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Reviews Counted: 7

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Average Rating: 3.4/5

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Movie Info

Director Lee Myung-se returns to the screen with his long-awaited follow-up to the acclaimed 1999 policier Nowhere to Hide. Duelist takes place in Korea during the Chosun dynasty, where a large-scale counterfeiting scheme threatens to send the whole country into chaos. Two cops, Detective Ahn (Ahn Sung-kee, who played the killer in Nowhere to Hide) and his young protégé, Namsoon (Ha Ji-won of Phone), stumble upon the plot while they're working undercover at a street fair. A masked swordsman (Kang Dong-won, whose character is identified in the credits as "Sad Eyes") uses his amazing skills to distract onlookers while he pulls off a robbery. Namsoon doggedly pursues him, and finds herself strangely but inexorably drawn to the young man, even as they have one violent encounter after another. While Sad Eyes relies on his swordsmanship, Namsoon is an expert with her two daggers. Their skills are comparable, and inconveniently enough, they seem to be falling in love. Eventually, the police investigation leads to Sad Eyes' employer, the Minister of Defense (Song Young-chang, another frequent collaborator of director Lee's), who is apparently using the counterfeiting plot in an effort to take over the government. Duelist had its New York premiere at the 2006 New York Asian Film Festival, presented by Subway Cinema.


Critic Reviews for Duelist

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (2)

  • Duelist turns from playful to precious in the last 30-odd minutes, straggling towards a prancey showdown that's as graceful as all get-out but as cold as the endless falling snow.

    Mar 8, 2007 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Clearly, Lee has an extraordinary eye, but wilful self-indulgence leads him astray here.

    Mar 8, 2007 | Full Review…
  • The bent chemistry between Ji-won's screwball tough gal and Dong-won's effeminate wraith injects just enough charm into the overwrought stylistics, which veer dangerously close to killing the movie's rhythm.

    Nov 7, 2012 | Rating: 3/5
  • as much a quirkily combative love story, or a kaleidoscopic reverie on the shifting seasons, as a piece of period police procedural.

    Jun 15, 2007 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Proof positive that Wushu and Chan don't mix, this aims to create a new crossover genre but falls between two stools.

    Nov 30, 2006 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • ...its most salient feature is its spectacular visuals.

    Aug 5, 2006 | Rating: 7/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Duelist


Some reviews say this is all style over content, and maybe it is but I don't care. Beautiful beautiful beautiful historical film about two undercover cops (or whatever they were called in those days), the elder and staider Ahn, and the younger and crosser Namsoon, chasing counterfeit money and an enigmatic duelist called Sad Eyes through the markets and government houses of Korea. For people who love a pretty film.

Lesley N
Lesley N

Super Reviewer

This Korean epic story didn't make sense to me as what I thought it was really strange. In several swordplay scenes are bloody dull with a very slow motion and deeply dark through the night. At the beginning with the undercover detectives was quite funny, then in the dark scenes was boring that made me fall asleep - YAWN.

Dean McKenna
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

As seperate sketches or short scenes the film excels. It fully demonstrates large technical capabilities and an artistic eye. The final sword fight is simply gorgeous but seems more like some OTT advert. With all the impressive individual scenes put together in a loose plot that doesn't quite gel as well as no sense of tone the film is rather messy. Myung-se Lee's previous film Nowhere To Hide demonstated his visual and storytelling capabilities creating a beautiful and aesthetically original film. Here however even the music is all over the place sometimes being gentle classical before moving up to crunching heavy metal guitar riffs. All it accomplishes is a sense of doing too much and letting ones creative side take over the story.

Luke Baldock
Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer


I thought I knew what I was expecting when I watched this. It turns out that I was wrong. Partially anyway. This is a peace period film from Korea and from my understanding the story did originate from a comic. Keep the bit about the comic book in mind as it will relate to some parts of my review. Also, this is not an action/martial arts film as many of you may be thinking.

The story is pretty interesting with the bulk of it being centered around cops going after a counterfeiting scheme. One problem that I had though, was trying to keep track of what was going on. There are times when you will get confused and get lost in the story. The pace of this film is pretty slow and depending on the person you may or may not get bored. How is it possible to not get bored with a slow movie? Well I'll tell you.

What this movie lacks in pace and a smooth story, it makes up for with STYLE. Remember the bit about this film originating from a comic? Well what this film does is actually do a good job at turning the comic into a movie, but at the same time keeping the comic book sort of feel to it. This movie is filled, and I mean filled, with great cinematography, set design, lighting effects, and scene transitions among other things. This movie is really a WORK OF ART. Directors could learn a few things from watching this. It was all these elements that kept me from becoming bored with the slow movement of this film.

As far as the action goes, there are a few fight scenes, but once again it's all about STYLE. The choreography is filled with poses and movements that make it seem like the actors were dancing on screen. Maybe I should call them dances instead of fights.

The dialogue is pretty good and funny if I may add. There are a lot of sexually related remarks made throughout this movie.

The acting by a few of the actors are over-done. But, with the style of this film it just seemed to fit. Ha Ji-won was extremely good with her character Namsoon. She had some pretty funny facial expressions throughout this film. I wouldn't mind seeing some of her other movies to see how she does in those. Kang Dong-won, which many of the girls will enjoy, was pretty bland. But, I think that was part of the nature of his character though.

In the end, this movie is an example of a good way to turn a comic into movie without making it too cartoon-y. Some people will find it boring while others may find it visually stunning. If you're a casual movie-goer looking for an entertaining film, then I would suggest you stay away from this. If you are more of a film critic, then go ahead and give this a shot.

JY Skacto
JY Skacto

Super Reviewer

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