08 Jun Ramblings on Chang Cheh’s ‘THE DUEL’
By Kim August
Where else but in a Chang Cheh movie would frenemies comment on each other’s knife skills as they slice through their targets like butter? The fight in question happens early in The Duel as rival gang bloodshed turns inward toward the Ren clan. Brothers Ren Lin (Ku Fung) and Ren Jie (Ti Lung) are loyal to Mr. Shen, the local godfather. Seems the old fellow wants to retire, but is quite fond of Ren Jie to take his place. Shen’s second-in-command, the swarmy Gan Wen Bin wants the post and hires an assassin, the Rambler, to kill the godfather instead. “Rambler” Jian Nan’s (David Chiang) slight build and death knell cough makes him seem a bit less than formidable until he goes to town with knives at another gang’s funeral.
Out for vengeance, the survivors of the opposing gang attack Mr. Shen at his retirement feast and the old man winds up dead. The Rambler performed the hit, but only Gan knows this. It is suggested that Ren Jie take the blame and leave town for a spell. Promises of pay and an eventual return, push the younger man away. Despite professing love to his girl only moments before the feast, Ren Jie flees leaving the gang in Gen Wen Bin’s hands. Eventually, Ren Jie learns the truth of Gan and he isn’t alone, as Jian Nan also discovers he killed the wrong man.
As The Duel is a Chang Cheh movie starring David Chiang and Ti Lung, you expect the duo to make amends and team up. After a rather amusing, playful and long end fight between the two, they go on to fight for a better cause.
What’s fun about The Duel – beyond the playful nature of the fights, and the brief moments of romance – is seeing the archetypes that Ti Lung and David Chiang frequented played for Chang Cheh. Ti is the proud, angry youth with a heroic streak and the fighting skills to back up that pride. Chang Cheh lovingly focuses upon Ti Lung’s swoon-worthy frame, his fiery nature, and vicious fight style.
Meanwhile, David Chiang is effortlessly cool (between the fan, his mix of the contemporary and 1920s attire, and the matter-of-fact skill with knives), he just commands the screen. It is no surprise my first piece for Shaw Brothers compared Chiang’s character to Lung Huang-Tien’s incarnation of the Rambler from 1980’s Flag of Iron.
The Duel boasts one of the more entertaining stories featuring Chang Cheh’s favorite leading men. The enthusiasm and energetic passion Ti and Chiang bring to their performances make this movie one of the best stories the director and his two young stars made for the studio.
Stream The Duel on Amazon Prime HERE!