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Duel to Death (1983)
"Xian si jue" (original title)

R  |   |  Action, Drama  |  13 January 1983 (Hong Kong)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 1,314 users  
Reviews: 28 user | 25 critic

One of the last of the Old School Hong Kong martial arts flicks, this one deals with a legendary competition in swordplay and fighting that ends up being fought between two great warriors, ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Norman Chu ...
Damian Lau ...
Flora Cheung ...
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Paul Chang
Mang-Ha Cheng
Hsiu-hsien Chiang
Shan Chin
Shou-fu Chin
Kwok Choi Hon
Lueng Shing Hung
Eddy Ko ...
Yeong-Mun Kwon
Chi-Ho Lau
Yat Fan Lau
Kin-sang Lee


One of the last of the Old School Hong Kong martial arts flicks, this one deals with a legendary competition in swordplay and fighting that ends up being fought between two great warriors, a Chinese man and a Japanese man, who, over the course of the film, have become friends. Written by Mark Toscano <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Action | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some graphic martial arts violence and momentary nudity | See all certifications »




Release Date:

13 January 1983 (Hong Kong)  »

Also Known As:

Duel to Death  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


References You Only Live Twice (1967) See more »

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User Reviews

Wondrous wirework swordplay gem, an enthralling and powerful classic
23 October 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Duel To The Death is something of an important point in the history of Hong Kong action cinema, being the directorial debut of Ching Siu Tung, famed for his pioneering use of extensive wirework and other tricks to take the wuxia, or fantasy swordplay genre, to astounding levels. Nowadays he is best known for handling the choreography of the recent hits Hero and House Of Flying Daggers for Zhang Yimou, but this film is where he first took off, and its a serious rip-snorter. The story concerns an important duel performed between Chinese and Japanese sword masters in order to maintain peace between the two countries. Thus the film follows the two masters and their parallel courses, whilst sinister shenanigans involving ninja's and general skullduggery threaten to derail everything. Like most of the best of this genre, the film isn't really all about fighting. It is most concerned with honour, the different kinds of honour and the conflict between them, fuelled by the conflict between national philosophies. The behaviour of the different characters is shaped variously by personal honour, familial and national honor, whilst the difference between Chinese and Japanese philosophy is clearly delineated. Fortunately while the film has a solid backbone of characters and ideas, these don't distract from the important business of action, there are a good number of action scenes and they even get bloody towards the end. A few kooky highlights involve ninjas, getting up to all sorts of gnarly tricks, burrowing, flying and explosive wielding among other shenanigans. The two leads are ably played by Damian Lau as the Chinese champion and Norman Chu as his opponent, whilst support is provided by Flora Cheung and Eddy Ko plays Chu's handler. One of the minor problems with the film is that Flora Cheung lacks a strong character, whereas the others are all pretty well self determining and get to have control she has more of a textbook female character, and though she performs well and is pretty striking its a real shame to see such a pretty standard element in an otherwise sparkling film. There are also one or two fight scenes that could definitely have gone on for longer and the martial talents of some of the cast weren't put to the kind of use they could have been to give the film that extra push. I mean, its not like this is trying to be a restrained film so I think certain scenes should have been longer, also a bit more in the way of ground based traditional fighting would have been good, in order to show off the talent involved. Generally though, this is a great film and a really terrific debut for Ching Siu Tung. Highly recommended to wirework and swordplay fans, one of the genre's highlights I think.

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