cast: Lou Ferrigno, Reb Brown, Michael Dante
What seems just another banal action film is a story of friendship, but it still kicks ass. The titular cage fights, occurring within an illegal underground club run by the Asian mafia known as Tongs, serves as a sporadic glimpse into what’s to come. While most of the film deals with two Vietnam Vets, Reb Brown as Scott and Lou Ferrigno as Billy, both shown in a Vietnam era prologue: Billy saves Scott’s life by grasping his hand in an ascending helicopter to keep him from falling – after being shot in the head. The loss of blood causes brain damage... And fifteen years later: Scott owns a bar and takes care of Billy like a mildly retarded son. The characters that really drive the film are two shifty but likable Italian thugs played by Michael Dante and Mike Moroff who, cornered by an impending debt, kidnap Billy to partake in cage fighting: both serving as not only plot catalysts but comic relief. So an enraged Scott seeks Billy, wielding a shotgun like only Reb can, and hunts down a gang the Italians used as a patsy. Brown has never been better, showing intensity in place of his usual macho cool; and Ferrigno nails the role as a friendly man-child who, when pushed too far, all but turns green in that cage: where only the winner survives. James Shigeta makes a great head villain, running the illegal bouts with an iron fist and shifting rules and the always dependable character-actor Al Ruscio, as an Italian mobster, adds his own weight to elevate the already topnotch proceedings.