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Film / 7 Man Army

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They fight like seven hundred...

Seven Man Army is a 1976 Hong Kong war / action movie produced by Shaw Brothers, directed by Chang Cheh, with an all-star cast.

Very Loosely Based on a True Story, the film is a dramatic adaptation of the Defense of the Great Wall, a battle of the Sino-Japanese conflict at the start of World War II, where a key section of the Great Wall is recaptured by the Chinese forces from the Japanese invaders, but at the cost of all but seven members of the PRC army. When Japanese reinforcements, whose ranks includes Mongolian mercenaries as well as tanks and artillery, are on their way to recapture the fort, the seven Chinese defenders will put up one last defense until reinforcements can arrive.

Most of the key players of Shaw Brothers are cast as the seven, including Ti Lung as Battalion Commander Wu Chan Zheng, David Chiang as Private First Class Bai Zhang-xing, Alexander Fu Sheng as Private He Hong-fa, Chen Kuan-tai (The Boxer From Shantung) as Private Jiang Ming Kun, Li Yi-min as Private Pan Bing Lin, Chi Kuan-chun as Private Chu Tiancheng and Pai Ying as Private First Class Jia Fu-sheng. Originally members of different platoons who doesn't know each other, being thrush into the same situation as the lone survivors of the PRC army against the invading Japanese, the seven of them will have to bond as brothers to survive.

