When betrayal turns one man's life upside down he will risk it all to make sure those who did it do not get away with their actions.
What They Say
Tan Jen-chieh's life spins out of control when he's forced into exile to clear his name following the murder of his adopted father and he's hunted in the streets. His lover, Butterfly, turns to prostitution, and his father's likely killer - a smooth operator known as the Rambler - is always lingering nearby. But before Tan and the Rambler can slit each other's throats, they learn they've been double-crossed and go two against everyone in a rage of double-edged vengeance.
For the purpose of this review the film the original mono Mandarin track was used. It isn't a particularly spectacular track but there are no drop outs or distortions present. There are a few parts however where the dialogue gets lost in some of the soundtrack and effects happening on screen however.
Originally created in 1971 the film is presented in 16:9 non-anamorphic widescreen. The colors are fairly decent though a more muted color pallet was chosen for most of the scenes and dress in the picture. The action is fluid though and there was no cross colorization or dot crawl noticed. There is a decent amount of grain present but nothing overpowering and enough to hide any noise that may be present.
The cover for the feature has a giant picture of the main character Ren Jei with his knives ready for action in a red, orange greenish color taking up the left side and the entire top of the cover along with some kanji. The lower middle of the cover has a white bar with the tile in it and the lower right under the bar has an image of Jian Nan with his knife drawn and some of the gang members behind him. The back feature two characters fighting with poles, a shot of some defeated men from the feature and five stills from the feature. It also has a label showing the theatrical poster and detailing the year the film was made, the director and the stars. Like FUNimation's other Shaw movies the DVD cases comes with a cardboard sleeve which mirrors the DVD cover.
The main menu is a close up of Ren Jei taken from the cover art holding his knives and in the same red and orange hued style used there with the white bar holding the title and selection choices. A dramatic theme from the feature plays in the background. The scene selection menu has some of the kanji from the large circle on the front, the scenes choices displayed as images over that with the choices for more scenes again in the white bar. The audio set up uses the Shaw Brothers back ground in bright red with the white bar used to hold the actual selectable choices.
This feature contains no extras.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
The feature opens with Ren Jie having to leave his tattoo session where he is getting a large butterfly on his chest in honor of his lover Hu Die whose name means butterfly. As Ren steps out of the parlor he finds his loyal friend Siao Mau exhibiting his knife skills with a large blade which Ren catches and tells him they must go. As Tan throws the blade at Siao a hand flashes out from behind the corner and catches it. The owner of the hand steps into view and is a very well dressed man who will play a large part in the story.
Ren and Siao arrive back at their gang's headquarters to find the members hiding knives in a large number of memorial wreaths. The gang's boss Shen Tian Hung has just finished a meeting with Senator Feng who is being escorted out by Ren's brother Ren Li. Ren Li tells the Senator how his younger brother is like an adopted son to Master. The Senator warns Ren Li that the other member of Shen's inner circle-Gan Wen Bin is not to be trusted as his loyalty to Shen is not as great as either Ren's. The owner of the hand that grabbed the knife earlier turns out to be Jian Nan a man of great renown known as the 'Rambler.'
With Jian now with them the preparations are complete and Shen leads his men to a funeral for one of his fallen rivals. Rumor has it that Shen was behind his the murder though Shen knows he is not. He believes the rumor that the nephew of the man who has recently forged an alliance with a corrupt government official. Shen's men arrive and are searched but the wreaths are not. As the opposing boss gets suspicious and wants the wreaths searched Shen's men draw their blades. Given the numbers and surprise element the fight quickly becomes a slaughter with no quarter given. During the fight Ren Jie saves Jian which causes a sense of indebtedness by Jian.
With the fight over Shen's men all move to a local restaurant where they celebrate their win and also the retirement of Shen. Ren has escaped the dinner to meet Hu Die and expresses he had to fight with Shen because of how deeply he feels for the man he calls Godpa. Ren's brief respite with Hu Die is interrupted as the dinner is crashed by the remnants of the gang that Shen's men fought earlier. This time the fight does not go as well for Shen's men as surprise and numbers are not on their side. In the midst of the fight the light go out and during the battle in the dark Shen is murdered. Given the number of dead which includes Shen someone must be held responsible-a task Ren Jie takes on himself in order to keep the gang together as his brother and Gan are too important to the working of the gang. With this burden Ren Jie must leave the city for at least a year and a half so the gang arranges for him to work for associates in the South.
Nearly a year passes and instead of being a member of the gang there however Ren attempts to find honest work on the dock though an assassination attempt has him on his guard. Ren finds out that his brother has not sent word or money to the South but he still won't join the gang as he only did so to repay his Godpa. As he is walking the street the next morning he is assaulted by members of the gang and when he returns to the headquarters he learns that five men from the North who belong to the same gang Rei did set it up.
With this realization Rei returns home to find that his entire life has been turned around. His brother has been drummed out of the gang for accepting bribes, his girlfriend has been sold into prostitution and the number of people he can trust is incredibly limited. He will also learn of a new alliance between Gan and the other gang members that has the city deteriorating into a hive of crime where no one is safe. Ren attempts to find the answer to what exactly transpired a year ago and the stunning revelation of the death of Shen and the motives behind it will put him on a unrelenting quest to spill the blood of all those involved.
The Duel is a feature of revenge in the midst of the betrayal of those Ren thought he could trust most. The machinations are fairly well played out though there are a few ends that seem to have been left a bit hanging. Martial arts fans will enjoy the exquisitely staged fights and there is no small measure of violence and bloodshed to be found. The downside to the film is that many of the machinations have been used before and the use of Also sprach Zarathustra adds a bit of an odd touch to the film. Also the highest political parts of the conspiracy are never fully flushed out but the parts that are given ample opportunity for vengeance to be carried out.
The Duel is a story of a man out for revenge on those who betrayed the man he respected most in the world and leave him at odds with former allies. The feature is a spiral into the depths of despair for a man who losses everything and can only walk the path of violence and bloodshed to gain any semblance of justice. As he walks the path many will find he frees them from the grip of tyranny while losing all he holds dear. The Duel is the story of a man pushed to the edge who must make an impossible choice in who to trust if he is going to gain retribution on the man who destroyed his world. Martial arts fans will have quite a treat with this film and its impressive layout and number of fight scenes.
Mandarin 1.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV, Denon AVR-790 Receiver with 5.1 Sony Surround Sound Speakers, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080.