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Cage
(1989)

Director: Lang Elliott 
Cast:
Lou Ferrigno, Reb Brown, Michael Dante


Looking back at all the reviews I have written, sometimes even I am amazed at how harsh I have been with some bad reviews. Enough so that sometimes I wonder if readers think I am a negative person, even though I try my hardest to review good movies on a regular basis. Believe me, there is love in my heart, a lot of it being devoted to movies. There are a lot of other things I love as well, such as the Internet, reading, and taking a walk around my neighborhood in the early evening. But even with all those positive things in my life, I must admit that there are things in my world that fill me with feelings of annoyance. A bad movie can do that to me, as well as things like getting stuck in a slow-moving line of people. But one of the things that fills me with extreme loathing is sports. Let me explain in part as to why I dislike sports so much. For the first reason, I would like to bring up an old Tex Avery cartoon, the title of which I have unfortunately long forgotten. The cartoon was about a look at all kinds of sports, so you can probably imagine that the only reason I was watching it was because it was directed by Tex Avery. Anyway, one segment was a look at bicycle racing. Several bicyclists were racing around a round track. The bicyclists made a complete circuit around the track. They didn't stop, they then made another complete circuit around the track. The race wasn't over yet, because they then made another circuit around the track. And after that, they made another circuit around the track. Suddenly, the cyclists froze in place, and alll of them turned their heads towards the audience and they uttered in unison, "Monotonous, isn't it?"

Yes, I admit it: I find many sports to be utterly boring, whether it is watching people circling over and over around a track, or realizing that just about nothing is happening when I flip through the channels on TV and come across a golf tournament. Many sports consist of people doing the same things over and over, and I find nothing exciting about that. Another reason that I extremely dislike sports forces me to reveal a dirty secret about myself. I am not good at playing sports. Ever since I was a child, I have been hopeless at every sport I have tried. Gym class at school was a nightmare for me, so I was very glad that once I got to high school I didn't have to participate in gym class anymore. By that time, I had been humilated so many times that any subsequent mention of any sport provoked a negative reaction from me. Despite my reasoning, you may be saying, "Oh, there must be some sports that you like! What about sports that have to do with hand to hand combat? You have liked movies where people have done so." I will freely admit that I like watching movies like Martial Outlaw and King Of The Kickboxers, where people repeatedly kick and punch the crap out of each other. But when it comes to watching people in real life actually kicking, punching, and doing all sorts of damage to each other, I am not entertained. Take professional wrestling, for example. Some of the wrestling moves the contestants do may be amazing by themselves, but the matches as a whole are treated as a joke, with plenty of goofiness done by the contestants before, during, and after a match. It's all obviously faked, so I can't take it seriously.

You might be wondering what I think of real fighting sports, ranging from old fashioned boxing to the more modern fighting sports (such as the Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts.) You might be surprised, but I don't fancy seeing those real fights as well. Unlike many fights in movies, CageI find the fighting in these real bouts much slower and not as exciting. There's also another reason - seeing people fight in movies may be entertaining sometimes, but seeing real people getting really hurt, well, I am kind of uncomfortable by the sight of that. I'll stick to seeing fictional characters getting beat up in a serious way, thank you. However, I must admit occasionally filmmakers will portray a fight that makes me uncomfortable as much as seeing a real fight. That's a feeling I felt several times while watching Cage as a teenager. Recently, I found a copy of it, and I decided to revisit it to see if I would feel the same way. But before getting into my feelings about the fights, first a plot synopsis: The story starts in Vietnam in the year 1969, where soldiers Billy Thomas (Ferrigno, The Incredible Hulk) and Scott Monroe (Brown, Strike Commando) are among a group of soldiers retreating from an enemy attack. Billy saves Scott's life during their escape, but in the process gets shot in the head. The result of that is that Billy now has the intelligence of a child. Scott takes care of Billy for the next twenty years, with both of them making a living at Scott's Los Angeles bar. One night at the bar, Tony (Michael Dante) and Mario (Mike Moroff, Death Wish 4), two lowlife gangsters in debt to Tong crime lord Chang (former wrestler Tiger Chung Lee), visit the bar and witness Billy and Scott beating up some misbehaving patrons. Seeing how great Billy fights, the two gangsters subsequently kidnap Billy and enter him into the illegal cage fights that Chang runs, feeling that Billy can make them enough bucks to pay off their debts. Meanwhile, Scott is frantically searching through L.A.'s underbelly to find his missing friend. Can the uncomprehending Billy hold on long enough through multiple fights before Scott finds him?

