An early work by John Woo, LAST HURRAH FOR CHIVALRY is a fairly traditional kung fu/swordplay drama about shifting loyalties among a group of independent swordsmen in old China. Boasting above-average action and photography, it clearly foreshadows Woo's later work. This 1978 Hong Kong film
made its official US debut on home video in 1997.
On the night of his wedding party, Master Kao Pun is attacked by his father's mortal enemy, Pak Chung Tong (Lee Hai Sheng), whose band wipes out most of Kao's party. Desperate for revenge, the wounded Kao seeks the Moonshadow sword from his martial arts master, who denies it to him on the grounds
that evil intent will result in evil deeds. Seeking a master swordsman who will help him get revenge, Kao cultivates a relationship with Chang (Wei Pai), once known as "the Magnificent Sword," a poor man who has forsaken swordplay to care for his sick mother.
An attack on Kao's hideout by Pray (Feng Ko An), a rival swordsman seeking to challenge Chang, forces Chang to meet the challenge and kill Pray in a duel. Feeling obligated to Kao, Chang agrees to attack the stronghold of Pak Chung Tong. Joined by a new comrade, the drifting swordsman Tsing-yi
(Damian Lau), Chang is able to defeat all of Pak's fighters. The two men then take on Pak himself, defeating him in a room full of candles.
Tsing-yi reveals to Chang that Kao had secretly offered him money to kill Chang. Meanwhile, Kao forces his master to reveal the site of the Moonshadow sword and then kills him. He then initiates a fight with Tsing-yi, who is quickly joined by Chang. The powers of the sword nearly enable Kao to
defeat the two men, but Tsing-yi delivers a death blow to Kao just as Kao does the same to him, sacrificing himself to save his friend.
A production from the early phase of director Woo's career, LAST HURRAH FOR CHIVALRY gives fans of Woo's later work (A BETTER TOMORROW, THE KILLER, BROKEN ARROW, FACE/OFF) the chance to see him develop his expertise at staging action and telling stories of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal among a
close-knit group of men. The central grouping of Chang, Tsing-yi and Kao Pun looks forward to the trios of buddies in A BETTER TOMORROW (1986) and A BULLET IN THE HEAD (1990); in all three cases, three friends are torn apart when one betrays the other two.
Woo shoots the action straight on, with few cuts, in the manner of a Japanese samurai film rather than that of the traditional kung fu film. In contrast to the HK swordplay films of the 1990s (e.g., BLADE OF FURY, SWORDSMAN 2, KUNG FU CULT MASTER), the fight choreography, though expertly staged,
is slower and more studied, offering a bare minimum of the wire work and trampoline stunts we've come to expect from the genre. (Violence.)
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- Released: 1978
- Rating: NR
- Review: An early work by John Woo, LAST HURRAH FOR CHIVALRY is a fairly traditional kung fu/swordplay drama about shifting loyalties among a group of independent swordsmen in old China. Boasting above-average action and photography, it clearly foreshadows Woo's la… (more)