Tiger Cage 3 (HK 1991)

Rating: **
Review Date: 3/12/00
Director: Yuen Woo Ping
Cast: Cheung Man, Cheung Kwok Leung, Michael Wong

Hmmm... The final entry in Yuen Woo Ping's "Tiger Cage" (1988) action series, this is a bleak and vicious tale of love, betrayal, greed, corruption, and intrigue. Suki (impossibly sexy Cheung Man) is a smart and cunning business woman on the fast track to wealth and success. She serves as an assistant to the vile and nasty corporate slimeball, Mr. Lee. Her boyfriend is the naive but ever faithful James (Cheung Kwok Leung), who is an inspector on the police force along with his selfish and greedy partner, John (Michael Wong). John decides to eavesdrop on a business meeting of Mr. Lee's and gets some incriminating evidence along with some great insider trading tips. However, the deal goes sour, leaving lots of people dead. John ends up bankrupt and accused of extortion, Suki is kidnapped and exploited by Mr. Lee, and James is badly burned and left for dead trying to rescue her. Mr. Lee presses Suki into "business" with him and she quietly accepts her fate by laying low and sleeping with the enemy. The final third of the film is a wild flurry of vengeance, with each of the main characters playing out their own vendetta. Unfortunately, this backfires and there's no happy ending in sight for anyone.

First of all, I have to say that this was a hard movie for me to watch because of its horrible treatment of women. Even though the female characters in the film are strong, confident, and defiant, they're constantly being victimized and taken advantage of by slimy men. Ick. The beautiful and immensely talented Cheung Man delivers a fantastic performance as both the victim and the woman in charge. She literally owns the movie. Additionally, this film is quite a departure from the first two "Tiger Cage" films, which were just balls-out action flicks. This is a dark and malicious film, and while Yuen Woo Ping serves up some great martial arts fighting sequences, they seem woefully out of place within the framework of the story. Upon further reflection, I realized that the film is a study in duplicity. Everyone in the film is two-faced, which makes it hard to identify with anyone or root for them. Mr. Lee is a legitimate businessman and a powerful criminal. John is a cop, but he's also a thief and a spy. Suki is both an innocent victim and a manipulative bitch. Even the kind-hearted James is physically two-faced, from having half of his face badly burned in an explosion. This schizophrenia is found all throughout the film, and ultimately in its execution. Is it an action film or a crime drama? It can't seem to make up its mind and jerks awkwardly back and forth between hardcore kung fu action, and the political drama of the business world. The action scenes make even less of an impact because neither Suki or Mr. Lee are involved in them. They're all played out by the supporting cast which makes them seem secondary to the plot. Cheung Kwok Leung performs some very impressive stuff, but it's a shame that Cheung Man didn't get to trade chops with anyone. Definitely an odd film, and one that's difficult to enjoy.