Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979)

Genres - Action, Adventure  |   Sub-Genres - Martial Arts  |   Run Time - 106 min.  |   Countries - Hong Kong   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Donald Guarisco

This early effort from John Woo combines the wild excesses of the kung-fu comedy genre with the heroic/tragic themes of his later work. The end result isn't always successful, but it is never dull. Some viewers might be thrown off by the script, which veers wildly from slapstick comedy to deadly serious drama and thus makes the story a rather schizophrenic affair. However, Last Hurrah for Chivalry manages to work despite the wobbly tone thanks to a combination of non-stop action and lean, stylish direction from John Woo. Kung-fu fans will definitely get their money's worth out of Last Hurrah for Chivalry because it delivers a steady stream of martial arts set pieces that grow ever more complex in location and technique: the most impressive arrives when heroes Zhang and Green storm a fortress in pursuit of a villain and are forced to fight their way through an array of colorful fighters and obstacles -- a battle royale that climaxes with a stunning sword-fight in a chamber full of candles. These set pieces are all the more effective and impressive because Woo uses minimal editing, wide angles, and long takes to show off the performer's physical prowess. Elsewhere, Woo works his familiar themes of loyalty and honor in a changing world: the relationship between Zhang and Green echoes the gangsters' friendships in A Better Tomorrow and the final image will be familiar to anyone who's ever seen The Killer. In the end, non-martial arts fans might get thrown by some of the film's excesses but Last Hurrah for Chivalry remains well worth a look to kung-fu fans and anyone interested in John Woo's early work.