A muddled mess of kung fu cliches, made cheaply in Thailand in 1989 as DEATH CAGE and alternately released as BLOODFIGHT 2. Notable as the first starring role for Robin Shou, the film was redubbed MORTAL COMBAT 2: THE DEATH CAGE for its 1997 home-video release in order to confuse viewers
familiar with Shou from his starring turns in the MORTAL KOMBAT films.
When fighter Lan Se Han (Robin Shou) loses a bout, his father is forced to close the Wai Chai gym and fix cars for a living. But without the Wai Chai fighters, evil Mr. Kent (Joe Lewis) finds profits dwindling at his bouts, so he challenges Lan into a return match, at which he tricks Lan's sister
into spiking Lan's drink. Lan wins nonetheless. In retaliation, Kent sends a pair of female killers to assassinate Lan's uncle and trainer, then kidnaps Lan's father to provoke him into one last fight to the death. In a bamboo "death cage" studded with sharpened spikes, Lan defeats Kent's fighter,
sparing his life. But an enraged Kent kills the fighter and attacks Lan, only to die in the cage.
Director Robert Tai was, like Jackie Chan, a Chinese opera school trainee and performer as a child. And like Chan he worked initially as a stunt man and extra before becoming fight director on a host of brilliant films from the Shaw Brothers and others in the late 1970s and early 1980s (FIVE
VENOMS). Gradually growing less prolific as he moved on to directing and producing, by the latter 1980s when this was made he was helming only the occasional undistinguished programmer, eventually turning his hand to producing Taiwanese TV costume dramas. Storywise, MORTAL COMBAT 2: THE DEATH CAGE
recalls countless old period chopsockys, with their wronged-school plots and numerous training sequences, including gimmicky techniques (here it's mechanic fu, with Lan's wise uncle teaching him to fight using tools and car parts around the garage). Structurally weak and internally inconsistent,
the film's script has Lan's entire family supposedly admirable and honorable for closing their school at the beginning and refusing to fight. Instead they come off as wimps.
Leadenly paced and woodenly acted, THE DEATH CAGE is packed with fights aplenty of various martial styles (including pro wrestling). It's interesting that the villains are so clearly identified with America, the stars and stripes hanging on the wall behind Kent in several scenes. In fact, the
background is often more interesting than the action, including quick scenes of Bangkok palaces and a thoroughly unrelated Robin Shou workout/practice bout at one of Thailand's northern wats (prevalent as locations in MORTAL KOMBAT--a possible justification for the deceptive retitling). Brief
snatches of Asian pop tunes also offer slight diversion from the mundane action, which is clearly trimmed of its most violent images, as in the jarring edit around the missing footage of Kent spiking his own man in the cage. (Violence, sexual situations, extreme profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1989
- Rating: NR
- Review: A muddled mess of kung fu cliches, made cheaply in Thailand in 1989 as DEATH CAGE and alternately released as BLOODFIGHT 2. Notable as the first starring role for Robin Shou, the film was redubbed MORTAL COMBAT 2: THE DEATH CAGE for its 1997 home-video rel… (more)