No one shoots motion scenes like John Woo. The person’s acquired sufficient high-caliber masterpieces beneath his belt to cement him as one of many greats, with Onerous Boiled, The Killer, and A Higher Tomorrow all serving to put Hong Kong—and Woo himself—on the forefront of top-tier motion footage. These movies, together with a few of his English-language options (primarily the John Travolta and Nic Cage-starring Face-Off, which is simply too gloriously absurd to overlook) confirmed a filmmaker to whom no stunt is simply too massive, no demise rely is simply too excessive, and no shootout too extravagant. Past all these blood-and-bullet ballets, earlier than any of them graced the retinas of motion junkies worldwide, Woo’s martial arts flick Final Hurrah for Chivalry proved the director to be rattling good at his job. It’s a lean, imply motion image that’s technically spectacular, boasting one gloriously-shot sequence after one other, tied along with many off the themes pivotal in Woo’s work.
One of many filmmaker’s few historic items (two of his most up-to-date films, Pink Cliff and The Crossing are lavishly-costumed epics which can be positively value a watch), Chivalry was partially meant as a tribute to wuxia grasp—and Woo’s cinematic mentor—Chang Cheh. Woo had labored with Chang as an assistant director on a string of hits, together with the Shawscope kung-fu flick Boxer from Shantung, and such expertise is made obvious in Woo’s early movies. Whereas a direct comparability between Chang’s boundary-pushing violence and Woo’s personal appears inevitable, Woo’s capability to show violence into one thing operatic is a talent few share. Woo’s catalogue looks like a logical continuation of Chang’s filmic innovations, however it’s additionally one which’s as, if no more, impactful on the state of motion cinema.
‘Final Hurrah for Chivalry’ Set the Tone for John Woo’s Later Movies
Final Hurrah for Chivalry boasts loads of the identical prowess that might later place a lot of Woo’s later flicks in such a spot of reverence. From its opening scene, the movie units up elaborate one elaborate motion sequence after one other and threads them by a twisty, treacherous plot. On his wedding ceremony day, Kao Peng’s (Lau Kong) property is attacked by the villainous Pak (Hoi Sang Lee), who seeks revenge for a generation-old feud between the 2 males’s fathers. The festivities are shortly damaged up as soon as violence erupts. Assassins scale the constructing and Pak’s many henchmen leap right into a murderous rampage. Kao Peng and his loyalists brandish their swords and combat again whereas all falls into bedlam. It’s all gloriously chaotic, with the body stuffed from finish to finish with motion, brining to thoughts the teahouse opening scene of Onerous Boiled.
From there, the flick solely continues to serve up pristine motion because the plot slowly unravels. In search of revenge towards Pak, Kao Peng units out to discover a swordsman expert sufficient to face Pak in battle. Enter Chang (Wai Pak), a former grasp warrior who has deserted his sword for a quiet life and Tsing Yi, nicknamed “Inexperienced” (Damian Lau), a drunken murderer with no allegiance to anyone. There’s additionally the glory-starved swordsman named Future (Fung Hak–on)— “If anybody touches my sword, he’ll meet his future,” he quips. Who will show to be the best warrior of the lot will solely be revealed in time. The one factor that’s sure is that their expertise will likely be put to the take a look at.
‘Final Hurrah for Chivalry’ Is Dense with Motion Sequences
In fact, because it’s a Woo movie, the motion sequences take up a hefty portion of the movie. A raid of Pak’s headquarters in the direction of the tip throws the characters into one combat after one other, showcasing some infectious choreography and slick slow-motion pictures. Close to the middle of the movie, a four-minute-long blood-drenched swordfight within the countryside is among the most masterfully shot you’ll see in any wuxia. Set towards a lush inexperienced forest backdrop, Chang and Future commerce blows, leaping over one another and brawling within the dust like barbarians. Woo’s digicam, in the meantime strikes with an attractive fluidity, capturing the battle with an unusual grace.
