jM (1971)
The Duel

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 05/20/2006
Summary: Fast and furious

Tang Ren Jie (Ti Lung) is a senior gang brother embroiled in a dispute with a rival gang. “The Rambler” Jian Nan (David Chiang) is brought in as a hired hand to help dispatch the enemies in a successful attack that claims most of the rival gang’s lives. However, the remnants reform and exact bloody revenge, killing the Master of Ren Jie’s gang and leaving many dead. In the aftermath, Ren Jie accepts responsibility for the bloodbath and agrees to leave town, leaving his sweetheart Hu Di and his beloved brothers.

However, even in exile, he cannot escape retribution, and upon his return some months later, he finds that things have gone from bad to worse in his organisation. His beloved Hu Di (which means “Butterfly” - hence the butterfly tattoo on Ti Lung’s chest) has been sold into prostitution, his brother Gan Wen Bin has sided with the rivals while his other brother has turned to the bottle following false accusations of embezzlement. What’s more, when Ren Jie rescues Hu Di from the whorehouse, rather than face a lifetime of shame for what she’s done, she elects to kill herself.

Furthermore, it seems that “the Rambler” had more to do with his Master’s death than meets the eye.

Those used to the usual “slow build” of Chang Cheh’s films will be in for a surprise here – this film STORMS along. We have two massacres in the first twenty minutes of this film, and the pace doesn’t let up there. Also a surprise is the fact Ti Lung is pushed to the fore here – it really is his film, rather than playing second fiddle to David Chiang, which is usually the case. However, ironically, it is David Chiang’s character that makes this film. Without giving too much away, he is responsible for the killing of Ti Lung’s Master. Rather than being someone that needs to be killed at all cost, he comes across (very convincingly) as a tragic victim of circumstance. Even Ren Jie sees that “The Rambler” was not in possession of all the facts before carrying out his deed – a far cry from so many revenge plots that defined the genre. In fact, the two share a grudging respect throughout the whole movie.

The finale – set in the pouring rain – is an absolute show-stopper. Revenge found, Ti Lung and David Chiang face the inevitable showdown in the aftermath of the rainstorm – leading to the eponymous “Duel”. However, even here, things are not what they seem, and the two find themselves bonding even further.

If you’ve never seen this film, you really should. If you’re not a fan of the usual Chang Cheh style of bloodletting, you still may be surprised at what’s on offer here. It’s not perfect – the whole plot is surprisingly confusing for the first half of the film and there’s a rather unsatisfactory “sudden ending” to it – but it really is one of the better films from the “Iron Triangle”.

Highly recommended.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: GuWen
Date: 02/11/2003
Summary: Viscous knife fighting in 70's blood fest.

I saw this film back in the 70's and again in the late 90's when it was released on home video (by Crash Cinema) under the title "Duel of the Shaolin Fist". Back in the 70's it left a very big impression on me for all the viscous knife fighting.

One scene in particular was shocking. David Chiang has this guy up against a wall, threatening him with a knife against his throat, forcing him to give information. Once Chiang gets the information, he just slashes the guys throat without even a moment's hesitation or mercy. Chiang is one of the good guys!

Of course this film has 70's written all over it. If you like 70's Shaw Brothers films, I think you'll like this one. If you can see it in Mandarin or Cantonese you'll probably like it a whole lot more.