Tiger Cage AKA Dak Ging to Lung is a rather dark and oddly engaging Hong Kong action crime thriller. It shows you that it’s not fucking around from the first minute as we witness a drug deal turning into a brutal shootout and subsequent chase. You can count on the obligatory unnerving stunts, visceral fights, and cheesy exchanges, a staple of all Hong Kong movies. To be completely honest, I first watched the sequel to this movie, Tiger Cage 2. Apart from some minor elements, the two movies have almost nothing in common. In fact, some characters who are going to die in this movie come back in the sequel.
Ahhh, the eighties were truly a magical time. While the sequel was more of a martial arts movie, this one is more of a gritty police thriller. And just to be clear, there will be no flying kung fu here, just good old-fashioned beating by the numbers. It also toys with the “girls with guns” subgenre best exemplified by the In The Line of Duty franchise featuring no less than seven movies. Tiger Cage also features odd and unexpected twists you won’t find in its Hollywood-produced counterparts. Actually, one of the more intriguing aspects of the movie were those differences.
Although I was expecting them, each time they would catch me by surprise. The movie stars Jacky Cheung, not in any way related to Jacky Chan. Actually, Jacky went on to become an incredibly popular singer selling millions of albums. He actually holds the world record for the largest combined audience for a live act in 12 months (2 million). Although I don’t know how is that possible when you look at some of the numbers other artists are making today. Nonetheless, God of Singing, as Jacky was passionately nicknamed remains one of the most famous Hong Kong singers. He gave a pretty good performance here alongside none other than Mr. Yip Man himself, Donnie Yen.
Hsiu is part of an elite Hong Kong anti-drug police unit and he’s about to start their biggest operation yet. He’s been working undercover for quite some time and now it’s finally time to catch the biggest drug trafficker in Hong Kong, Swatow Hung. They shoot him several times on the bridge before he finally ends up in the murky waters below. While everyone is celebrating the success of the operation, Hsiu is worried that Hung might still be alive. What he doesn’t know is that there’s a traitor among them, waiting for the right time to strike…
Tiger Cage is a movie that instantly immerses you into the neon-lit world of crime in Hong Kong during the eighties. It’s not exactly noir but it’s damn close, especially as the story gets darker and darker until eventually becoming pitch black towards the end. These gloomy moments are blended with childishly heavy-handed bonding between our cop friends. They’re awfully bizarre and pose so many questions about why would someone think this is how people spend their time. Or have fun with their friends. Just another part of the rich tapestry that is Hong Kong action movies.
Another element that I absolutely loved were the frenetic changes in pacing. You have a guy peacefully smoking a cigarette and then bam in a millisecond, he has a gun pointed at his face. One of the bad guys takes a hostage, and bam, that hostage brutally blows his brains out. A quick cut and all the cops are having a party after half of their friends have just been murdered. It is these scenes that keep pushing you to watch this movie and find out what’s going to happen next. Also, some of the fight scenes are truly creative and original, like the one between Jacky and Michael Woods.
Director: Woo-Ping Yuen
Writers: Wing-Fai Wong, Kwong-Kim Yip
Cast: Jacky Cheung, Simon Yam, Man-Tat Ng, Donnie Yen, Ka-Yan Leung, Carol Cheng, Irene Wan
Fun Facts: The director of this movie, Tiger Cage, Woo-Ping Yuen, who started his career in the late seventies, is still active with his latest movie being Qi ren yue dui (2020).