Something fishy is going on in the anti-Drug Trafficking Unit of the HK Police, and only a few honest cops know that the corruption goes all the way to the top. However, they must prove their case quickly, and by unconventional means, after they are framed for murder and drug-trafficking themselves. Dodging bullets from cops and criminals alike, the race is on to clear their names, protect their loved ones, and bring their corrupt colleagues to justice.
I happened to stumble upon the 1988 movie "Tiger Cage" (aka "Dak ging to lung") from director Woo-Ping Yuen in 2020. Needless to say that with my fascination of the Hong Kong cinema, of course I sat down to watch this movie.
Not only is it a Hong Kong movie, but it also has a pretty interesting cast ensemble, which includes the likes of Simon Yam, Donnie Yen and Jacky Cheung. So the movie does have a pretty good foundation of having strong performances and being interesting to watch.
Turned out that "Tiger Cage" was actually a rather enjoyable crime/action movie. Sure, it was generic, especially for the movies of the genre in late 1980s from Hong Kong cinema. But it proved to be an entertaining movie nonetheless. The storyline was well enough composed by writers Wing-Fai Wong and Kwong Kim Yip, although it was rather straight forward and somewhat generic actually.
There is a good mixture of drama and action in the storyline to actually keep the movie going at a good pace. And while there are no surprises along the way as the movie plays out, it doesn't make it a boring movie given the pacing and the storyline.
My rating of "Tiger Cage" is a six out of ten stars. If you enjoy the 'older' Hong Kong cinema, then "Tiger Cage" is definitely well worth watching.
Reviewed by Bogey Man7 / 10
Fast and gritty Hong Kong action
Hong Kong film maker veteran Yuen Woo Ping is best known for his wonderful kung fu classics like Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master from the late seventies, the films that made Jackie Chan a star. Yuen himself loves kung fu/martial art films most and prefers directing them over other genres. His another very noteworthy achievements include this film, Tiger Cage (1988), that spawned also two sequels. Tiger Cage belongs to the Hong Kong cinema category I like very much, the mean and gritty modern day action films that are at their most merciless and incredible impact in films like Johnnie Mak's Long Arm of the Law (1984), Johnnie To's and Andrew Kam's The Big Heat (1988), David Lam's The First Shot (1993) among many many others.
Jacky Cheung (Bullet in the Head), Dodo Cheng, Simon Yam (Bullet in the Head, Dr. Lamb etc.) and Donnie Yen (Iron Monkey, Once Upon a Time in China 2 etc.) star in this film telling the story of drug trafficking cops and gangsters and the violent struggle by the righteous officers to finish the illegal activities off from the streets of Hong Kong. There are some unexpected plot turns coming so there's no need in describing more about the plot which is after all nothing special and there only to give a good excuse to the many action scenes that are here as amazing as can be expected by Yuen.
The film is pretty dark and gritty but still miles away from Johnnie To and Andrew Kam's incredible The Big Heat that is perhaps the most infernal, brutal and mind blowing of these actioners I've ever seen. And it has some very strong social issues and problems to tell to make the film even more powerful and memorable. Also Tiger Cage has some good points about corrupt police officers and violence in the big city, and the end scene also gives a sadly deserved punch to the criminal character (and his ideals) who just couldn't stop when it still was possible. Also the final freeze frame of the film is pretty clever ending as the expression on the character's face is the final statement the film makers wanted to leave to the audience's mind about criminal life and violence.
The action choreography is pretty jaw dropping at times and includes some memorable fights with the super star Donnie Yen and (among others) some Western drug traffickers. Especially the final 10 minutes are among the most furious and insane action I've seen in any Hong Kong film and the viewer is quite breathless by the time the mentioned freeze frame comes. The film is very violent too and it is a little surprise by the director who has made many comic kung fu films without violence this gritty and honest.
The acting is pretty (or very) weak at times and the film also has some serious little errors like the clock times on the wall at one part. They change as nastily as possible with the edits. Also the "gas scene" near the end among some other similar things is too hard to take seriously as the characters act so stupidly and don't seem to do as anyone should do in a situation like that. Also, if they had concentrated a little more on the characters and their deeper relations it could have been much more interesting all the time. Not to speak of if they had wanted to make even more serious and noteworthy piece in the tradition of those mentioned and for example the work of John Woo. Now Tiger Cage is perhaps little too close to just another "Hong Kong action flick" without anything other purpose than just action and the entertainment received through that. Not good enough.
Tiger Cage fortunately lacks the typical comic elements of Hong Kong cinema and is pretty restricted all the time (the action of course excluded!). It is a pretty noteworthy albeit little film, and definitely another proof of its director's talent and also a good example of the modern day action genre that saw its birth in the eighties. Tiger Cage is now 7/10 level stuff and if I didn't appreciate the action choreography and things required to do scenes like that, I think the rating could be lower. Hopefully the sequel Tiger Cage II (1990) will improve in every department this film is lacking.
Reviewed by jrat620010 / 10
Hard & Gritty Crime Thriller!!
Hong Kong used to produce some of the most hardcore action movies in the 80's and early 90's. Having not producing any in a while, their trying to come back to formula with movies like Fulltime Killer and Infernal Affairs. Anyway, in my opinion, Tiger Cage is an excellent crime thriller amongst Hong Kong cinema. It still stands above some movies in Hong Kong and the all "arrogant" Hollywood. They don't make movies like these anymore. The plot is great, and the movie didn't seem to have any flaws. Whether a protagonist or a antagonist, Simon Yam always proves that he is the man for the job. As for this movie, he plays the villain very well. Might I also add that Jacky Cheung gives a gritty performance. Donnie Yen gives Michael Woods a run for his money, and Carol "Do Do" Cheng is great as a female cop who struggles to keep her personal life as well as her cop life intact.
The action is top notch. Hardcore and served with devastating blows is the way I like it. Master Yuen Woo Ping did a fine job with this one. Also, look out for his minute Cameo. While Martial Arts was evident in the movie, old-fashioned street fighting was served with the main course. Watch the last 15 minutes and see what I mean. Donnie Yen is always impressive, but I was surprised at Jacky Cheung. The boy has some kicks to his disposal. He does it with so much vengeance. This is one of Yuen Woo Ping's better movies. In fact, this is one of his best movies (way better than that Matrix BS).
Overall, this movie is one of Hong Kong's best efforts and deserves a re-release and restoration. One can only hope that this and more Asian movies are treated with respect (MIRAMAX AAARGGGH!!!!).