Tiger Cage 2 (1990)
Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Writers: Fong Chi-Ho, Patrick Yuen Yeuk-Gwong and Kwong Kim Yip
Starring: Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan, Robin Shou and Do Do Cheng

The Plot: Mary Chang (Rosamund Kwan) is a divorce attorney working on Allen Chow’s (Donnie Yen) case, and she is in the process of taking him to the cleaners. Chow’s former-wife hated him being a cop, but the law is all that he knows. Wilson (Robin Shou) is another successful name in the law firm that Ms. Chang works for. After a unsuccessful attempt on Wilson’s life is made, he and his partners lose a large briefcase filled with laundered money. During a altercation in the hallways with these thieves, Chow chases down the group and helps thwart them. However, when one of the thieves highjacks Ms. Chang’s vehicle, she mistakes Chow for one of the robbers. As the robbers track down Mary, they accidentally end up kidnapping Chow. When they realize their mistake, they drop Chow off on the side of the road. Chow then sees Mary leave the hospital, and he decides to follow her in order to berate her for saying he was one of the robbers. Mary is dropped off at her friend Patty Lee’s (Do Do Cheng) home, who is also the girlfriend of Wilson, but it turns out that Wilson has sent a goon to kill Patty. When Mary and Chow find the body, the police aren’t far behind them. This implicates both Mary and Chow and they are soon running from the police. These two must quickly clear their name before the robbers, or the police, catch up with them.

The Review
The original Tiger Cage didn’t turn out to be one of my favorite all-time pieces of heroic bloodshed, but it was a fun mix of aesthetics that was seldom seen during this peak-era in Hong Kong cinema history. A coming out party for then-protege to Yuen Woo Ping, Donnie Yen, the young actor lit up the screen in the few moments where he was able to take the lead, but the film did not seem to leave itself open for a sequel featuring the young actor. When I heard about the second Tiger Cage feature, I had wondered how they would bring Yen’s character back. As it turns out, they didn’t have to. A series only in name, the first two Tiger Cage films are simply tied to one another via their director and star. In fact, I suppose it is very likely that these films were never even intended to be seen as a “series,” but perhaps distributors seized their names and did what they wanted with them. I am not privy to this information, but it does seem quite likely. This second film in the series proves to be quite unlike the original, in almost every possible way. Featuring some returning cast members, it rearranges everything and instead places Donnie Yen in the lead role. In the role of a blue collar police officer, Yen completely unleashes all of his charisma and handsome charm. Focusing less on the strident heroic bloodshed antics of the previous film, Tiger Cage 2 instead delves into the action-comedy waters with aplomb. Tiger Cage 2, in comparison to the first feature, proves to be the far more entertaining film, and it does this by being its own entity rather than trying to capitalize on the success of what John Woo was doing.

Although there are definitely scenes where firearms are used, Yen and Yuen return to what they know best and deliver a film that primarily focuses on martial arts. There are several standout scenes within the movie, but a few of them are absolutely mind boggling. For instance, there is a fight sequence where Rosamund Kwan and Donnie Yen are actually handcuffed together. Yen finds himself fighting off David Wu, who later on becomes one of the “good guys,” as he corners them on top of a Hong Kong bridge. Spectacularly well choreographed and filled to the brim with comedy, the scene is a shining moment that comes early. It also features some brilliant editing, as there are shots in it where it seems obvious that Kwan has been replaced with a stunt double, but the editing is so tight that it becomes difficult to spot which shots are which. The final twenty minutes of the film are fairly notorious for being action packed, and it is surprisingly to see how varied the martial arts choreography becomes during this tirade of fight scenes. Donnie Yen, who has recently made a name for himself by reaching outside the borders of traditional Kung Fu choreography, introduces a few different fighting styles during these epic battles. There is a swordfight scene that certainly proves to be a highlight, but it seems more akin to a Western style swordfight than a traditional Wuxia battle. There’s also a fantastic bit where Yen combats a pro-wrestling style juggernaut who unleashes a variety of grappling based attacks. This wrestler even attempts a flying elbow drop, in true Randy “The Macho Man” Savage form. The one fight that most will tune in for, however, has to be Donnie Yen vs. Robin Shou, which turns out as fast, furious and surprisingly short.

In almost every way possible, Tiger Cage 2 is a rather extreme departure from the original film. Obviously, the films have nothing to do with one another in terms of plot, but even the tone is completely changed. While the original Tiger Cage was a very serious drama that bordered on the melodramatic, this is a much more entertainment-focused feature. The original had moments that were fun throughout, but for the most part it was a very serious affair that looked to emulate the extremely “tough” spirit of John Woo’s work. You skip forward to this second title, and the wind has completely changed. Similar to the lighthearted spirits of action comedies like The God of Gamblers, comedy and adventure are the primary focus for the film. The comedy that is played throughout the movie is actually very witty, and the characters are infinitely more intriguing than those in the original film. This turnabout from the original produces a less conventional feel, and seems to make it a much more beloved film than the original ever was. Even if it doesn’t feature Wei-lung and his intimidating shotgun, we do at least get to see Liu Kang from Mortal Kombat being a VERY bad man!

Much of the film seems to focus on the love triangle between Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan and David Wu. This actually factors into the story a great deal during the third act, and takes up a lot of screen time. While Donnie Yen and Rosamund Kwan’s chemistry gets to burn up the screen for the first quarter of the movie, the next half features her warming up to Wu, and the audience is a bit conflicted on who to side with. Although Donnie Yen scores points for his portrayal of a blue collar working man, the light hearted charisma of David Wu easily wins him points as well. The film really does engage its audience in this silly little love affair, and when the inevitably plays out and certain twists come about, there is a definite emotional resonance felt within the film. There’s no getting past the fact that this is a silly nineties era Hong Kong action title, but the performances and the quality of the writing, certainly deserves its credit as much as the action. Yen, who steps up from his supporting role in the first movie and becomes the leading man, handles both the action (obviously) and the drama with relative ease. The thing that any Donnie Yen fan can tell you is that he is a actor with screen presence, and he fills this movie up with his. Rosamund Kwan is as cute and lovely as she ever was. A adorable little thing, she brings her requisite humorous charms. If ever there was a actress that all of her costars had to fall in love with, it would be Rosamund Kwan.

The Conclusion
There isn’t a lot more I can say about the film. It certainly does what it set out to accomplish, and becomes the rare moment where a sequel is far superior than its predecessor. A action comedy that delivers on all of the adventure that one person could hope for, Tiger Cage 2 is certainly worth checking out. Don’t be afraid if you haven’t seen the original, because they have absolutely nothing to do with one another. I give the movie a four out of five.