It is Themes are What Make ‘Final Hurrah for Chivalry’ Stand Out
What makes Final Hurrah for Chivalry a real standout, although, is its funding within the themes that pervade Woo’s later work—friendship, honor, loyalty, and (after all) chivalry. On the heart of the movie, Inexperienced and Chang type a powerful bond over their mutual appreciation for one another’s expertise. As soon as the bond strengthens right into a strong friendship, the 2 males are compelled to mirror on their very own sense of honor and loyalty. What does it imply for them to be mates? What does it require of them?
Chang passes his days with out a lot indulgence into the violence that after made up his profession. As a substitute, he flexes solely when obligatory, to whoop some road thug that was choosing on a gaggle of youngsters. He beats up his sister’s beau to guard and keep her honor, comically begging the query of whether or not or not Chang is paradoxically and unintentionally dishonoring his household as a consequence. In the meantime, Inexperienced succumbs to his alcoholism to quell his nerves earlier than an assassination. He’s on an aimless path of destruction and violence that’ll absolutely lead him nowhere. When he rescues a legal from police custody, he later kills the identical legal for not paying him.
The movie’s ultimate act permits for a redemptive act for each characters. Chang vows to avenge Kao Peng due his loyalty in the direction of anyone that he would think about a good friend. Whereas initially hesitant to assist, an act of kindness from Kao Peng convinces Chang to return the favor. Alternatively, Inexperienced doesn’t search redemption. He doesn’t have a lot curiosity in it. As a substitute, redemption presents itself to him, and he steps as much as the job to show that individuals can change for the higher.
Woo’s protagonists are usually flawed, deeply emotional figures whose ethical ambiguity is outweighed by their terrific talent, and Inexperienced proves to be the proper archetype for Woo. The obvious meaninglessness of his vocation is deeply rooted in an all-pervading loneliness that retains him separated from others. He closes himself off as safety, and he hardens himself in the direction of the world to get by. Like in Onerous Boiled or The Killer, the protagonists in Final Hurrah for Chivalry turn out to be unlikely mates that shortly type a passionate bond. Woo’s characters typically abandon their selfishness within the identify of loyalty and friendship. Inexperienced and Chang do precisely this. In a second of supreme vulnerability, Chang admits to his good friend, “I by no means take precautions towards my mates.” “That’s why we’re each losers,” Inexperienced replies, a bit cynically.
Friendship and loyalty serve such an important function in Woo’s biggest work, and in Final Hurrah for Chivalry, friendship is the crux of the movie’s better that means. With out friendship, the world is a merciless, treacherous, and unsympathetic place. With it—and with empathy and kindness—it’s one thing a lot extra, one thing better, one thing value combating for. Because the friendship between Inexperienced and Chang blossoms, the 2 males discover a objective better than themselves. In the event that they nonetheless have an affinity for killing, nicely that’s their enterprise, however now their intention isn’t rooted in a meaningless monetary achieve. One fights to help the opposite as a result of that’s mates do. One can’t sit idly by whereas the opposite costs blindly into hazard. Over a heartbreaking freeze-frame over the movie’s ultimate shot, a candy and nostalgic music croons: “I’m grateful that we met/whereas devastating mutual enemies with our swords”.
Final Hurrah for Chivalry not solely exhibits Woo at first of his mastery, however it additionally serves as an excellent transitional level between custom and modernity. Woo’s fashion begins right here, with a glamorized strategy to violence and an emotionally resonant script. Whereas the twenty first Century has provided a plethora of wonderful wuxia revival movies (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Home of Flying Daggers, and Shadow, simply to call a couple of), a lot of the ’80s and ‘90s noticed Hong Kong turning their concentrate on the type of cop-and-gangster movies that Woo pioneered.
In an interview, Woo said that “In some sense, I’m capturing a contemporary wuxia movie”. It’s true. Watch Final Hurrah for Chivalry, and you’ll see it. Commerce swords for weapons and it would match proper beside A Higher Tomorrow and The Killer. It’s a method that might be transposed to a recent setting to some genuinely marvelous outcomes. Besides every little thing that makes Woo so nice is already right here. With Chivalry, John Woo scored an early hit that’s too typically neglected and under-appreciated. It’s a movie of large talent and promise, and a masterpiece in its personal proper.