Sunday, August 5, 2018

Cage (1989)

Cage poster

Tagline:

Only the winner gets out alive.

Movie Review:

Cage 1
Billy and Scott, hanging out since 1969!

You push play and find yourself in Vietnam, 1969. Intense POV shots take you through the jungle as the sounds begin to come to life; bullets are whizzing by, Reb Brown is screaming, voices become clearer from all sides, then the explosions start! Man, now THAT'S how you start a movie! A group of four guys are trying to make it to their landing zone but the enemy is seemingly everywhere. They get where they're supposed to be but the chopper is late! Holding out as best as they can four become three, and then two... It's only Bill and Scott (Ferrigno and Brown) left standing as the helicopter sets down. Bill throws a fallen soldier over his shoulder and heads for relative safety as Scott tries to find an opening. He finds it, but just as he reaches out the bullets hit him. My, this is exciting, isn't it? Bill reaches out and grabs hold of his friend as they start to take off. He's got a good grip since he's strapped himself to the pilot's seat but just then... A bullet catches him in the temple! He hangs on, they get away, but their lives will be forever changed. THIS IS ALL BEFORE THE OPENING CREDITS! 

Cage 2
Billy needs that bullet like he needs a hole in the... Oh.

Recovery is a long and arduous process for the both of them, especially Billy. He's suffered serious brain damage and is left with the mind of a child. It becomes clear that Scott will be by his side, no matter what, helping him as much as he can to get healthy and learn to live life again. It feels like Scott figures every minute of the life he now gets to live is thanks to Billy and so there isn't anything he won't do for the man that gave him that second chance. Together, they make up the action movie equivalent of Bert and Ernie. Let's jump ahead to Los Angeles, 1989. Scott owns a bar frequented by vets and Billy helps out. Scott is equal parts friend, guardian, big brother, etc. It's also now that we're introduced to some shady shenanigans happening elsewhere in town. Illegal underground death matches fought in a cage and overseen by Yin (Shigeta), the local leader of the Tongs (Chinese Mafia).  

Cage 3
Ear today! Gone Tomorrow!

Back at the bar we learn through exposition that the guys are having money troubles and things are starting to get serious. Then, an 80's gang walks in and starts trouble, that is, they give trouble a shot before our heroes kick the living snot out of 'em. Scott still has the skills to kill and Billy doesn't take kindly to people messing with his best friend. While all of this is going on two guys, Tony and Mario, who stopped in to drown their sorrows after landing themselves a healthy debt with Yin see what's going on and start getting some ideas. The initial offer to fight is of course dismissed but guys like that, they don't take no so easily. They hire the punks that caught the earlier beat-down to burn up the bar forcing the financial stress angle. That happens, but somebody was inside when the place went up...

Cage 4
This guy's batty!

Cage 5
Their bar is the town's hot spot!

It turns out that Tony and Mario owe money to other dangerous people already and time is running out for them. So, they wait for a chance to get Billy alone and, with the story that Scott wants them to look after him, they manage to lure him away. They see Billy as their only way out of trouble and are hell-bent on tricking him into fighting in order to make that fast money. Finding his friend gone, Scott turns to the police who are, predictably, no help at all. He won't stand for that, not at all, and essentially goes on a rampage while tracking Billy down! He leaves a significant amount of fire and bullets in his wake while closing in on the secret location of the next match. 

Cage 6
Apple turnover anybody?

Cage 7
Reb Brown! Equal opportunity destroyer!

All this covers the first half or so of the movie. There's a lot more going on as well; a strange woman with a camera, a mysterious cop who hangs around but makes no moves, secret identities, other fights, etc. Truth is, there's a lot to discuss! I've decided to let most of it go so as not to ruin the enjoyment for any potential fans. CAGE gives you a lot of movie for your money, and that's terrific. Not to mention the car chases, splattery squibs, brutal battles to the death, and more! Solid action for sure but what might surprise many is Ferrigno's turn as the child-like Billy.

Everybody is great, there are no complaints, but Lou truly stands out. I have a weakness for stuff like this. What can I say? I'm a sensitive guy! You feel for Billy, you care what happens to him. It's a fantastic performance and it's a memorable one. Reb is no joke either! Really, everybody flies high in CAGE. There's always something interesting happening so it's an absolute blast to watch from start to finish! I have to give an honorable mention to Al Ruscio as Costello. In his first five minute scene he packs in enough outrageous political incorrectness for three or four different movies. And he often left me laughing before he was done. CAGE is highly recommended!

Cage 8
And she's buying the stairway to heaven....

Notes:

  • This movie would seem to be a loose remake of Heart of Dragon, a Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung Hong Kong movie from 1985. 
  • Cameo: Look for 80's wrestling personality Queen Kong in the 'pool hall/hangout' scene. 
  • Cameo: Look for Danny Trejo in a uncredited part as a gangster named Danny. 
  • Cameo: Look for Matthias Hues as the Italian fighter.
  • The actor who played Yin's champion fighter, Chang, was played by Tiger Chung Lee. He had a wrestling background as well. This was his last role until 2012.
  • Director Lang Elliot was not known for action when he made this movie. He had plenty of experience working on Tim Conway and Don Knotts films though!
  • There is a sequel, CAGE II, which reunites Lou and Reb and also adds Shannon Lee and Leo Fong!
  • Pictures displayed are definitely a low-budget endeavor and are meant only to indicate content and are in NO WAY meant to reflect the quality of the presentation.
Reviewed by Xtro the Mutilator

Cage 9

Billy! Don't be a hero!

Trailer:

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