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The Duel
Duell in der verbotenen Stadt

Hong Kong 2000
produced by
Wong Jing, Manfred Wong, Tiffany Chen (executive) for BOB and Partners, Win's Entertainment, China Star
directed by Andrew Lau
starring Nick Cheung, Andy Lau, Ekin Cheng, Zhao Wei, Kirsty Yang, Patrick Tam, Hsin Tien, Elvis Tsui, Wong Yut Fei, Norman Chu, Jerry Lamb, Lee Wai-sheung, Ng Chi Hung, Ronald Wong
written by Wong Jing, music by Chan Kwong Wing, stunt director: Ching Siu-Tung, visual effects by Eddy Yeung, Yip Wai Man, Menford Electronic Art & Computer Design

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Yip (Andy Lau), the King of Swords, challenges Snow (Ekin Cheng), the Sword Saint, to a duel in the Forbidden City - and the unrewarding task to choose the eight spectators of the spectacle falls upon imperial secret agent Dragon 9 (Nick Cheung), who has to also put up with the Emperor's (Patrick Tam)spoilt and nosey sister Princess Phoenix (Zhao Wei) - who is secretly in love with Yip.

Dragon 9 soon figures out there's something fishy about the whole duel, but just can't figure out what ... but thoughts like those soon have to take backseat, since a series of murders occurs all over the city, and all evidence points to Snow - which Dragon 9, a personal friend of Snow, who hides out God-knows-where, just can't believe. And he seems to be right too, as Snow ultimately saves him and Princess Phoenix from a deathtrap.

Finally, the day of the duel: Before Yip and Snow even start to fight, Yip is killed by an assassin - and turns out to not be Yip at all. The real Yip meanwhile visits the emperor in his chambers and prepares to kill him, to usurp his throne, as he is of imperial blood as well, In fact, Yip has set up the whole duel just to divert attention from the emperor, and has made sure that even his guards are going to watch the fight. However, Dragon 9 was quick-witted enough to see through Yip's plot just in time and arrive at the emperor's chambers to save his life. Overpowered by the thousands of soldiers of the emperor's army, Yip has but one request before his death: To fight the duel against Snow after all - and in the duel, he lets his life.

 

Often dismissed as merely a companion piece/sequel to Andrew Lau's earlier Stormriders, The Duel is in fact a film that can stand firmly on its own feet, and in direct comparison, it's the much better film, too: While the earlier film is dead serious and way too epic for its own good, The Duel is enjoyably wacky, whimsical and hilarious without ever becoming plain stupid: With a light hand, it combines martial arts movie-clichés and fantasy elements with a murder mystery plot and a rather amusing James Bond-parody, all peppered with quite a few intentionally silly special effects that often seem deliberately out of place, and hilariously so. Plus, the idea to offset the dead-serious characters of Yip and Snow with the eccentric Dragon 9 is almost ingenious (even if it is by no means new). The outcome of this whole mix is quite possibly the funniest martial arts comedy yet, and one that doesn't insult the intelligence of the audience, too.

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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