I can take a lot from your average B movie. As you've probably seen from my other reviews, it usually takes a lot to offend me. But watching Cage again after so many years, there were times when I had the same uneasy feeling I had when I first watched the movie. Watching it, I was reminded of a children's science fiction movie I once saw called The Aurora Encounter. That movie had an alien that was played by a child. But not just any old child actor - the child actor in that movie was played by a child suffering from progeria, a condition that makes the sufferer look elderly despite being a very young age. Because of this, the filmmakers didn't need that much makeup to make this child actor look "alien". Although the child chose to star in the movie (the experience was arranged through the Make A Wish Foundation), the way he was used still struck me as exploitive, a feeling I also experienced with Cage. Now I know Ferrigno is not mentally handicapped, suffering instead from partial deafness that contributed to his somewhat slurred speech. But the makers of Cage seemed to be exploiting Ferrigno's real-life handicaps to make his character appear to be mentally challenged. To me, that's a kind of exploitation, one that doesn't make me feel comfortable. But even if Ferrigno didn't suffer from any true disabilities, I would still feel uncomfortable with the idea of this movie. The idea of taking someone who is mentally challeneged and forcing him to beat multiple opponents to a pulp (while getting beat up to a pulp in the process) seems unusually cruel, even for a B movie. I simply couldn't get any enjoyment out of any of the fights Ferrigno's character gets into, and I wanted the fights to stop so I didn't have to see this character suffer any further.

That's how I feel. I don't know how you personally feel about the premise of this movie, but I feel that there would be other people uncomfortable about this premise. Though at the same time, I am sure there are people with thicker skin who would have little to no objection about Cage's premise, and would instead have their focus on whether the movie delivered the goods or not. To those people, I have to report that Cage falls far short when it comes to delivering the goods. They will probably expect that with Ferrigno in the cast, there will be a lot of scenes showing him fighting. But that isn't the case. Ferrigno's first fight is that aforementioned bar brawl, taking place in the movie's first twenty or so minutes. Guess how long it takes for Ferrigno to be in his second fight? As it turns out, we have to sit through about fifty minutes of the movie before Ferrigno gets into his second fight. And it is not worth the wait for that next fight, nor for the subsequent bouts. The fight scenes are simply not very well made in this movie. The various sluggings and kickings are pretty indistinguishable from the hundreds of other B movies concerning underground fight tournaments. After seeing so many of those movies myself, I am no longer excited by fights that don't go the extra mile in one or more ways. You might think that there would be a wild animal-like feel to the fights, having a character who is mentally challenged. Curiously, the character of Billy is shown doing a number of fight moves that you would associate with a professional fighter, and as you can probably imagine, it doesn't feel right seeing him fight like a professional.

So if you are looking for some nice beat-'em-up action, it is a certainty that you will be very disappointed by Cage. The movie's other action sequences (car chases, shoot-outs) also fail to be entertaining, being as sporadic as the fight sequences as well as not being well executed. Most of the movie is in fact dull talk padded out to way past the breaking point, making it obvious just how thin this script is. You might be wondering if there is anything entertaining to be found in Cage. Well, when it comes to unintended humor, this movie certainly has its moments, somewhat more than what you may typically find in a movie like this. It doesn't take long at all for the ridiculous moments to start - just a few seconds, in fact, where the opening Vietnam locations look nothing like Vietnam, looking far more like southern California. Later in the movie, we meet a female reporter investigating the illegal fights who wears a fedora and a trenchcoat so that no one will notice her in the crowd as she blatantly takes pictures of the illegal fights with her gigantic camera. Other amusing scenes include a thrown Molotov cocktail completely blowing up a building mere seconds after being thrown, and when the cops subsequently go to the building's owner to tell him his business has burnt down and his employee was killed, the cops immediately leave after telling him this. Yes, Cage has a number of golden moments like those, though not quite enough to make this a so-bad-it's-good movie. Even if there were more, there would still be a bitter aftertaste by the idea of a mentally challenged person forced to fight repeatedly to the death, not to mention that the movie also sports a surprising number of ugly racial slurs. Still, I know the movie could have been worse. How do I know this? Well, five years after Cage was made, they made the sequel Cage II, which I've seen and can report to you that it sinks even lower than this movie managed to do. I'll leave it to another critic to write a review of the sequel, because quite frankly once was enough for me.

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See also: Drive, King Of The Kickboxers, Sinbad Of The Seven Seas

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