Tiger Cage 2 (HK 1990)

Rating: ***
Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Cast: Donnie Yen, Rosamund Kwan, David Wu, Robin Shou, Garry Chau, Cynthia Khan, Carol Cheng, Michael Woods, John Salvetti

Waise Chow (Robin Shou) is both a lawyer and a crime lord. When David Wu brings seven million dollars of US money to Hong Kong for Chow to launder, his partner gets killed and the money disappears. Unfortunately for hot-headed cop Dragon Yau (Donnie Yen) and timid divorce lawyer Mandy Chang (pretty Rosamund Kwan), they witness the crime and become suspects. Yau and Chang are on the run for the rest of the movie and must put aside their differences if they're ever going to clear their names and see justice done.

Awesome stuff. Much better than the first "Tiger Cage" (1988), and almost non-stop action. Mercifully, Donnie Yen gets the lead this time and his fighting is spectacular! Both he and Robin Shou are in top form and the two of them deliver some of the finest moments that martial arts cinema has to offer. David Wu also gives his best fighting performance, and the sword fight between Donnie Yen and John Salvetti is utterly fantastic. Adorable Rosamund Kwan (with a really cute haircut) is pretty much the comedic foil/awkward love interest/damsel in distress throughout the entire film, but even she gets to dish out some punishment towards the end. And the always lovely Inspector Yeung herself (Cynthia Khan), shows up a couple of times to deal justice, but her role is reduced to cameo status. In the international version of the film (confusingly called "Tiger Cage") the fight between Donnie Yen and Robin Shou is replaced with a fight between Cynthia Khan and Robin Shou. Apparently, many countries prefer seeing the police take care of criminals instead of seeing glorified vigilante justice. Sadly, it's a short and unremarkable fight and the original ending is much better.

Notes on the Chinese DVD release: What a disappointment! I'm beginning to realize that buying second-rate DVDs from Hong Kong isn't such a good idea. The re-issue of the original "Tiger Cage" by Media Asia was awesome, but Huan Ya's treatment of this classic is pathetic. Don't get me wrong - the video transfer is beautiful and it's great to finally see this film in its pristine form, but the audio is atrocious. The entire film has been re-dubbed in Mandarin, putting an echo effect on everyone's voices like they're in a giant cavern. Totally unacceptable.

Notes on the American DVD release: The US release from Bonzai is only marginally better than the Huan Ya release. It features the same awful Mandarin soundtrack as the other disc, but it also has a new English dub. This is the only time you'll hear me say that the English dubbing is actually better than the horrific Mandarin Dolby 5.1 remix. The English dubbing is fair for the most part, but Robin Shou's voice is terribly off. This is also the original Hong Kong cut of the film with the showdown between Donnie Yen and Robin Shou.

Notes on the Joy Sales DVD release: FINALLY! The Joy Sales Hong Kong release of the DVD is the ultimate version of the film. Don't bother with any other version. It's widescreen, subtitled, and retains the original Cantonese audio track. It's pretty much just like the original (and exceedingly rare) laserdisc release.