Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979)

This was a much better expenditure of $10 than Venoms was of $25, I will say. Hitherto my knowledge of John Y.S. Woo’s wu xia period was limited to Hand of Death, now I can add this to the tally. And, more so I think than Hand, this one seems to point the way forward to what he’d be doing a decade later; you could take this story set in feudal times and update it without an awful lot of trouble to an 80s Triad film. On the surface, an ostensibly simple revenge narrative: young man, scion of the presumably big Ko family, is about to get married. His wedding night, however, is spoiled by the rival Pak family gatecrashing and massacring everyone in the name of taking back what used to be their property in the first place. Revenge would seem eminently justified. Mind you, the apparent simplicity of the plot is undermined almost right from the start when the bride strikes the first blow against her impending husband, having been paid by Pak to do the dirty. That’s actually a kind of stunning moment, and there’s one or two other things said partly in passing even before the attack that I should’ve paid more attention to, cos they do kind of indicate a not unimportant later plot development (which also clears up a somewhat lengthy earlier scene whose import takes a while to become obvious), after young Ko involves a couple of itinerant swordsmen who take on the task of exacting vengeance. Woo does have a bit of a tonal problem with the film, there’s a fair bit of that trademark epic emotion, but there’s also an occasionally weird undercurrent of humour (particularly in the form of the “Sleeping Buddha”, who seems more like a character from a Jackie Chan film) that’s a bit off-putting and didn’t really work for me. The rest of the film, though, was perfectly fine, standing worthy comparison to his best 80s/early 90s HK films.

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