review by Jerome

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The cost of being a hero - death
The Chinese title of Duel to the Death is Saang Sei Kuet which can be interpreted as the duel of life and death or alternatively, decide to live or die.

Duel to the Death like many other films before it; concentrates on conflict between China and Japan. However the theme is not about the invasion of China by the Japanese, but simply a conflict of superiority in the martial arts world, betrayal and treachery.

The film's narrative goes like this: Once every ten years during the mid- autumn festival a duel is held in China between China's best swordsman and Japan's best swordsman to decide which country is more superior in martial arts. Bo Ching Wan (Damian Lau) is a disciple of Shaolin, China's participant in the duel and Kada Hashimoto (Norman Tsui), Japan's participant become mutual friends and uncovers a plot to steal China's best martial arts masters so Japan's Shogun can be the top martial artist. When Hashimoto discovers the plot he is torn between his loyalty to the shogun and his friendship. Meanwhile, Bo Ching Wan is captured by Ha Hau and imprisoned with other notable martial arts masters.

A Japanese monk, Kenji (Eddy Ko) is responsible for overseeing the success of a scheme that would see Hashimoto purposely lose the duel to Ha Hau's (Chang Chung) daughter Sing Lam (Flora Cheung), so that in the process the Ha Hau family will have their fame restored. However, at what price? This is what Sing Lam asks her father.

Interestingly enough, there is a scene in which both Kada Hashimoto and Bo Ching Wan question their participation in the duel and its fairness.

Duel to The Death was Tony Ching Siu Dung's directorial debut and was a pioneer of the wire assisted kung fu / swordplay genre. It is with this film, you can see where his inspiration came from for the other films he choreographed the action sequences for, such as Butterfly and Sword, A Chinese Ghost Story trilogy, Hero etc.

If you like a good dosage of ninjas, swordplay, simple storyline and the themes of loyalty and treason, you will definitely enjoy Duel to the Death.

I rate it 8/10

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Cast: Damian LAU Chung Yan, Norman TSUI Siu Keung, Flora CHEUNG Tin Oi, Eddy KO (Go) Hung, CHANG (Jeung) Chung, Casanova Wong (Ka Sa Fa).
1983 Hong Kong
Action / Swordplay / Wu Xia
Directed by Tony CHING Siu Dung

Trailer/Short Clip: