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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.
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
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.