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Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979)

With Red Cliff on release in the cinema, perhaps it’s a good time to dust off John Woo’s other swordplay (or wuxia) movie The Last Hurrah For Chivalry.

The movie essentially concerns two hired killers, one semi-retired (Wei Pei) is poor, honest and has refused to draw his sword for years, the other played by Damien Lau is an wine-sploshing acoholic whose every line of dialogue reads like the kind of poetry you might find in clintons (yes, the greetings card shop). After a friendship is formed both men decide to help a sinister and suspicious looking merchant to avenge some deaths and personal insults. The man they must kill is a deadly kung-fu master played by Lee Hoi San.

That’s not all, there are several deceptions which I won’t reveal here beacause it would only bloody ruin it!
One of the more noteable attractions of this, as with any good martial arts movie of course is the sheer volume of action, this is something that Last Hurrah For Chivalry certainly shares with the movies for which John Woo is famous. Pretty much every scene has swordfights attached, blistering, gut-wrenching fights choreographed by Fong Hak On, who is also one of the movies co-villains. For me, the highlight of the movie is watching Wei Pei kick Fong Hak On’s ass in a fight which although made way back in 1981 contains all the slow motion hallmarks of classic John Woo who seems to have a knack of making the tired old concept of two guys in a field fighting each other into a work of art (minus some guns and thankfully, doves).

On the downside there are some awkward interjections of comedy such as a bizzarre sequence when one of the bad guys uses a sleeping style of sword-fu, in which he literally sleeps whilst fighting. Moments like these, make the movie lose track, and for me it suffers when compared to something like Shaw Brother’s Death Duel, a superior movie which maintains more convincing performances and more believable wuxia themes.

To wrap this one up however, I should say that it’s pretty much impossible to see why Last Hurrah should be missed by fans of John Woo, or fans of good old fight fests.

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