Sad Eyes (Dong-won Kang) is a swordsman who looks like a cross between Michael Jackson and Dante from videogame Devil May Cry. Detective Namsoon (Ji-won Ha) is a surly tomboy armed with daggers. He’s a villain, she’s a cop, but that doesn’t stop them falling in love as they trade blows in place of kisses. More interested in rhythm and movement than storytelling, Duelist’s anorexic plot about counterfeiters in 17th-century Korea is just an excuse for filmmaker Myung-se Lee (Nowhere To Hide) to set up a series of beautiful, balletic fight scenes. It drips style: camera trickery slowing frantic fights to Tai Chi speeds; colours exploding off the screen; night bouts in alleyways obscuring everything in darkness except the flash of moonbeams on sword blades. Gorgeous and sexy, it’s also rather empty, the total sacrifice of everything to style stopping this from becoming the Hero it yearns to be.
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