Last Hurrah for Chivalry


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Before he became known as the master of the bullet-riddled heroic tragedy, John Woo sharpened his trademark themes and kinetic action choreography with this whirlwind wuxia spectacle. Unaware they are caught in a deadly game of deception, a pair of rambunctious swordsmen (Wai Pak and Damian Lau) join forces to help a nobleman (Lau Kong) in his quest for vengeance. Paying thrilling homage to his mentor, martial-arts innovator Chang Cheh, Woo delivers both bravura swordplay set pieces and a bloodstained interrogation of the meaning of brotherhood and honor in a world in which loyalty is bought and sold.

Picture 8/10

The Criterion Collection presents John Woo's Last Hurrah for Chivalry on Blu-ray in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on a dual-layer disc. The 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation is sourced from a 2K restoration taken from a scan of the 35mm original camera negative.

The presentation is on par with other Hong Kong restorations of late: the restoration work has cleaned up all severe damage with nothing of note sticking behind, and the image looks sharp with smooth motion. Grain is present, though it may have been managed a little bit, something that's not uncommon in recent restorations for Hong Kong films. What's there is still rendered well, and if any filtering has been done, it doesn't appear to have impacted detail levels, and the final presentation still retains a film-like look.

Colors lean warmer though I can't say they take on too heavy a yellow hue. Whites are warm but still pass as white, blues are present (just not that common a color within the film), and black levels haven't been impacted at all, with an excellent range level in the shadows. Ultimately, the presentation is about what I would expect: it looks great yet doesn't deliver any real surprises.

Audio 7/10

Criterion throws in a few audio options: a newly remastered 5.1 surround Cantonese soundtrack presented in DTS-HD MA, the original monaural Cantonese soundtrack presented in single-channel PCM, and then two English soundtracks both presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 monaural, one featuring instrumental music during the opening and closing credits, the other offering the original Cantonese song during them. Fortune Star provided the 5.1 surround soundtrack, while collectors and fans supplied the other tracks.

The 5.1 surround soundtrack comes off as trying too hard and can be distracting. Dialogue and most sound effects are focused toward the center channel, while the film's music, score, and fight effects are spread out to the other channels. The music and score sound mostly fine when directed to the surround speakers, but I found the action scenes distracting. Part of it is there isn't much imagination going into the mix. Some fight scenes (like the final one) feature a lot of whirling and wind noises, clashes of weapons, and impacts of punches. These are spread out to the other channels at times but feel just lazily placed, sometimes with an effect simply coming from behind through either the left or right speaker, and that's about it. It ends up just sounding weird. Some of the bigger brawls (like the first one) also don't do much other than place a lot of clashing effects in the rears, and it sounds like it's on a loop. I just really found it all odd. Of the four options, it's technically the "cleanest" sounding one, but that's more than likely due to filtering, and a lot of the dialogue comes out flat.

I could be off or flat-out wrong in my opinion of the track, and fans may be happy with it; I just found it off. Instead, I preferred the Cantonese monaural soundtrack, and I'm so glad Criterion went to the effort to get it. Dialogue does sound a little rough, coming out more distorted in the end, but it doesn't sound to have been excessively filtered.

The English soundtracks also come off sounding alright. They're just your typical English dubs in that voices sound detached from everything. Quality is fine, about what I expected. There is no significant difference between the two other than the music that plays over the opening and closing, with the Cantonese song intro sounding lifted from the monaural Cantonese track.

Ultimately, they are all mixed with pros and cons, though I again preferred the Cantonese mono presentation. I'm at least happy Criterion didn't just stick with Fortune Star's surround track.

Extras 3/10

There's shockingly little on this release, with the features barely totaling 17 minutes. There is a 3-minute animated audio interview with John Woo, who talks about the film's influences (Akira Kurosawa and Chang Cheh) and the film's poor reception, which he blames a lot on the modernized dialogue (I'm not sure how previous releases handled the film's subtitles, but my understanding is Frank Djeng did the subtitles for this edition and the translation comes off very modern in language and tone). Grady Hendrix then pops up for less than 9 minutes in a newly recorded interview to discuss this early period in Woo's career and the style of the action in the film. He points out Woo's dance background and how that comes into play in the film's fight scenes before discussing how he would reuse elements in his later gun-centric films. The disc then closes with a spoiler-heavy trailer that runs 5 minutes, 1 minute of which consists of the Fortune Star and Golden Harvest logos. 

The insert does feature a decent (if short) essay on the film by Aaron Han Joon Magnan-park, covering the unique elements Woo brings to the genre. The essay doesn't fill in the gaps left by the disc extras, though. A video essay expanding on what the essay and Hendrix cover about the film's fight choreography would have been interesting, as would a commentary by any of the notable contributors to Eureka's and Arrow's releases (Michael Leeder did one for Eureks'a edition for the film). At the very least, the little animation created for the Woo interview is rather cool, but this is still a shockingly slim release, especially considering it's one of Woo's earlier films.


The presentation is excellent and up to par with other recent Hong Kong releases that have been coming from boutique labels as late (Arrow, Eureka, 88 Films, etc.), but it's shockingly slim in features.


Directed by: John Woo
Year: 1979
Time: 106 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 1174
Licensor: Fortune Star
Release Date: March 14 2023
MSRP: $39.95
1 Disc | BD-50
2.39:1 ratio
English 1.0 PCM Mono
Cantonese 1.0 PCM Mono
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Cantonese 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region A
 Audio interview with director John Woo   New interview with Grady Hendrix, author of These Fists Break Bricks   Trailer   An essay by scholar Aaron Han Joon Magnan-Park