia

  • Donnie Yen and Rosamund Kwan also co-starred in “Once Upon A Time in China 2”.
  • A significant portion of the cast, specifically Donnie Yen, John Salvitti, Michael Woods and Cynthia Khan previously appeared in “In the Line of Duty 4”, which was also directed by Yuen Woo-Ping. Gary Chow also appeared in the “In the Line of Duty 4” sequels “In the Line of Duty 6” and “In the Line of Duty 7: Seawolves”.
  • John Salvitti reunited with Donnie Yen as the choreographer for many of his movies such as “SPL”, “Flash Point”, “Special ID”, “Kung Fu Killer” and “Blade 2”. He was also the choreographer for the JCVD film “Pound of Flesh”.
  • The Chinese title of “Tiger Cage 2” is: 洗黑钱 – which translates as “to wash dirty money”.

Favourite Quote

“When I was a cop, if you were not fierce, the rascals won’t be scared. Hey bast**d, who are you?!’ You’d ask like this!” – Donnie Yen as Dragon Yau

Film Rating: 8/10

Being first influenced by Tekken video games at the age of 13, Jeffrey Hu's martial arts journey began with Taekwondo and was self-trained due to living under a strict household. Five years later, Jeffrey received tutelage under Grandmaster Bill Dewart, (a student of pioneer S. Henry Cho) and earned his black belt a year later. Jeffrey's passion for martial arts grew as he went on to learn Muay Thai and Tai Chi. He's also a big fan of martial arts movies and enjoys movies featuring Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Tony Jaa, Scott Adkins, Michael Jai White and Iko Uwais.

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