Monday, July 12, 2010

Mondo Monday - CAGE (1989)

Once in a while, a movie comes along that makes you wish you could ask why. I have to be careful not to make fun of Lou Ferrigno for one, very primary reason: I wouldn’t want to fight him in a cage or otherwise. He does appears to have a sense of humor about himself as exemplified in his recent appearance in I Love You Man (2009). I can’t help wondering how it came about that he was convinced to play someone who suffers brain damage to the point of having the mentality of a child. My instinct is to feel a bit offended for him. Was that part of the original story? If so, did they consider Ferrigno because they thought he could handle portraying someone with brain damage? He seems like a nice guy, but it probably goes without saying that he is not much of an actor. A lot of my time watching this movie was spent trying to piece together how they approached this subject with him. You would be surprised to discover that there is very little written on the subject of Cage
Ferrigno’s character Billy Thomas is a soldier fighting in Vietnam who becomes a hero when he rescues fellow soldier Scott Monroe (Reb Brown). Thomas suffers heavy brain trauma during the rescue. After what I am pretty sure is an unintentionally homoerotic convalescence scene, the movie flashes forward twenty years to Los Angles in 1989 where Thomas’ hair has not changed. Monroe and Thomas are running a bar together. Across town, an underground cage match is taking place. Most of the story is about two mob guys trying to trick the dimwitted Thomas into participating in this underground fight circuit. They think he is a sure thing, but Monroe won’t let Thomas fight. Thomas is a sweet guy, but when he gets angry, well, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

The film has some wonderfully inept scenes, including some of the least suspenseful fight sequences ever put to film. There are 28 stuntmen listed in the credits but you wouldn’t know from watching it. There is also one of those really unrealistic 1980s gangs terrorizing the bar where they work. The Chinese Mafia, a device that 1980s action movies were obsessed with for a short period of time, is also involved in the fight ring. For all of the wisdom you would expect from the world’s oldest organized crime syndicate, they are not smart enough to just kill their enemies. Inspired by techniques perfected by Dr. No, they collect them all into a room for the purposes of killing them at a later, more convenient time. I don’t want to give the ending away, but I will tell you instead of waiting around to die, the good guys get it together for the purposes of trying to escape towards a terrifically abrupt ending. The film is hopelessly optimistic at the end by leaving an indicator that there will be a sequel. And there is, apparently. There is even less information available on the subject of Cage II (1994).  I guess the producers felt they had not explored all the layers of Lou Ferrigno’s performance as a gigantic child. 

Billups Allen’s interest in writing began composing lyrics for punk rock bands. Lyrical duties led to an interest in writing poetry and short stories. Several of his short stories were published in a book entitled Unfurnished published by Florida’s now defunct Schematics Records. Allen currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where he writes Cramhole comic zine and writes criticism for Razorcake Magazine, the Tucson Citizen, and the Tucson Weekly. 

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