John Woo's Last Hurrah for Chivalry Blu-ray Review
Honour amongst hired assassins
Movies & TV reviewSRP: £23.99
Last Hurrah for Chivalry Film Review
Showcasing the director's talents for violent well-staged action, as well as his themes of loyalty amongst killers, this early-era martial arts romp sees John Woo honing his skills.Better known for his ballistic ballets of death, filmmaker John Woo was seven years away from his breakthrough Chow Yun-Fat actioner A Better Tomorrow, and another eight from his Hollywood debut with Van Damme in Hard Target when he made 1979's Last Hurrah for Chivalry.
The story has a couple of independent assassins-for-hire recruited to take on a vicious kung fu master who attacked a local businessman and (re-)claimed his lands. Separately testing their mettle against tough opponents, the two eventually come together to make the arduous journey through swathes of the kung fu master's deadly horde and face the ultimate challenge, but can they trust one another to have each other's backs?
Even with only swords to play with, Woo still does bloody ballets of death pretty well
After his directorial debut, Woo had been struggling for five years to make an impression in the martial arts genre, working with Golden Harvest Studios on a number of largely unsuccessful projects. The rarely seen Last Hurrah hardly broke the cycle, but, aside from exhibiting some excellently-staged fight sequences and brief flurries with slo-mo action, it was one of the very first examples of Woo's heroic bloodshed themes, which would go on to define his action film career both in Hong Kong and the US.
Its 'heroes' are thinly-painted and gifted a connection largely only through long and rather loving looks towards one another, but there's clearly a prototype here for what he would hone in everything from The Killer to Hard Boiled. Even with only swords to play with, Woo still does bloody ballets of death pretty well, only briefly (and unnecessarily) relying on wire-fu to give his 'super'-villain the ultimate edge, and staging some very well-shot and expertly choreographed fight scenes, both one-on-one and larger group scenes. The only sequence that perhaps doesn't work is the opening raid which is a shame as it sets the tone for the piece, leaving the action-packed final act really doing all the heavy lifting in the entertainment department. Whilst a bit of judicious editing could have likely made this a more punchy 90 minute romp, there still some fun to be had as the story heads towards its climax, not least by seeing just how much damage our heroes can take (again, Woo would revisit this in his later gun-focussed hits) and still stand.
Last Hurrah for Chivalry Blu-ray PictureEureka brings John Woo's Last Hurrah for Chivalry to UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a brand new 2K-remastered 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the feature's original aspect ratio of 2.4:1 widescreen.
A largely excellent 2K remaster and another fabulous piece of work from Eureka
Despite the 40 year vintage, this relatively low budget feature cleans up very nicely indeed, looking better than ever before (which isn't hard considering it's rarely been seen on any format). Detail is particularly good on close-ups, at times even excellent, with some inherent softness from the stylisation and heavy makeup but generally a very pleasing organic look to skin textures, period garb and background nuances. The colour scheme enjoys some vibrant tones, with dominant reds throughout, and Woo stages some of the action in some stunning environments, not least with a lush green mountain backdrop which looks amazing. Black levels are reasonably strong, although the film is almost devoid of night sequences, and overall this is a largely excellent 2K remaster and another fabulous piece of work from Eureka.
Last Hurrah for Chivalry Blu-ray SoundThere are myriad sound options to accompany the feature, with lossless tracks in numerous languages - a Mandarin Stereo track being the default option, but also Mandarin Mono, Cantonese Stereo, an English Stereo dub and an English 'classic' Mono dub. As with several of Eureka's other comparable releases from this era (including Jet Li's Once Upon a Time in China Trilogy and Jackie Chan's Project A films), picking a track isn't always an easy option as none of them are devoid of dubbing due to the different languages spoken, but certainly the default track is some way above the horrible, comedy English dubs on offer.
Eureka afford their typically comprehensive selection of audio tracks
The tracks do a solid job with the audio components, almost exclusively being front-dominated, but still crafting some semblance of atmosphere, delivering dialogue with prioritisation and no unruly tinny high ends, whilst effects stand out throughout the feature - possibly even too much, as they can get quite intrusively over the top, although that's likely nothing to do with the technical prowess of the audio track - and the theme-driven score provides a nice backdrop to the proceedings, also earning itself space to play with. Eureka affords its typically comprehensive selection of audio tracks, promoting the film with likely the best audio it has ever enjoyed.
Last Hurrah for Chivalry Blu-ray ExtrasAlthough not quite packed with extra features, consideration must be paid to the fact that Last Hurrah for Chivalry is part of a two pack and so that basically doubles the extras package and makes it typically comprehensive for Eureka.
Typically comprehensive for Eureka
Headlined by an informative and enthusiastic Audio Commentary from martial arts cinema 'authority' Mike Leeder, there's also a nice little Archival Interview with Director John Woo, with English subtitles, as well as a Trailer.
Last Hurrah for Chivalry Blu-ray VerdictOne of the very first examples of Woo's heroic bloodshed themes
John Woo's Last Hurrah for Chivalry makes its Blu-ray debut in a 2-pack with John Woo's earlier Hand of Death, both delivered with largely stunning 2K-remastered video, a great selection of audio tracks and a strong selection of extra features including two Audio Commentaries and Interviews with John Woo. Presaging the director's heroic bloodshed golden era of action filmmaking, fans of Woo's oeuvre should consider this worth checking out and, fingers-crossed, it bodes well for them releasing some of his later, early classics on the format.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £23.99
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