“The Duel” is more of a canvas soaked in blood rather than a movie and it is filled with moments of rage and bloody encounters, filling each scene in the movie with decisive death blows and displays of ultimate fury. Directed by the legendary Chang Cheh under the Shaw Brothers banner, the dialogues and the conversations between the characters in the movie seem to be an excuse to move from one bloody encounter to villas in bangalore another.
Apart from the mindless butt-kicking, “The Duel” also touches the sensitive topic of corrupted politicians and politics, thus forcing the protagonist to over-ride the law at all points to take down a bunch of power- hungry politicians trying to destroy peace and harmony. The opening scene shows Tan Jen-chieh (Ti Lung) getting a huge butterfly tattoo drawn onto his chest, as a show of his affection for Hue-dieh (Ping Wang).
But the happiness doesn’t last forever, as Tan gets involved in a war between his gangster grandfather and a fierce rival. Chang Cheh tries to create a western impact with such a violent crescendo as a gang of assassins stroll down the streets butchering innocents. When knives and swords start being thrown meaninglessly, “The Duel”transforms itself into a cinematic butchering playground, bursting arteries and cutting through bellies as if there is no tomorrow.
The screen is filled with carnage, bashed up faces, torn shirts and blood bath results in the exile of Tan and his grandfather getting murdered. “The Duel” is violent although the climax reveals the director’s honest attempt to take on the political world. Tan ultimately takes down each and every bad guy in a bloodbath. However, the evil Senator manages to escape the punishment. Chang shows that no matter what the degree of violence is, it will not be able to vanquish the real masterminds manipulating the government.
This was a well realized fact and was beautifully presented in the climax of the movie. Instead of letting the bruised and battered protagonists stand upright at the end of the movie; Chang shows them trying to stand up and surprisingly freezes the frame. This was done probably to show the shadow of mortality looming on all mankind, no matter who they are. The battle against mortality can never be won, no matter how good you are at Kung Fu.
The glamour that is usually associated with Shaw Brothers is very evident throughout the movie, more during the numerous bloody scenes. All other colors have been used brilliantly throughout and the audience is left spell bound at one point. Quality sound, which is a vital factor for the success of a Kung Fu film, is amazing throughout the movie. The screams, slices and the gushing blood leave a long lasting impression on the minds of the audience. Successful both as a movie based on Kung Fu and as a take on the political world, “The Duel” is a movie worth watching.