Last Hurrah for Chivalry

On the day of his wedding local noble Kao is visited by uninvited guests. A deadly kung fu master named Pai and his men. Pai had previously lost much of his land to Koa's father and sensing that the son is weaker than his father he decides now is an opportune moment to strike back. A fight ensues and Koa is badly wounded and his clan devastated. Koa Bitter that he was not able to defend his family and was unable to defeat the deadly Pai, Koa sets about looking for a way to get revenge at any cost. In the town their are two great swordsmen, one the hot tempered Chang has renounced the sword and works with horses, the other Green spends his day's drunk when not taking on jobs as an assassin. It does not take Koa long to figure out there must be a way he can use them to take down Pai.

1978's Last Hurrah for Chivalry was produced by Raymond Chow's Golden Harvest and written and directed by none other than legendary action director John Woo. Woo spent most of the seventies working on Martial arts films and the early 80's working in comedy. It was not until 1986's A better Tomorrow that he would hit on the style that would make him a legend in his own lifetime, though his other 1986 action outing Heroes Shed No Tears should not be overlooked in terms of enjoyment. 1976's Hand Of Death was competent outing for the young Woo, but Last Hurrah for Chivalry takes things to another level and is much more than just a curiosity piece for those looking into Woo's early career. In fact Last Hurrah for Chivalry is a very, very good old school swordplay movie. Where Hand Of Death hinted at what was to come later in Woo's career, Last Hurrah for Chivalry is very clearly a Woo film hand guns aside. The classic Woo themes are now firmly in place with honour, loyalty and male bonding top of the menu.

The other thing that marks this out as a John Woo film is the action. There are no birdcages being broken or slow motion white doves yet, but the action is played at a breakneck pace. In the second half of the movie you hardly get time to draw breath so constant is the fighting. Though you can't describe the film as gory it's certainly very bloody as the various characters hack and slash their way through opponents. The plot follows the revenge theme as does most of the genre, but Woo manages to throw in some brilliant twists.

Wei Pai (Five Deadly Venoms) Damian Lau (Duel to the Death, What Price Survival) are great in the lead roles as Chang and Green respectively. Lau Kong is great as Kao and shows off some pretty mean fight skills as does Lee Hoi San (Magnificent Butcher) as bad guy Pai.

Chang and Green storming Pai's home and taking on his various guards make for classic old school kung fu stuff especially when they take on the deadly but narcoleptic "sleeping Buddha". Fans of both John Woo's work and Old School Kung Fu flicks should seek this one out.