It’s been far too long since we covered anything starring Reb Brown or Lou Ferrigno so today I thought I would rectify that by doing a Versus between Cage and Cage II: the Arena of Death.
So, let’s take a look and see which is the better film but please note there are some spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen either movie.
Plot: A GI in Vietnam saves his buddy’s life, but in the process is shot in the head. The injury results in brain damage to the point where he basically has a child’s brain in a man’s body. When they get out of the Marine Corps, the two open up a bar together, but some local gangsters make things tough for them after they refuse to take part in brutal “cage” matches where fighters battle to the point of serious injury and/or death.
Not only do I think Cage is one of my favourite Reb Brown movies but it’s also one of Lou Ferrigno’s finest hours too; as the synopsis says above the story starts off in Vietnam with our two heroes Billy Thomas (Lou Ferrigno) and Scott Monroe battling their way to a helicopter to escape to freedom. During the battle Scott nearly gets left behind but Billy grabs him and makes sure he is on board the helicopter; Billy gets shot in the head which puts him in hospital and when he wakes up he is handicapped and needs Billy to look after him. The two own a bar but when mobsters want Billy to fight in their cage match for them the two friends will end up having to fight once again.
What surprised me about this film was that our two leads are essentially just normal guys; they are far from invincible and there is genuine sensitivity as Scott has to look after Billy who is basically now a child. Both are appealing characters and I found Ferrigno’s character quite heartbreaking especially when he says “I died years ago”.
You may be thinking, well that’s all well and good but is there action? There is indeed, not only does the film start off in Vietnam with a battle scene but we get regular fight scenes throughout and the sequence with Scott looking for Billy with a shotgun in hand is arguably the highlight. He shows no mercy especially on Branscombe Richmond’s gangster Diablo but he is a rather hilarious stereotype who is just there to be a dick then get killed and he does it admirably.
Cage has an awesome supporting cast including two Die Hard alumni Al Leong (playing a rare hero) and James Shigeta who plays the villainous Tin Lum Yin. There are also small roles for Matthias Hues and Danny Trejo which is a bonus.
There are regular fight scenes which have more emotion to them than the usual action pictures as I found myself really caring about our two protagonists, especially Billy who is an innocent that has no desire to fight.
It’s a well-paced hour and 40 minutes and although there are some leaps in logic (pretty sure Al Leong giving them the briefcase of money at the end wouldn’t happen as it’s evidence) but as a character driven action picture it’s hard to dislike due to our two leads.
Overall, Cage is a hugely entertaining fight flick that has plenty of beatdowns, some shoot-outs and memorable characters with a great cast making this a fun time.
Cage 2: The Arena of Death (1994)
Plot: After being tricked into thinking his best friend, and caretaker is dead, Vietnam Vet, and mentally disabled person has no other choice but to enter The Arena Of Death!
This sequel came out 5 years after the original which is quite the gap but it continues where the first one left off with Billy (Lou Ferrigno) and Scott (Reb Brown) going about their lives after the events of the first film but it doesn’t take long before Billy is kidnapped, drugged and made to cage fight courtesy of villain Tin Lum Yin who didn’t die at the end of the first film. James Shigeta returns in the role and is even more hateful this time around as he manipulates Billy into doing his bidding.
Sadly, this follow up clearly has a lower budget and looks cheaper than the original but it arguably has even more fight scenes with Billy and Scott still appealing characters. We also have another decent supporting cast including Shannon Lee (Bruce’s daughter), Gerald Okimura and James Lew who never disappoints as Tin Lum Yin’s henchman Chin.
Arena of Death has a longer runtime of an hour and 50 minutes and it still moves along well but I’ve always hated the way the film ends. We never see Tin Lum Yin get what he deserves when he should have been thrown in a wood chipper or something equally as satisfying.
Billy is essentially the main character this time still struggling with his disability but the drugs he is given by Tin Lum Yin make him stronger but also begin to have an adverse effect on his health. Scott teams up with some Interpol agents and they work together to find and rescue Billy but Scott has to undergo some training of his own.
Overall, Cage 2: The Arena of Death may have a lower budget than the first film but it has enough fight scenes to keep things moving and our two leads are still appealing. James Lew and James Shigeta make for nasty bad guys so it’s another entertaining watch.
Although the second movie arguably has more fight scenes it lacks the production values of the first looking cheaper and the ending is frustrating so, for me I prefer the first film as it’s just a more satisfying watch all round but both are a fun time.