Duel for Gold (1971)
Reviewed by: MrBooth on 2007-04-02
Chor Yuen's first film for Shaw Brothers is a martial arts film that is quite atypical of the era. A security bureau is renowned as a secure place to store money due to the excellent skills of its chief, and as a result has rather a lot of it on the premises. This attracts the attention of several people for whom the lure of riches is greater than the fear of death.

The film starts of stylishly, with slow motion acrobatic action intercut with scenes of bloodied gold behind the credits. The narrator tells us that this is "just another story of men dying for money", but he'd like to tell it anyway. Next we meet two of the main characters - Ivy Ling Po and Wang Ping as sisters, putting on an impressive show of acrobatics.

The film's plot is not especially complicated, despite some deceptions and facades, but it's interesting because the characters are not the usual noble heroes and pantomime villains that we are used to meeting in the swordplay films of the time, even if they may resemble them on the surface. The film suggests that maybe the tales we hear about such characters are not entirely accurate (well, duh), and that they may have been driven by more 'human' motives like greed.

The film is definitely cynical, even quite unpleasant... there's lots of action, and some of it gets really quite gory... and the film seems to revel in that.

Despite an interesting idea and a very promising start, DUEL FOR GOLD didn't quite cut it for me... I guess I actually LIKE my heroes to be unwaveringly virtuous, and my villains to be motivated by some sort of inherent compulsion to villainy! Well, not all the time, but perhaps in this sort of film I do. Or perhaps it's just these particular characters that I wasn't all that interested in... or I just wasn't in the right mood. It is worth a look because it does stand out from the other films in its genre/time, and for historical interest.
Reviewer Score: 6

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