A drug kingping escapes a raid but takes his revenge on an undercover cop by murdering him on his wedding day to colleague Carol Cheng. Another cop (Jacky Cheung) tries to bring the killer to justice and finds corruption among the force. Donnie Yen plays Terry, a cop who’s partnered with Ng Man-tat; he discovers his partner is also involved with the drug dealers and is torn between loyalty to his partner and his morality. Ng Man-tat is used by his captain and ultimately discarded. Cheung remains to solve the case, but most everyone’s dead. Tiger Cage piles betrayal upon betrayal.
Yen, mostly teamed with Ng Man-tat, holds his own against an actor who can easily steal scenes. The underlying tension in their relationship simmers although the big brother-younger brother relationship carries them along, until the violence erupts between them. When Yen discovers Ng at the beach dealing with a couple of the drug dealers (Michael Woods and Stephan Berwick), a fight ensues between them. Berwick employs a fishing spear as a weapon against Yen while he uses western boxing, tae kwon do kicks, and traditional Chinese martial arts. Woods breaks out of the handcuffs which chain him to a car, and Yen again draws from his arsenal. He also bursts a bag of cocaine across Ng’s face as the fight breaks out. When Yen turns to handcuff Ng, the captain, also complicit in the drug dealing, shoots Yen’s character in the back of the head, and his blood splatters across the ashen-faced Ng. Yen turns to face the camera and dies dramatically.
Tiger Cage was one of the first Hong Kong films to offer its audience the combination of a good story, strong acting, open-hand martial arts fighting, and heavy gunplay. Unlike Woo’s bloodshed ballets and melodrama, this movie was gritty, more like Miami Vice in its heyday. D&B featured it in its screenings at the Cannes Film Festival in ’88, and the film spread across Europe, giving Donnie Yen cult status there. In the action sequences, audiences can see where Yen wanted to go (and eventually would) in fight choreography. Furthermore, Yen brought Woods and Berwick into the Hong Kong action community, giving himself a distinctive cosmopolitan and non-parochial image in Hong Kong and adding to his reputation as a real fighter. Woods and Berwick became the first ‘gweilos’ to have exclusive deals with the Yuen Clan.
Director: Yuen Wo-ping
Cast: Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, Carol Cheng Yu-ling, Simon Yam Tat-wah, Donnie Yen, Irene Wan Pik-ha, Ng Man-tat, Stephan Berwick, Michael Woods, Leung Ka-yan, Wang Lung-wei, Wai Kei-sun, Yuen Sun-yi, Fung Hak-on, Yuen Cheung-yan, Mak Tai-kit, Chan King