Genius Products // 1979 // 107 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dylan Charles (Retired) // August 6th, 2007
"I am grateful that we met, while devastating mutual enemies with our swords."
Folks familiar with John Woo most likely think of films such as, say, Hard Boiled or Face/Off (or Broken Arrow, a crime that I'll never forgive Woo for). But back in the dark, pre-Dylan Charles days of the 1970's, John Woo directed Last Hurrah of Chivalry, which departs from the seedy gangster world and enters the glory years of the Chinese empire.
Kao Pun (Kong Lao) is boosted from his digs on his wedding day by the gate crashing Pak (Lee Hoi-San). Kao is no match for Pak by himself, so he calls on the help of a great fighter named Chang (Pai Wei) and his shady assassin buddy Green (Damian Lau).
But is all that it seems? Will Pak be defeated? Will Green learn the meaning of true friendship? Will there be a lengthy fight scene between Chang, Green and a narcoleptic double sword wielding henchmen?
Really, the reason most people go to a John Woo film is to see action. Extremely stylized, two guns blazing, slow motion falling, doves-a-flying action.
And there is action in Last Hurrah for Chivalry.
Sweet merciful buckets of Betty, is there action.
But, and this is a nitpick really, it's not really John Woo-ian action. The swordfights, the lengthy rounds of fisticuffs are impressively done and done with flair. As one of the actors points out, in these days most fight scenes were around 100 strokes per shot. John Woo would try and cram three times that in one scene.
And the fights grow more and more elaborate as the movie progresses with increasingly strange elements being thrown into the mix. At the beginning there's a sword fight that goes on for more than four minutes and it's a fairly impressive bit of fight choreography. But this is nothing. By the end of the movie there will be cage matches, fire breathing, the aforementioned narcoleptic sword master and even a flying villain.
And the plot, which kind of gets forgotten amongst the bloody free-for-alls that litter the movie, develops in the same way. What seems like a straightforward story ("I must avenge my father!") becomes increasingly more complex. Redemption, betrayal, all part and parcel. But really, the storyline will vanish from the scene altogether to allow fight scene after fight scene to take the stage.
And, please forgive me because I know I'll be in the minority on this, there's TOO much action. There's not one, but two final battles with a boss, each one taking a large portion of time to complete. By the time Chang and Green have dispatched their seventh ninja each, you're ready for a line of dialogue that is longer than the witty one-liner. There are just too many lengthy fight scenes strung together without any real break in-between. An action scene loses some of its intensity when it's preceeded and followed by twenty minutes of action scenes.
And then there's the conspicuous absence of John Woo in the whole proceeding. While Last Hurrah for Chivalry is a solidly made film and done with flair, there's not a whole lot there that tells you John Woo was there. But that's nitpicking really.
The features are a little uneven. The featurette on the weapons used in the film is interesting enough, but it's only ten minutes long. The two interviews with Fung Hak-On (a choreographer and the actor who played Pray in Last Hurrah for Chivalry) and Lee Hoi-San give a glimpse of John Woo's early days in the industry, but once again it's all too short. The commentary is by the same guy who hosts the weapons featurette, Bey Logan and is as informative as you could hope it to be.
Strangely absent from the disc in any form is John Woo himself. No commentaries, no featurettes, he's just not there. Anything would have been nice.
Oh and one last note. The English track is an abomination unto the Lord. I've heard some bad dubbing jobs, but this one takes the cake. I could only listen to five minutes or so before I bailed.
On the whole, Last Hurrah for Chivalry is a fun ride well worth at least a rental. Minor problems and a John Woo film devoid of John Woo shouldn't distract you from what is ultimately a fun action piece.
Last Hurrah for Chivalry is guilty of being an action movie with too much action. Which I guess is a fine at worst. Free to go.
Review content copyright © 2007 Dylan Charles; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Cantonese)
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (Cantonese)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 1979
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Pray for Death: An Interview with Fung Hak-On
* Deliver Us From Evil: An Interview with Lee Hoi-San
* Legendary Weapons of China Featurette
* Feature Commentary By Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan
* Trailer Gallery