Woody Harrelson in company with Liam Hemsworth shines in this Kieran Darcy-Smith-directed Western-like drama THE DUEL. A revenge thriller sort, the film has not been a critics’ favorite, but the performance of Harrelson as a cult leader has been praiseworthy.
In 1846 the United States engaged in a bloody war with Mexico over the newly disputed state of Texas. In its end, the Rio Grande was declared the border between the two countries.
Decades of tension continued as white settlers pushed into land long held by Indians and Mexicans. The task of maintaining order fell mainly upon a group of men who answered to their code of law – the Texas Rangers.
This is history, and the story of ‘The Duel’ is based on this premise – where a Texas Ranger David, carrying his anguish, goes on to investigate a series of murders in a small town led by a cult leader Abraham Brant, played by Harrelson.
Watch the trailer for ‘The Duel’, starring Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson
The opening sequence of the film, where two men were prodded into a deadly knife fight and one wins while the other dies, gives a good impression of the storyline (although that turns sluggish in the latter part of the movie).
The winner later becomes a cruel preacher, who simply believes the fact that sin is good, after his misdeeds by killing hundreds through the Civil War.
Well, ‘The Duel’ is not just about the preacher; it is also about the boy who sees his father murdered by the preacher and who later grows old to find an answer.
Initially, the film was looking more like a revenge drama, as we mentioned earlier, but as the story moved the narration threw some philosophical tone. However, it never really came out of constant violence, and some bizarre claims of extrasensory perception and demonic possession. Besides, we could not really sense what it wanted to convey even though racism was at its core.
‘The Duel’ has few good performances
Even though the performances of both Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson are solid, ‘The Duel’ kind of becomes confusing in the middle as the treatment does not give it a nice direction.
The tonality also varies a lot with a few subplots, which I feel were unnecessary when the focus was more on the cat and mouse game, between an evil preacher and a morally high man.
It might be a different kind of Western film with some kind of onscreen brutality, but ‘The Duel’ is slow-paced, and more than a few things in the storyline and characterization seem misplaced.
Nevertheless, you may watch this for a few good performances, including its supporting casts. I just hope it to be more interesting – if there were more focus on the cultures, politics, and philosophy of the struggle of both sides, instead of just making it the story of one man versus the other.
CAST: Woody Harrelson, Liam Hemsworth, Alice Braga, Emory Cohen, Felicity Price, Jose Zuniga, William Sadler
Director: Kieran Darcy-Smith
Screenwriter: Matt Cook
Release Date/Year: June 24, 2016
Distribution: Lionsgate Premiere