Seven Man Army provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: In between all the action and fight scenes, there are moments where the seven gets to bond over dinnertime, confess to each other their reasons for joining the army, and asking for their comrades to fulfill their wishes if they fail to survive the war. Notably:
    • Bai confessing to Jiang about him being a gambler and neglectful husband who wants to make amends after his wife became pregnant.
    • Chu admitting to He that his reason for joining the war is for revenge, and that it’s alright for men to crack under stress and pressure.
    • Commander Wu, being the veteran of the group, narrating to the rest during lunch on his beliefs as a soldier and how he became more cynical after spending years on the battlefield.
  • Artistic License – History: This is a very, very heavily fictionalized account of an actual incident during the Sino-Japanese war, where seven remaining members of a Chinese platoon rips a bloody chunk out of a Japanese army of 20,000 units. It’s about as historically accurate as Windtalkers.
    • The fact that each individual member of the Chinese platoon racks up a kill-tally that puts Rambo to shame should indicate the movie isn’t really driving for accuracy.
    • The Chinese army in real life are generally under-equipped, armed with pistols and traditional swords, with rather limited supplies of heavy machine-gun ammunition. No More Dakka in reality…
    • The defense in the Great Wall region is through a hilly terrain, instead of flat ground like depicted in the movie. This is due to the fact that the movie is filmed in the outskirts of Taiwan instead of the actual Great Wall region.
    • Mongolians are depicted as savages and equally ruthless as the Japanese, even willing to commit in atrocities such as murdering innocent people and taking delight at the prospect of joining the war for the fun of slaughtering people. While the Japanese do employ Mongolians as mercenaries, they are merely soldiers doing their jobs, and Punch-Clock Villain at worst. (not that anyone really counts as heroes or villains when there’s a war going on…)
  • The Atoner: Private Bai, formerly a gambler; his wife is the only person who supports him, yet is always neglected until she reveals herself to be pregnant. He only realizes how much he misses her after being drafted into the frontlines, and intends to return home a decorated soldier and honorable commander to make his wife and child proud. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Whenever two of the seven ends up fighting alongside each other, this happens. Most of the time it’s Commander Wu and Private Bai, Private Jiang and Private He, or Private Chu and Private Pan.
  • Bayonet Ya: Plenty of the close-range combat scenes involves bayonets being used, for the seven to slash their enemies apart into bits.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Half of the seven ends up killing themselves instead of giving the Japanese army the pleasure of finishing them off. Including Commander Wu (blowing himself up), Private Jiang (stabbing himself with his BFS, and Private Pan (using himself as an Action Bomb to take out a Japanese tank and several surrounding enemies).
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: The Defense of the Great Wall, where the Japanese army invades a key section of the Great Wall during the Sino-Japanese war, which the movie opens with. The opening credits are literally superimposed over the battle scenes and cycles around the titular seven protagonists of the film.
  • Blood Knight: Most of the seven as the movie progresses, but Jiang and Chu fits this even before they join the army, as shown in his flashback. Although it’s justified because the former is a rebel army leader of his own La Résistance unit who witnessed many deaths beforehand, while the latter is enraged at his wife’s death in the hands of the Japanese.
    Chu: (grabbing a friend by the collar, after killing the last Japanese punk in his flashback) "Tell me, where can I kill more Japs? WHERE!!!!???"
  • Braids of Barbarism: Notably on the Mongolian mercenary leaders.
  • David vs. Goliath: Seven Chinese soldiers taking on a Japanese army of 20,000 and their Mongolian allies.
  • Died Standing Up: Private Chu Tiancheng, defending the fort from it’s highest point, in his last moments uses his body to prop the Chinese flag on its top, preventing it from collapsing in front of the Japanese.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: The titular seven, who puts up a hell of a fight against an otherwise hopeless battle against a massive invading army. As the blurb of the movie states, they are "seven men who fights like 700".
  • Due to the Dead: At the end of the film, the Japanese invaders, having recaptured the fort, decides to put the titular seven soldiers in a marked grave and grant them a dignified send-off.
  • Dying Curse: Downplayed, but in the scene when Private Jiang bites it, instead of letting himself be taken alive, he instead chooses to drive his BFS into his midsection.
    Jiang: "Long Live the Chinese!"
  • Ensemble Cast: A Shaw Brothers-sponsored war movie with an all-star cast.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The titular Seven Man Army is a team of seven soldiers who fights like an army.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The Japanese may be the invaders, but they are at least respectful over enemies they consider as Worthy Opponent. Which is why upon recapturing the fort, the Japanese General orders his army to grant the titular seven a Meaningful Funeral before retreating.
  • Eye Scream: Commander Wu had his eyes burned off from napalm launched by the Japanese, before the final stand.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: The platoon of seven, after spending days bonding over between trying to survive the Japanese assault, eventually becomes blood brothers sworn to watch over each other no matter what.
  • Foreign Remake: Of Cross of Iron. On streroids!
  • Hired Guns: The Mongolian mercenaries employed by the Japanese definitely counts. Three of them serves as Mook Lieutenant enemies who puts up hell of a tough fight, but as soon as the three dies, the Mongols quickly disappears from the movie altogether.
  • Hold the Line: The entire premise of the movie, seven Chinese soldiers holding the line for two-hours of screentime against hordes and hordes of Japanese invaders.
  • Human Pincushion: Private Bai’s fate; having been crippled and surrounded, unarmed after throwing his bayonets into the Japanese Commanding officer, Bai ends up getting more than twelve Japanese bayonets shoved through his gut. But he managed to blurt a warning shout to Commander Wu to trigger their explosive booby trap before he expires.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Xiao Shun-zi, the token little boy, is the only named character still alive at the end of the movie. In fact when the Japanese army decides to give the titular seven a dignified funeral, Shun-zi approaches the fort with the intent of retrieving the Chinese flag on it, and the Japanese Commander orders his soldiers to let the boy leave unharmed.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Averted, plenty of the Japanese soldiers uses katanas, but they’re still outmatched by the seven’s bayonets. Or Private Jiang’s BFS.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The fate of a Japanese colonel, who is issuing orders for his army to charge, before Private Chu suddenly snipes him from a hidden corner.
  • Last Stand: Approaching the credits of the movie, the final 15 minutes is a lengthy last stand between the seven and the Japanese invading army. The Japanese finally won, after suffering maybe two hundred casualties.
  • Men Don't Cry: Invoked in one of the team’s bonding moments, when Jiang realized that He had a Heroic RRoD and is sobbing to himself.
    Jiang: "Control yourself! A real man sheds blood, instead of tears!"
  • More Dakka: The seven had access to heavy machine-guns, and put them to great use firing away and absolutely shredding the Japanese army into half.
  • Noble Demon: The Japanese General, who respects heroes and patriots, considers the seven as Worthy Opponent and even orders his troops to give them a proper funeral after the battle is over.
  • One-Man Army: Seven Man Army. Although even if they’re fighting alone against a whole platoon of Japanese soldiers or Mongolian mercenaries, they can still hold their own pretty impressively.
  • Patriotic Fervor:
    • Commander Wu, who stays on the battlefield over his loyalty to his country.
    • Private Jiang, whose Dying Words are actually to praise China while facing a hundred or so Japanese soldiers.
    • Private Chu’s last act before he succumbs is to prevent the Chinese flag on top of the fort from collapsing, and he uses his body to hold the flag in position.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The opening battle eventually results into this, when the Chinese army have successfully repelled the Japanese… with all except seven of them surviving. And the seven will have to bond with each other as a tight-knit platoon and defend the fortress from an incoming wave of Japanese reinforcements.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking: Commander Wu, being the leader and most experienced of the seven, is quickly proven to be the best fighter and marksman, as well as lasting longer than all the other six before he blows himself up with a whole Japanese platoon.
  • Revenge:
    • Part of Private Chu’s motivations for joining the army, which is to avenge his wife who died at the hands of the Japs.
    • Private Jia is determined to battle the Japanese to avenge his Regimental Commander, Wang, who was his instructor during basic training and a father figure to him.
    • Private He, the youngest of the seven, has made his vengeance personal because his family is killed by the Mongolian mercenaries working for the Japs.
  • Shooting Gallery: Shows up in Commander Wu’s flashback scene as part of a Training Montage. There is another gallery outside the fort where the seven are holed up in.
  • Tagalong Kid: Xiao Shun-zi, an orphan from a neighboring farm who lost his parents in the cross-fire, and ends up bunking with the titular platoon of seven where the boy gets to be a scout. He is also the last survivor of the named characters.
  • Taking You with Me: Most of the seven, being Defiant to the End, deliberately:
    • Pan, in his last moments, loads a bandoleer of grenades on his belt and triggers it as he leaps upon a Japanese tank, blowing up himself and a whole platoon of Japs.
    • Private Bai, realizing he’s surrounded by Japanese soldiers while crippled in both legs, leaps out of his cover, slashing away and throwing bayonet knives, killing the Japanese Commanding Officer before he gets overwhelmed by the soldiers.
    • Commander Wu, who is now blind and the Sole Survivor of the seven, upon hearing Bai’s death from a platform above, immediately triggers the dynamites his team had booby-trapped the entire room with before revealing himself to the enemy. The ensuing explosion blows up the entire place, killing Wu himself and around twenty Japs.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: For some reason, the Japanese army are using American Sherman tanks instead of Type 97 Chi-Ha tank, probably because they couldn’t afford to recreate WWII-era vehicles with the movie’s budget.
  • The Team: Battalion Commander Wu Chan Zheng (Ti Lung) is The Leader, a veteran of war who spent more time fighting in the frontline than any of the other six. Private First-Class Bai Zhang Xing (David Chiang) is The Lancer, who gets second most character development and interactions with Commander Wu. Private Jiang Ming Kun (Chen Kuan-tai) is The Big Guy, a Boisterous Bruiser and physically largest member of the seven, who wields a BFS as a backup weapon. Private First-Class Jia Fu-sheng (Pai Ying) is The Smart Guy, who is the strategist and part of a regimental commanding unit before his former platoon gets killed. Private He Hong Fa (Alexander Fu Sheng) is The Heart, the youngest and emotional center of the squad. Finally, there are Private Chu Tiancheng (Chi Kuan-chun) who joins the army to avenge his wife’s death, and Private Pan Bing Lin (Li Yi-min), who joins the army after beating up pro-Japanese sympathizers before joining the army.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Featured in Private Jiang’s flashback, when he kills a Japanese sergeant pointing a gun at him with a flung sword.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: When the seven realize an incoming wave of Japanese reinforcements heading for the fortress. Including tanks.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: All of the seven have their own flashbacks depicting their pasts and how they ended up in this war, and inevitably not all of these are pleasant.